Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back to the Question: What Do We Do With All the Closed Buildings?

The PI had a follow-up closure story on the buildings that will now be closed. Some history:

"The district owns 27 closed school buildings citywide and an assortment of other properties, many for years. Some are leased out to community groups, and four of the district's long-shuttered school buildings are in the process of being purchased, said property manager Ron English. (Here's a link to the Facilities Master Plan with all the properties the district has. See page 39-45 for the chart.)

But of the five buildings closed in 2006 and 2007, only one -- Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Madison Valley -- was declared "surplus," paving the way for it to be sold. On a tiny, 2-acre lot, it's too small to be used by the district in the future, English explained.

Usually, though, the district errs on the side of keeping its buildings, even if they're not immediately needed, he said. It still owns the former McDonald Elementary, a 1913 building near Green Lake that was closed in 1981 -- just in case.

"It's very difficult to predict whether you're going to need a building, and when," English said. "And it's very difficult to acquire new property sites. ... We'll keep anything if we think there's any significant likelihood of it being needed in the future."

I've said this before but keeping this many properties is not what most districts do. It takes time to oversee these things and someone who knows what they are doing (infer what you will into the last part of that statement).

I get that we might need some properties but I'd keep the ones in the best shape and most central locations.

Some good points are raised like:

"Last year, parents urged the district to reopen the Sand Point Elementary building to ease overcrowding in Northeast Seattle schools. What seemed like a simple enough solution, though, was impossible, district officials said; it would cost an estimated $6.8 million and take two to three years to renovate the building and bring it up to current code.

Parent and education blogger Charlie Mas doesn't buy it. "It didn't take them three years to rebuild Garfield (High School), and it's not even going to take them three years to build a new Denny (Middle School), from the ground up," he said.

"If you're never going to reopen a school ... why keep them?"

Sand Point is leased out to North Seattle Community College through June 2009, English said, and money also is a major factor.

Sand Point, which is more than 50 years old, would need significant repairs and updates, and a certificate of occupancy.

"You wouldn't want to put the kids in the building just to get them into the building, you'd want to make it the right building, with the right features that a modern elementary school has," he said."

Well, some parents in overcrowded NE elementaries might disagree. Give them a safe building and to heck with amenities.

Also, I have a document "Property Management Plan: Analysis of Status of Closed School Sites" dated March 16, 2007 (Draft) that I thought was part of the FMP but I cannot find at the FMP website.

Here's some interesting info from the report:

"However, McDonald may be needed as a permanent site for the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center." Interesting. I never heard this before ever and naturally there was no discussion of it during this last closure process.

"Sand Point should be kept as a future interim site. In addition, with substantial excess capacity in the central area of the city, possible future closure of a school in that area could create an interim site, potentially freeing up Sand Point or Cedar Park for surplus status or to meet any unexpected growth. " (italics mine). So the NE had unexpected growth, they need to fill it and yet, despite that, Sand Point was said to be unavailable for use.

Speaking of the Central area, "When a school becomes available, it should be considered as an emergency site, potentially freeing up McDonald for surplus status." So that may mean that TT Minor becomes their "emergency site" and they may lease or sell McDonald.

SW - "Closed schools in the SW area (Fairmount Park, Hughes and Fauntleroy) are not needed to meet future enrollment and can be surplused. "

Heads up for BEX IV candidates - "Five currently open schools are assumed to be renovated before 2030 and expanded to 535 seats each." (The preferred size for elementaries - did you know this?). They are: Bagley, North Beach, Olympic Hills, Rogers and View Ridge. I'm a little mystified to not see Laurelhurst or McGilvra on this list. I know; 2030 seems a long time off but the sentence says "assumed to be renovated" and that means done by 2030.

Other issues:

"Security was beefed up at vacant schools after thieves stripped out copper wiring and caused substantial damage to Viewlands Elementary in Northeast Seattle. And last year, the district spent about $100,000 to maintain the shuttered schools, even hiring a full-time custodian to look after them.

"He's out working with these buildings to clear up graffiti if there is any, to keep the lawn reasonably mowed and the plants trimmed, so the place doesn't take on a rundown condition," English said.

Living near Nova Alternative High School and T.T. Minor Elementary, Mooney worries about crime escalating among Central District teens, property values decreasing and the possibility the historic Mann building could be left empty.

"If you drive down Cherry from 23rd to MLK, there's already four vacant buildings now in four blocks," she said. "I don't want to see that happen to another building in my local community."

Ah yes, blight. We know about that by Roosevelt (but it's not the district's fault at all).

No Special Education Programs Next Year

From comments made by AutismMom on a previous thread:

"Special education has been treated pretty equitably by the closure process. The only problem I saw, which has been raised, was that of the EBD dispersal. Minor and Meany EBD students shouldn't have been dispersed. That seems unfair to a historically and grossly underserved population, overwhelmingly minority.

BUT!!!!! I did attend the special education ptsa meeting Thursday night along with around 200 others. MGJ was there as a "guest speaker"... but said practically nothing. She simply pointed at people asking questions, selecting people for Fred Rowe to answer. Her child was there running around. While cute at first, many people thought her lack of ANY participation and the fact that she brought her child... represented a lack of serious attention to special education. Would she have done that at ANY other meeting?

(edited 1/31 per AutismMom's request) The big news dropped here was that Fred said "NO SPED PROGRAMS starting next year". !!!! Wow. Next year? That is huge. In fact, you just use regular enrollment and sign up where ever you want. (or so they say) West Seattle autism parents wanted to know if their request for an inclusion middle school program had gone through? SPS says, "NO MORE PROGRAMS... get it? Go sign up at Madison, there's a self-contained program there now, it will be gone, and they will do it for you. We're now serving everyone from everywhere." Hmmm. How will a program and school dedicated to self-containment (and lack of service) suddenly be willing to provide service? It has never been able to do that before? Seems unlikely. In any case, general education should be expecting severely disabled students starting NEXT year. (high time in my opinion, but they are not ready)

Also notable, was the blended K's weren't going to be able to kick out all their graduates. Good. High time the McGilvra's and the Bryant's started pulling their weights. (The district did say they might kick out some.. if they were too difficult. A bit of a contradiction if "everyone can be served everywhere" isn't it).

So now, nobody knows which way is up. Anybody can sign up for any school???... any school is supposed to serve you...but no guarantees... you could be arbitrarily sent anywhere. Where are there going to be sped teachers and aides? And how many? It seems more problematic now. In fact, parents have already tried to use the enrollment center for pre-registration... multiple times... only to be kicked out. "no you can't use it" "computer bombed" etc. So these families, with siblings, have NO working enrollment process.

As to the Lowell sped issue. Indeed there are people VERY dissastisfied with the exclusionary nature of the school. Very highly disabled Lowell students want significant inclusion... eg. 1/2 day or so.... but are offered nearly nothing. 20 minutes twice a week as a bone. And the "social inclusion" is also grossly inappropriate: "food prep" for kids using a feeding tube is meaningless. When you actually talk to the families, you understand what they need. Evidently, the district does have a valid point with LRE... BUT, these families also noted that the other options were actually less inclusive. This just shows how far we have to go.

So, the big promise? The promise is... "SPS will give disabled students the support they need, without participation in programs. The programs had provided a "critical mass". Now there will be no critical mass... so likely much more expense OR reduction in service. All students will be included in general education. Disabled students, currently self-contained, will have a better experience without a 'self-contained program', even if they get a lot of 1 on 1 and small group instruction." That's the promise."

To clarify, they say aren't adding NEW programs, and the OLD programs aren't going to be considered programs. So, anybody can sign up for that building and be served if they are assigned... (presumably by the staff now teaching in the programs. EG. Presumably IDP will get different disabilities in... over time.).

So, for those OLD programs in closed schools, the staff and students, they will indeed be moving as advertised. And as to Summit IDP, that's great they have a successful program... but other families have felt Summit was very exclusionary to other disabilities and was intransigent about adding other programs, and serving students inclusively. You're either an "inclusive" school or you're not... cherry picking indicates not. And to clarify, NO people don't have to move out of their program.... in fact, they are guaranteed a spot in their school (without transportation) if their OLD program age range ends, at least for the blended K's. I'm not sure about the other dead-end programs, it wasn't mentioned. But, the blended K families have been very vocal and angry about getting booted out of schools they were forced into.

That's what Fred said, in any case. BUT, so far the enrollment center hasn't worked the way it is supposed to.(that is, people have been turned back, computer has dumped their request, etc) Nobody's actually been enrolled using the enrollment center, but they've gotten a word of mouth from and ed director that "Yes, you're enrolled" in some cases, but without paperwork confirming it.

Also, Fred did leave the district an out. He said, "We'll make sure you can be served at your assigned school IF WE CAN". Well, that's a pretty big hole. And IF THEY CAN'T, it would seem more problematic, because they haven't said where or how they would serve those others.

BTW. This could be great, it all depends on whether or not the services are really provided.

No, the program (teachers, aides, and students) at John Hay will not end. But, anyone in the reference area can sign up for John Hay, and be served by the program. They will not be denied access. So, lots of new and different students may be showing up next year to John Hay.

Yes, the program was specifically designed as "autism inclusion", and now it is specifically being undesigned. This is not a bad thing, unless there isn't enough staff. Will there be?

Did you noticed no disabled students families have attended disability K tours? That is because preschools weren't told of the transition plans. Fred also mentioned that people should just go on regular tours to check out the schools. No special tours.


And this from a comment by TeacherMom

"Well, they haven't told special education staff about any of this yet......if that's any indication. I have heard vague references about it indirectly from three non-special ed staff. I am still waiting for some kind of introduction to our "new" interim director.

There has also been no real training for special education teachers in the district for at least two years, other than an introduction to IEP writing and non-violent behavior intervention.I would guess that rolling this out will require some excellent staff development for principals, classroom teachers, and specialists. We can use the extra money in the budget for that.I agree that this is long overdue, Autismmom, but if it is not done planfully, it will not be good for kids.

Maybe there will be a design team miracle. We will also need additional special ed staff to carry this out, and there have consistently been 12-20 open special ed teacher positions throughout the school year for the 10 years I have been following SPS' career opportunities website. Additional aide support will be needed for the various levels of inclusion at each school as well...........and we may need a full-time special ed director."

Friday, January 30, 2009

An Invitation to Hold the District to Their Promises

Danny K mentioned at the end of another thread that it is "time to hold the district to their promises." And I agree.

Here's my proposal. I'm inviting parents whose children are being displaced by the closures to become contributors to this blog for one year. I want a commitment of at least one post per month and the topic is: A year in the life of a child/children/family affected by school closures. You can focus on your child/family, other child(ren) at your school, or an overall picture of what is happening at your school. But I want it to be specific...I'm not looking for things like "The district is failing us as we expected."...but more like "We were supposed to get extra money for X by Y date and it hasn't happened."

I want to find out what promises these families receive from the district, which ones are kept and which ones aren't, what surprises if any they face along the way, and what they want the public, staff and Board members to know about the flesh-and-blood experience of being part of the closure process.

I'm concerned that as media attention, and staff/Board attention turns to other things, the families affected in this process won't get what they deserve. And the best way I can think of to fight that is to make sure a spotlight continues to shine on the affected families throughout the next year.

Stephanie, MGR and Charlie...as permanent contributors already, does this interest any of you? Or do you have recommendations of people at your schools who would be good choices for this?

Danny K, Sabia, dj...any of you interested? As temporary contributors who have already joined this blog during the closure process, all you need to do is let me know you want to commit to the plan I've described above.

West Seattle Steve...are you interested in writing at least one a month on the Cooper experience? I've been impressed by your comment posts and would love to have you join as a contributor. As a Pathfinder parent, I'm particularly interested in making sure the experience of the Cooper community gets enough publicity to push the district to keep their promises to you about making sure your kids get the educational experience they deserve.

Autism Mom...we need to make sure the impact on kids in special education programs get enough attention. In addition to the schools where entire programs are closing, there are other locations where special education programs/students are being moved out. Can you either commit to providing monthly special education coverage during the next year and/or help identify other families who can?

Anyone else interested? E-mail me with a short description of what today was like for your child/family/school. I want to get at least one contributor from each school anbd program, so please spread the word among your friends and neighbors.

I know this idea isn't by itself sufficient to ensure the district keeps their promises. But I believe it can help.

Deconstructing the Final Vote

So I won't go blow by blow but here are some impressions from the Board meeting last night to vote on the final recommendations.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Even though she came out of this with her final recs in place, doesn't really seem like she won. The amount of anger at her and the repeated remarks about her salary are going to be tough to overcome. (Raj had a built-in niceness that even if you disagreed with him, you never felt angry at him.) I find this argument that there is a lot of racism involved in these decisions somewhat mystifying. The top tier of leadership in the district is all black. About 40% of the Board is minority. What I hear more is this is more socioeconomically based anger than being about race. They perceive Dr. G-J as being out of their socioeconomic class and therefore unable to relate to them. She got a lot of hissing and booing. She said letters to parents at whose children will be moving will be sent home next week. Director Maier asked if there would be a design team update at the March 2nd Board meeting (some document indicated this date) and she said yes.

James Bible, the NAACP president who got removed from the meeting early on (and wrongly I believe), was telling the crowd in the lobby that Dr. G-J needs to go back to where she came from. He also said that she did not understand the unique race and income issues in Seattle. He was quite the speaker when he got a head of steam. But I took him aside right afterwards and he was very calm and poised. It was an interesting shift to witness. It was unfortunate that he got picked on because it only makes the district look bad (as the NAACP threatened a lawsuit and/or Dept of Ed investigation). Mr. Bible perceives that's why he was kicked out.

Michael De Bell can hold his head up because he carried on with the meeting with a lot of grace under fire. I don't think he really wanted to close the meeting but I felt he would have if people had not settled down. He also reminded people of the history of closures and that the north end had 21 schools closed in the '80s. He said there was too much capacity in the north at that time and now there is too much capacity in the south.

Mary Bass. First, I love Mary, I really do. She's a kind-hearted woman. But she was no help here and she did a classic Mary thing which is to pull out some kind of vague plan and beg for more time. There were many weeks here to suss this out and put forth a counterplan. It didn't happen. No big surprise because Mary has done this a lot in the past. She also cried (and just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no crying on the School Board). She did what I thought was some pandering about how she had been a leader in wanting to work on the assignment plan in 2000, knew something was wrong with the budget in 2001 and got shussed, only for people to find out she was right, etc. But somehow, somehow in all the time she's been a Board director, she hasn't got much done. It's just not enough to speak up; you need to do. But Mary is a courageous person who has endured a lot (I remarked to Denise Gonzalez-Walker that I remember when Mary first came in that some Board members would not even give her the courtesy of seconding her motions so there would even be discussion. It was very disrespectful behavior on their parts.)

One thing to remember, though, is that Mary and Harium both supported school closures but did not like this plan. Mary was adamant that no assignment amendments should be supported without a new assignment plan and that she felt the plan should have come before the closures.

Steve Sundquist . Of all the new directors, the one who is likely to have engendered the most anger. I think the perception that he was helping Pathfinder (because his daughters attended there) AND that he helped Arbor Heights off the list might haunt him. I also think the fact that it was Harium and not Steve who put forth the motion to save Cooper will be remembered (not that he had to). He also said alternative ed needs an audit. One thing that does not help him is a tendency to look over his glasses at the crowd and almost lecture (one woman kept telling him to not patronize the crowd). He does get a little professorial at times and it hurts the points he makes.

Sherry Carr. She flew pretty low under the radar. She said it wasn't a case of closing or not closing schools but closing schools or losing staff at schools. And she said we could close the gap by taking 5% from every school and did we want that? Well, was it an option? No one asked. I don't know, maybe sharing the pain would have been better for some but the district was never going to give us that option. She did manage to get some boos for commending Dr. G-J.

Harium Martin-Morris. Clearly, one of the most principled of our directors. He spoke quietly (you noticed this? He speaks in a low voice and it makes you really listen) about how Cooper works with a difficult population (and without a lot of district help) and had made gains in performance scores and enrollment. He also spoke of the desire to find a home for Summit. "I failed to do that." His amendment, for whatever its worth, was his desire to save Summit (as was the CAC's idea to move Summit to Wilson-Pacific; it was purely to save it, not stick in a crummy location). I waited for him, when he put forth his amendment to not close Cooper and move Pathfinder, to have an alternative, something the other directors might have something to consider. Nope. It was a bad move.

Peter Maier. Again, something of a professor stance here and he used a lot of cliches (which did not go over well with the crowd and got a lot of sarcastic "really" remarks). He claims that the closures fit in with the student assignment plan but I'm not sure I got his meaning.

Cheryl Chow. Well, Cheryl is a hard one to read. She was the only director to not speak during the Board remarks which led some in the crowd to yell, "What about Cheryl?" She kept her head down and my notes reflect nothing from her on any of the amendments. But out of nowhere, after one of the votes, she decides to speak and launches into a history of AAA. Yes, it was quite odd. To me it seemed, like Mary, a bit of pre-election pandering to try to say that AAA had been given much support and the program still wasn't succeeding. But she went on to say, as Sherry Carr had said, that the AAA culture could be infused into Van Asselt and the name would stay with the building unless the new community changed it. What a bunch of nonsense. What about Van Asselt's name which has been around for 100 years?

Other assessments:

Summit. Well, it finally came out that the reason they are closing Summit (besides wanting the building for another program) was...transportation costs. Okay, they are very high. But, if they had relocated the program to a central area and had a more across-the-city population, I think the costs would have gone down. But at least they gave I reason. I had asked the Board, in an e-mail) to please not let district history record that Summit closed because it was a failing school that wasn't viable (because it is not true). Harium, Michael and Maier (in his own way) recognized Summit's long history. Michael, like Harium, had felt it important to find Summit a home and could not (but, of course, no one explains why Lincoln or Marshall couldn't have been an option). Michael said, quite tenderly, that "acts today fall most heavily on Summit K-12".

SBOC. Michael did say something kind of lame. Namely, that the "SBOC relocation is not the complete fulfillment of (Board) actions several years back but it's the best we can do now." And no one felt it necessary to try harder when those actions were passed? He did say that both SBOC and Nova are used to a high degree of autonomy and needed it at Meany. He said that Meany had 2 gyms and he felt, in time, the programs would grow to respect and appreciate each other.

The Board. After the meeting, I had asked a couple of cops if they were hanging around to walk the Board to their cars. They said yes. It was that bad and I'm sure it felt scary from their vantage point. There was a lot of shouting at this meeting at the beginning and end. I think if Mary, Cheryl and Michael want to run again they likely all would win only because of the odd nature of running for School Board. They all have solid bases of support but if voters outside of that base joined forces (and had a good opposition candidate), they could lose. But incumbency is on their side. I see no signs that none of them will step down but if I had to bet it would be Michael (he may be tired by now, I hope not) or Mary (if she found someone good to endorse).

FYI For Summit Upper Level Students

So I did figure out something (and who knows, maybe this was very apparent to others but I did check with Tracy Libros in Enrollment), that the Summit 8,9,10th graders (now) will get a pretty good bump into whatever comprehensive high school they want.

The reason is that Maier's amendment says for any over enrolled school that they apply for (after they receive their letters of assignment and if they reject the assignment), the first 2 tiebreakers (sibling, then reference/region) apply and THEN the priority placement they get from being displaced.

Well, there is no reference/region for high school; the whole city is the region. So for those Summit students, after the siblings get in, they are next in line. And since there is no school that will fill its entire freshman class on siblings that means they pretty much get whatever they want. That means Roosevelt, Ballard or Garfield.

For people who wanted an alternative experience, it's not much but it does allow them a lot of choice.

This could be a problem

I knew that I had read it somewhere, so I went looking for it and I found it.

From page 107 of the .pdf of the appendices of the preliminary report on capacity management:

APP students living in each specified region would be assured fo a seat in the APP program serving their region, with transportation provided. Students could apply to attend the APP program in the other region; assignment would depend on space available. School bus transportation would not be provided.

This, essentially, grants everything that Director Maier's amendment would have granted and more, since it also applies to future students.

Since this was not altered from the preliminary report and since the preliminary report was included in the final report by reference and since the final report was included in the Board Motion by reference, this is now the assignment plan for APP.

In short, families can choose between Lowell and Thurgood Marshall - or between Hamilton and Washington - and could get an out-of-region assignment on a "space available" basis. The critical question would be the definition of "space available".

No matter how it is defined, there is an excellent chance that there will be 50 seats of "space available" at Lowell for south-end APP students. And if 50 families take that option I'm convinced it will doom any possibility of equitable programs at the two locations.

Since this is an assignment issue, the Board will have to move and approve a fix.

They better get on it before open enrollment.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Final Vote on Closures

Updated amendments (Sundquist & Maier) and the Superintendent's Update presentation are posted on the web site. Maier apparently listened to Charlie today.

9:00 pm The emotional intensity tonight at the Stanford Center was overwhelming. I feel sad and exhausted and I'm going to bed.

8:20 pm Meeting adjourned.

8:10 pm Moving on to rescind School Board policies as listed in the agenda and making changes in reference areas. Unable to continue due to crowd shouting. Now continuing but I can't hear a thing. DeBell speaking about SBOC co-location with Nova at the Meany building. "Wish we had a newly rennovated stand-alone building for the SBOC, but we are at a period of scarcity and we cannot do that." Could not hear votes, but it sounds like both recommendations passed.

8:05 pm Sundquist reading revised final motion. Vote: Yes (5): Sundquist, Carr, Chow, Maier, DeBell; No (2) Bass, Martin-Morris; revised closure plan passes.

7:50 pm Board members making final statements. So far Chow and Sundquist have spoken and clearly support closure proposal. DeBell says that if the audience keeps interrupting the Board meeting will have to move. Bass near tears. "We do have solutions that I think could have been found with just a little more effort and time." Says public are willing to accept closures based on a rationale that makes sense. Tells audience its time to start learning about the assignment plan and all its details and to fight for change. Will be at Casey Center, Monday 6 pm if anyone wants to talk with her and ask her questions.

Preparing to read new motion back into the record.

7:40 pm Maier reading his amendment (1.a.6) regarding providing priority assignment of any displaced students. Vote: Yes (5): Sundquist, Carr, Chow, Maier, DeBell; No (2) Bass, Martin-Morris; amendment passes. Maier hopes that amendment will "help ease the transition." Bass doesn't want to do this now because changes to the assignment plan should be done when the rest of the assignment plan is discussed.

7:35 pm Sundquist reading his amendment (1.a.5) regarding reassignment of Cooper students to Gatewood, Highland Park and Arbor Heights. Vote: Yes (5): Sundquist, Carr, Chow, Maier, DeBell; No (2) Bass, Martin-Morris; amendment passes. Sundquist: Trying to assure that we have room at the West Seattle Elementary building for students coming into the High Point development. Also trying to move larger cohorts of students with teachers.

7:30 pm Harium Martin-Morris reading his second amendment (1.a.4). Vote: Yes (2): Bass, Martin-Morris; No (5) DeBell, Chow, Carr, Maier, Sundquist; amendment fails."I've already said what my feelings are about Cooper...for me to say to the students of Cooper that you've done a good job but you are not worthy to keep your building, that doesn't work for me...After being there and seeing those families, how could you not think it's the right thing to do." Bass: "It's the right thing to do." Sundquist: I cannot support this amendment. I think I have a better one in number 5.

7:25 pm Harium Martin-Morris reading his amendment (1.a.3). "...my attempt to keep as many of the Summit K-12 students intact...this is the only way I could see doing it without displacing another group of students." Vote: Yes (2): Bass, Martin-Morris; No (5) DeBell, Chow, Carr, Maier, Sundquist; amendment fails. Maier says not enough time to study this proposal. DeBell says Summit is a very caring community that has succeeded with little support from the district. But need to cut transportation costs and don't have another building that could house a K-12 program.

7:15 pm Sherry Carr reading her amendment (1.a.2) regarding Lowell walk zone. Asked Tracy Libros to speak to this. Vote: Yes (5): DeBell, Chow, Carr, Maier, Sundquist; No (2) Bass, Martin-Morris; amendment passes.

7:05 pm Mary Bass reading her amendment (1.a.1) regarding impact on Central cluster. Harium seconds it. Vote: Yes (2): Bass, Martin-Morris, No (5); Sundquist, DeBell, Chow, Carr, Maier amendment fails. "The reasoning behind this amendment was not to throw a wrench in the closure process, but to say to everyone that there is more work to be done, particularly in the Central cluster." Public has come up with creative solutions but too late to be vetted by the district staff. Came from a "marathon session" on Sunday and Monday. Even though AAA is not included, want that community to know how proud she is of their work. "I took the time to make sure your voice was heard on this piece...but we are where we are no matter how the vote comes out." Chow speaking about history of AAA and the goal of that program. "Unfortunately, the program is and has been underenrolled." Current AAA K-4 students will be assigned to Van Asselt program and can stay in that building. Name will remain the African-American Academy unless the school community chooses to change it.

7:00 pm Moving on to business section of meeting; introducting and voting on amendments and overall closure plan. Sundquist making formal motion by reading out full closure proposal text. Print version given as handout packet to audience. Motion seconded. Now moving onto each amendments.

6:30 pm Board comments before deliberation

DeBell making historical comments. Says central administration is having a $4 million cut including staff layoffs.

Sundquist: "This is happening in the context of the strategic plan." Two "cost-related problems" we are facing: 1) structural budget deficit (costs rising faster than revenues; and 2) economic situation in the country. Structural budget problems cannot be resolved with "one-time" actions, like using budget surplus.

Carr: "This is about closing schools or eliminating classroom teachers...annual savings is equal to about 42 teachers." As painful as this process is, there is no good alternative. Voicing respect for Dr. Goodloe-Johnson as a strong leader while crowd jeers.

Martin-Morris: "My personal belief that the district does indeed need to close schools...It is indeed time for us to take action to remove the excess capacity from the district...Many of the components in the proposal, I agree with. Some I do not." "One of the reasons I personally have offered up amendments to the proposal is to address some of those concerns." Discussing population at Cooper and the academic and enrollment gains made without much support from the district. To Summit community, my goal was to find a more central location for Summit students but "I have failed to do that." Pledging to "work tirelessly" to make sure all students receive a quality education no matter the outcome of the vote.

Maier: "Overall, I believe we must close schools" in order to have a stronger school district. Believe final recommendations have improved during the process. "These decisions have been deferred for too long...Tough times demand that we make difficult decisions." "These changes fit in well with possible changes to the student assignment plan."

Bass: Speaking to the audience "I don't want to let you down." Asking for all of you to believe that we are working together to improve education for all. Believe that we should reduce excess capacity but that assignment plan should have come first. "I also am very clear that we have a hole in our finances." Encourages audience to work to change education financing.

6:25 pm Board members have been asking questions of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson but I can't really hear anything because of chanting in the lobby. Michael DeBell said James Bible was removed because of where he was standing (no one is allowed in the aisles) and has said he is welcome to return.

6:15 pm James Bible from the NAACP was just removed from the meeting for no apparent reason. Other audience members have been interrupting and one has been removed from the room. Michael DeBell says staff will look into what happened with Mr. Bible but has told audience that if quiet is not maintained, the meeting will be moved to another location with only the media in attendance.

6:00 pm The meeting is starting. The security presence is overwhelming. The room is at capacity and security is keeping many people in the lobby.

Superintendent's Update: "...opportunity to correct longstanding imbalance in capacity..." "Our view includes students in every school throughout the city." "We know that the single most important factor in student learning is the quality of teaching...I believe that the recommendations we made will improve Seattle Public Schools overall." "These are the hardest choices School Boards are asked to make." "Continuing the status quo of underenrolled buildings...is unacceptable."

Closure Meeting On TV Tonight

I just read on the West Seattle blog that the School Board's meeting tonight with the final vote on closures will be televised tonight on cable channel 26.

See Seattle school-closure vote tonight: District says it’ll be on TV for details.

Dick Lily at Crosscuts; "All this means closure opponents will spend the day hoping for a miracle.

Dick Lily, former School Board director and now a contributor to Crosscuts (online zine), weighed in on the amendments submitted by Board directors yesterday to the final closure plan.

If I didn't know his hair was already white, I'd think it turned white. He genuinely sounds upset (not tearing out your hair upset but not happy at all).

His read:

"Given the widespread and reasoned opposition to this round of closures (seven schools were closed in 2006), the longer term question will be where the district goes from here. Much of the goodwill and confidence that school families bestowed on Goodloe-Johnson when she arrived two years ago has evaporated. One can see the district’s central office building down in SODO as the new Fort Apache, where the folks in charge are alien and unconnected to the interests of the community they’re sent to serve."

And, he doesn't mince words on the Board:

"Similarly, many will see in Thursday’s vote a stunning lack of spine in board members who go along with the superintendent’s plan. But they will have done what school boards commonly do and the consultants who train them recommend: present a united front, support the superintendent you’ve hired and move forward. What’s missing on the board is the power to quietly tell Goodloe-Johnson when she’s wrong.

So for the moment, one can only judge board members by their amendments:"

Naturally, this points to the bigger issue of "What is the role of Board Directors vis a vis the Superintendent?" Many people who write comments after the on-line stories at the PI or Times websites seem to think the Board should get out of the way otherwise, why hire a superintendent? Is the Superintendent a visionary or a manager or both? You'd likely get a variety of answers from other political leaders or business leaders or parents. Directors are elected officials so they get that authority but get paid little so their work is thought-of as glorified volunteer work. (And folks, you can do a ton of volunteer work and my experience is...no one really takes it all that seriously if you don't get paid. But I digress.) The Mayor seems to think we'd get a better caliber of director if they were paid more. I'm not so sure.

Times Weighs In (Did De Bell Tip His Hand?)

The Seattle Times had a column, a story and an editorial this morning about the closures.

The story was about if the district doesn't lose any students in the closures (or very few) and how much money they could save over 5 years ($12.6M). From the article:

"The district also hopes the economy will work in its favor, said school-board member Harium Martin-Morris. "A lot of people who might have chosen private schools in the past won't be able to do that as much."

Hmm, I said that here and it got pooh-poohed. The economy is getting worse so time will tell.

What did De Bell say?

"Board President Michael DeBell points out that the district plans to open one new school as well as close five in an area where it might attract more students — and more money. That school will be a new K-8 in the northeast part of the city, where a number of schools are overcrowded, with long waiting lists.

And he says he probably will support amendments to Goodloe-Johnson's plan aimed at reducing attrition. "We want to try and make sure that the families affected know that the district values them and cares about them," he said."

Okay, so he's giving the amendments that "reduce attrition" a good hard look. I'm thinking that's Carr, Sundquist and Maier's amendments.

A good laugh here:

"District officials say they're confident they can retain all the students now enrolled in schools slated to move or close. They plan to create about a dozen "design teams" to work at most of the affected schools.

That said, the district hasn't included costs for those teams in its calculations, saying the work will be done by staff members along with their other duties."

First, of all, every school does not need a design team. It didn't happen last time so why this time? Oh yeah, they promised. They need to give a lot of attention to the APP splits and the new K-8. That's where the attention is really needed.

Not including costs for these teams and it's just part of staffers duties? Uh oh.

The Times' editorial board thinks amendments are fine but are pretty dismissive of the Board's work here.

"A final closure plan for some Seattle schools set for a vote Thursday night threatens to disintegrate under the weight of confusing and competing amendments by the School Board."

"One, authored by board member Sherry Carr, would impact so few students that Carr would have been better off getting the affected students waivers."

"Another, by Mary Bass, proposes removing Central Area schools from the closures list, essentially gutting the plan and any potential cost-savings.

Bass' argument that the Central Area bears the brunt of the plan is disingenuous because it ignores how much the community stands to gain as a gifted-education program moves closer and money is freed for struggling schools."

What does "moves closer" mean? Moves closer to what?

But glory be, they did point out how underused AAA is going to be and why wasn't there a creative amendment for that?

But then they talk about the rainy day fund:

"Fiscal challenges facing the district cannot be ignored. Nor can the district's rainy-day fund continue to be a source of finger-pointing. The fund has been tapped and likely will be again. But fiscal prudence requires leaving the savings largely intact. The district will be grateful it held onto the money the next time orange water flows from faucets or the district finds itself on the losing end of a multimillion lawsuit, both things that have occurred in the past."

The district doesn't pay for lawsuits out of the rainy day fund; they have insurance. I'd have to go back and check but I don't think the pipes got fixed out of that fund either. I do see the point that if this isn't a crisis, what is? But I'm thinking most people think of a crisis as time-sensitive so this one has time to be fixed in other ways so why tap the rainy day fund?

I'll be at the hearing tonight for the final verdict.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

C-SIPs now online

The District has finally fulfilled a long-standing promise and has posted the Continuous School Improvement Plans (CSIPs) to the web. They were supposed to have been posted by November 30, 2008.

These are the plans that used to be called School Transformation Plans and form the District's compliance with WAC 180-16-22.

They sometimes make for interesting reading and you can search them for specific items.

As you read them, notice how many discuss goals for raising students from Level 2 WASL results to Level 3 WASL results. And notice the dearth of schools that set goals for raising the number students with Level 4 WASL results. It's not on their map. They simply aren't interested in it.

Here's another item to look for. Schools with Advanced Learning Programs are required to make mention of their programs in their CSIP to retain their program certification. Believe it or not, that is the only requirement - mention the program in the Plan document. Yet a number of elementary Spectrum schools don't even meet this ridiculously low standard. There is no mention of their Spectrum program in the CSIPs of West Seattle, Wing Luke, Leschi, View Ridge or Broadview-Thomson. The reference is not very clear for Muir and Whittier. So, will the District de-certify any of these programs for failing to meet the requirement? I seriously doubt it.

I know that the requirement is ridiculous and therefore it should not be the basis for either re-certification or de-certification, so why bother to address it? For two good reasons. First, it is a simple and straightforward test of the District's sincerity about accountability. Second, and more importantly, it evidences the fact that the District's Advanced Learning Office is not involved in the drafting of these plans. Third, and most critically, if the Advanced Learning Office is either unwilling or unable to police this simple and easily determined criteria, then how in the world are we supposed to believe that they will be able and willing to enforce a consistent Spectrum curriculum at all of these schools? We know that they don't, and this provides just more evidence that they can't (or won't). How then, is anyone supposed to believe that the District will enforce a consistent APP curriculum between Lowell and Thurgood Marshall or between Hamilton and Washington? It simply isn't credible. The whole notion of any sort of district-level quality assurance in advanced learning, once a stated fiction, can not even be stated any more, not even as a fiction.

As far as middle schools go, there is no mention of the program or advanced learners in the plans for any of the schools except Washington and Meany. Tragic.

Defense of the AAA in the Times

The Times today (1/28/09) ran a guest column by Gayle Johnson in defense of the African-American Academy.

Amendments to Closure Plan

Website now says 1:00 p.m. for amendment announcements. Please stand by.

Amendments up; there are 6:

  1. Mary Bass asking for Nova to stay in Mann, SBOC in Old Hay, leave TT Minor at TT Minor and Lowell, in total, at Lowell. Basically, leave the Central area alone.
  2. Sherry Carr: Allow APP-qualified students who live in the Lowell walk zone to attend APP at Lowell.
    This amendment would only apply to elementary school students in the approved Lowell walk zone. For middle school these students would attend Washington, with the rest of the Central cluster cohort. Students could apply to attend Hamilton with the other Lowell students; they would be enrolled on a space-available basis and with no district provided transportation. (She notes that this is only necessary if Mary Bass' amendment fails.)
  3. Harium Martin-Morris: Co-locate the K-8 portion of Summit K-12 at Aki Kurose and merge the 9-12 portion of Summit with Nova. (This is a surprise.)
  4. Harium Martin-Morris: Remove the Genesee Hill building from the list of recommended closures. Retain Pathfinder at Genesee Hill and Cooper at Cooper. (Not going to happen unless Pathfinder gets a new building.)
  5. Steve Sundquist: Reassign the majority of Cooper students to three schools: Gatewood, Highland Park and Arbor Heights. Transportation would be provided for students who live in the Arbor Heights, Concord, Gatewood, Highland Park, Roxhill and Sanislo reference areas. Students currently served in the autism self-contained and inclusion programs would remain at the Cooper location and be incorporated into Pathfinder. In addition students who live within the Cooper walk zone would remain at the Cooper location and be incorporated into Pathfinder.
    This amendment would apply only to current Cooper students, not to future students who might move into the current Cooper reference area. A separate Board motion addresses the future of the Cooper reference area.
    Staff will determine the geographic area that will be assigned to each of the three buildings. Students who live in those geographic areas will be assigned to that building.
    Cooper staff will be reassigned based on current contract language. (Why is this needed? It's unclear to me.)
  6. Peter Maier: Grant students reassigned to a different school for next year (2009-10) priority assignment during the Open Enrollment process as outlined in Attachment A. (I'd have to read through the Attachment throughly to get the clear outlines of this amendment.)
Analysis to follow.


My beliefs on whether Board members might vote for any changes.

Cheryl Chow - no, nope; she absolutely believes in the staff.
Peter Maier - I just don't see it. His amendment is not that strong but I think he believes he's throwing a bone to the closing schools.
Michael De Bell - He's in a difficult position as Board president. I think it unlikely that he would vote in anything in except Maier and Sundquist's amendments.
Sherry Carr - She can be hard to read. She asks thoughtful questions but doesn't seem to like to rock the boat. She's a wild card.
Harium Martin-Morris - Open to new ideas and thoughtful; will consider all amendments
Steve Sunquist - smart but kind of corporate, another wild card
Mary Bass - resolute and champion of the underdog; will consider all amendments

So to decontruct.

Mary Bass Amendment - pretty far reaching and I don't think the other Board members will buy it. I would have preferred that she not close Lowell period because of the amount of work that needs to be done to split it in order for the split to be a success. Interestingly, one effect of this is to still close Meany but if there is no Nova or no SBOC there, voila! a home for Summit. That may have been her meaning in trying to get the Board to back off the Central area. If she had kept TT Minor on the list (so as to close a building in Central), it might have worked.

Sherry Carr Amendment - likely to pass unless Enrollment can give some burning reason why not.

Harium Martin-Morris #1 - DOA. Aki is going to be restructuring this next year (somehow) and it's just not the environment for Summit to come into. Also, what parent would really want their kindergarten child at Aki at this point in time? What is confusing here is "merge 9-12 Summit with Nova". Is that at the Mann building or Meany? I'm assuming Meany. But Aki and Meany are too far away for real collaboration so I don't see how splitting them up really keeps the program going.

I'm disappointed on this one; I had really thought that he would say leave Nova at Mann, SBOC at Old Hay and Summit to Meany. This just doesn't bode well for Summit.

Harium Martin-Morris #2 - What? Why? How does this solve anything except save Cooper (with no disrespect to Cooper but what is the real plan then for Pathfinder)? Maybe all will be explained when he introduces this amendment (guarantee of being on BEX IV and first up in the list?). Both staff and Board need to quit jerking Pathfinder around.

Steve Sundquist: I'm being dense; why is he doing this? Also, he says that Cooper students within the walk area would be incorporated into Pathfinder. You can't assign kids to alternative schools; you'd have to change the Enrollment plan. Why not just let Cooper's population decide where it will go?

Peter Maier: The key here - in the Attachment - is "The Special Program Preference tiebreaker is the third tiebreaker, applied after the sibling and reference area/region tiebreakers." This really doesn't help alternative school kids because after sib and reference/region, there aren't a lot of seats left. This one may pass because, again, I think it's throwing a bone to the closing schools but it's not much.

NAACP Weighs In

The PI carried an op-ed this morning by James Bible and Phyllis Beaumonte, both of the NAACP. It makes some fairly inflammatory statements and bases them on review of the closure process, its criteria and the data. (I would provide a link but can't find it at the PI website; I'll check again later.) To wit:

"The Seattle King Country NAACP is opposed to Johnson's school closure plan because it is likely to disproportionately affect children of color, the poor and students with learning disabilities. "

So it has been argued here about minority and disadvantaged children and the movement of Special Ed programs has also been discussed but did anyone find evidence that more students with learning disabilities will be affected? (I'm not sure if they mean versus regular ed popular or versus other closures?)

"Now that we have concluded our analysis, we have reached the position that this school district purposely has decided that some children are of value while others should be left behind."

That's a pretty hot statement. Based on their analysis, district staff's decisions are not only affecting minority/poor children but it was done on purpose? That these closures are to help some children and hurt others?

They say that the district should use the rainy day fund because this is a time of crisis economically. There's a point for discussion with the district. If the budget crisis is so bad, why not use some of the rainy day fund (but leave a cushion)?

They try to make the point about how much more money Dr. Goodloe-Johnson makes compared to Mayor Nickels ($264,000 versus $150,000) and how much more she made than Raj Manhas ($178,000). They say her salary is out of touch with our market and our state but fail to understand that superintendents aren't elected (not usually) and free-market rules apply. She would get that much almost anywhere else.

They rightly argue about creating the assignment plan before closures. But then they explain that we are likely to go to a neighborhood plan and if areas with high numbers of students have no school because of closures, where will they go? I'm not sure the district or anyone else for that matter, can say what will happen under a neighborhood assignment plan. Will it attract back people who want that kind of predictability? Will it drive others to private school?

They do end with an interesting proposition; that an outside agency such as the US Department of Education or the state should review the district's plan to make sure all children are treated equally. I'm not sure I believe it's possible to document all children being treated equally; in closures it's much more about equity than equality.

The NAACP has previously said they might file a lawsuit which is a standard line they use frequently.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Closures on KUOW's The Conversation tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Update from KUOW:

"We actually decided not to do a call in segment on this today. We’re just going to get an update from our reporter Phyllis Fletcher about the amendments. There’s a possibility we may speak with a board member."

So no call-in to KUOW today.

Original post:
FYI, tomorrow, KUOW 94.9 FM's program, The Conversation, airing at 1 p.m. will discuss the amendments to the school closure package and what might be coming on Thursday.

A Summit Student Speaks

A bit ago, I posted an entry about The Re-Purposing of Summit K-12. In comments on this blog, there has recently been discussion of the attitudes of parents in alternative education. This turns the discussion from the children affected to how their parents are perceived. In an effort to bring that focus around to what we really should be discussing, I thought it was time to share a student's perspective.

My son, Jacob (also known as Ciarán), is a survivor of crippling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and major depression. He is a graduate of View Ridge's Spectrum program and has attended Eckstein (Honors), Blaine, and Hamilton. After three years in and out of schools, hospitals, and institutions, he washed up at Summit K-12 in eighth grade, as part of the Internalizing Disorders Program (IDP), at the recommendation of someone in Special Education.

He talked about some of his experiences in a piece that aired on KUOW this morning, Summit: A Refuge From Teasing. He also testified at the most recent board meeting (Ciarán is at 40:30).

I think that those cover some of the myriad reasons why there is a definite place for alternative education in general in the Seattle School District and Summit K-12 in particular.

The problem with One Size Fits All education is that all children are not the same.

Updates Before Jan. 29th

First, I just looked at the agenda for the Thursday meeting for final recommendations. Please note:

This meeting starts at 6:00 p.m.

I make this note because other hearings have started at 6:30 and I didn't want anyone who wants to attend to go late.

The agenda goes (1) vote on closures (2) vote on changing Board policies about SBOC and (3) vote on changing reference areas for TT Minor, Van Asselt, Cooper and Wing Luke. The amendments, if any are presented, will come before the vote on closures. Each amendment will be introduced, talked about and then voted on. Those votes will then influence what the final closure package will look like (this will keep Pam and Joan, the Board admins are on their toes; it'll be a busy night if they need to include any changes to the final package of closures.)

Second, the minutes from the Lowell public hearing are up on the website.

Third, the minutes from the last public hearing last week are also available.

How Do Principals Get Picked?

Many here have asked, how are principals placed? That's a difficult question to answer simply because the district does NOT follow a specific path. In the past they have:
  • hired outside principals (that happened last year for Aki and AAA)
  • picked ( and shuffled) from within the SPS principal pool
  • allowed schools to form a committee usually made up of parents, staff (certificated and non), community members and sometimes (at the high school level) students who interview vetted candidates (vetted by both the committee and SPS Human Resources)
With the last one, again, this is done in many ways. There was deep unhappiness several years back when Garfield's committee picked one candidate as the best but the district went with the other one. Being on the committee is a lot of work and people take it very seriously so to have the district go the other way on a decision is hard to take.

In the end, no matter what, the superintendent makes the final decision. (Well, there is one private group representing a school that gets a private interview with candidates after the committee interview and a discussion with the superintendent. Let's all guess together what group that is. )

Naturally, this lack of understanding for how principals are placed is a source of frustration (during regular times) and great worry (during times of crisis). For closures this has a host of questions like:
  • where does a closed program principal go? Is it a reflection on that principal's abilities if the program is closing? Who decides what is best to do to shore up a program?
In the case of Lowell, I'd think it might make sense (and ease the minds of APP parents) if the current principal of Lowell goes to Thurgood Marshall. Not because the Marshall principal isn't good (I don't know) but you're talking about bringing in a very specific program with a differently-abled group of kids. I think it would be hard for a principal not schooled in gifted programs/kids. Also, I'd take a head teacher from Lowell to help the adjustment for the current Thurgood teachers. If you leave the majority of teachers behind at Lowell, those teachers can be the guide for a new principal. (This is just me thinking out loud; I could be wrong.) Maybe that's just too much change for Thurgood Marshall but change is coming and if the district wants success they need people who know how to make the program work.

The Principals' Association of Seattle Schools (PASS), the principals' union, has been fairly quiet here but I'm sure there are rules on what happens in these cases. I can't seem to locate a website for them but on the Association of Washington School Principals website, SPS is advertising for their pool for both principals and assistant principals.

Please Let Legislators Know We Need Investments in Education

From Kelly Munn at the League of Education Voters:

Our kids can’t wait!

Indeed, this is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our schools so every child graduates ready for life.

Let’s continue to show our lawmakers that we expect change this year.

Senate Bill 5444 and its companion, House Bill 1410, provide the framework for the next decade of investments in education. We need to continue our grassroots effort to ensure one of these bills reaches the Governor’s desk.

We have two more opportunities tomorrow to testify and show support:

Senate Bill 5444
Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee
Cherberg Building, Hearing Room 1
Wednesday, January 28, 8:00 – 10:00 AM

House Bill 1410
House Education Appropriations Committee
John L O’Brien, Hearing Room A
Wednesday, January 28, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Hit 'reply' and let us know if you can attend and/or testify.

If you’re not able to attend, we’d like to make sure YOUR VOICE is heard. Send us your testimony at info@educationvoters.org. We’ll hand-deliver your message to legislators. Please include your name, city, school district, and reason for supporting SB 5444 and HB 1410.

Click here for talking points on these education reform bills.

It’s up to all of us to move education reform forward this year. Your personal stories involving your school and what matters to children will make the most difference.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Student Essay Contest: A Teacher To Remember

The Washington Education Association is sponsoring an essay contest on "A Teacher To Remember". Here's the entry form. From the website:

Washington state public school students in grades 3-12 are eligible to enter. Students may write about a special teacher who positively influenced them. One grand prize winner will be selected from each of the combined grade-level categories (3-5, 6-8, 9-12). There is a category for ESL/ELL students, and a category for multimedia entries.

Here are the categories:
Grades 3-5 -- Essays should be no more than 300 words
Grades 6-8 -- Essays should be no more than 500 words
Grades 9-12 -- Essays should be no more than 600 words
ESL/ELL students (all grades) -- Essays should be no more than 500 words
Multimedia (all grades) -- Presentation should be no more than two minutes

Essays should be neatly printed or typed. Multimedia entries should contain audio-visual artistic elements, (not just a talking head), and be viewable on common Microsoft applications or on a TV. All entries must be accompanied by an entry form.

Essays may be e-mailed to TeachertoRemember@washingtonnea.org. Entries must be postmarked by March 5, 2009, but need not use next-day delivery methods. The WEA address is on the entry form. Entries also can be hand-delivered to the WEA office in Federal Way by 4:30 p.m. on March 5, 2009.

Grand Prize winners will each receive a $150 gift certificate to Amazon.com
and a pizza party for his/her class, and the honored teachers will each receive a beautiful engraved gift. The winners will be notified of the judges’ decisions in May and will be honored in their schools. Honorable Mention winners will receive a $25 gift certificate. WEA reserves the right to limit awards due to quality and quantity of entries.

If the Public Offered Amendments...

Following up on Sahila's earlier question, it is the Board who will propose amendments to the final recommendations for closure and consolidtion by the end of the day tomorrow. And, according to Michael DeBell, they will be posted on the district website by noon on Wednesday.

However, if we were able to propose amendments to the final recommendations for closure and consolidation, what would they be? I posted one idea on giving any displaced students choice and priority for placement. (see Priority Assignment and Choice).

What would you propose?

Leadership Assessment

At the request of several blog readers, I'm starting a thread to discuss our assessment of the district leadership, staff and especially the superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

My comment on a previous thread summarizes my position on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

I think Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is going to improve Seattle schools for most children in the district. I don't necessarily like her, I certainly don't agree with everything she says/does, I'm concerned about her lack of support for alternative education, but I am impressed with her and believe she's the right person to lead our district.

It is standard process across the country to toss out the Superintendent every couple of years. That won't lead to better schools. We (the community) should work with the current superintendent, Board and staff to improve schools.

And in terms of a Board assessment, I think this School Board (overall) is thoughtful, principled and willing to ask hard questions of the Superintendent and district staff. My assessment of individual Board members varies, of course.

I plan on continuing to question and criticize the Superintendent, staff and Board and their decisions with the hope of improving education for all in this district. But I have confidence in their willingness to listen, their overall skills and knowledge, and their values and intentions.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Updated Info Via West Seattle Blog coverage

Thanks to the West Seattle blog for their coverage of yesterday's public meeting with Director Sundquist. There an important piece of information that needs to be clear because I had stated that I believed they could vote on each school. According to Director Sundquist they will vote for the amendments first (which, if adopted, would obviously change the package vote) and then, vote for the closures in their entirety as outlined in the final recommendations. Thus no school by school vote on Thursday. (It is not clear whether they can't vote school by school or decided not to.)

From the blog:

"But if there are amendments, he noted, “any and all permutations are possible.”

That leaves the door open and now he's the second Director to say this. Either they are trying to look open-minded or there really might be something that they do not agree with in this closure package.

Also from the blog this statement from Director Sundquist:

"(The compressed timeline of the closure process, he reflected, is “particularly tragic” … forced to happen sooner rather than — as originally planned — later, he reiterated, because of the budget crunch; Sundquist lamented that it has to happen before “support” is in place for schools facing challenges that have left them more vulnerable to closure now - “I’m sorry, if i had complete freedom of motion, if i didn’t have the economy crumbling in front of me, if i had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t do it in this order.”)

Can I just say, oh please. Every single freakin' time from the Board and/or staff an excuse as to why they couldn't have a complete process or more community engagement. We are always in a crisis and on a hurry, hurry, hurry schedule. I'm just not buying it for this little amount of savings. Not that there isn't a crumbling economy but sorry, they are not going to realize that much in savings that quickly.

More interesting quotes about APP:

"He repeated something he’s said before, that the program is “politically at risk” because its demographics currently do not match with district demographics in general —
a lower percentage of children of color and students from economically challenged families. But, “I like the program, I’d like to see it stay, I’d like to see it serve more kids.” He believes some APP students would have to be moved out of Lowell eventually no matter what, because it’s “pretty darn full” and if anything at all is done to get a more diverse population of children in to grow the program, there isn’t room there anyway. But he acknowledged, “the district’s been remarkably inarticulate in describing what it’s been trying to do with APP.” He believe the board “is supportive of highly capable education … but it’s coming in the heart of an" economic hurricane.”

Well, I missed this. APP is in danger politically? What does that mean? This is not a feel-good program or an arts program; this is a program for kids with special needs. There is a legal federal designation for this program. (UPDATE: I confused federal law which provides funding for gifted ed grants. The state also provides funding for gifted education although neither is a mandated law to create gifted programs.) They could get sued for trying to end this program. I could care less about what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson or any other educator feels about it philosophically. There will always be on-going debates over teaching, curriculum, methods, etc. But what is the recourse, put everyone in the same classroom and differentiate? Let's see that work. It doesn't and it doesn't especially for this group of kids.

Also, as I said to the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson at the public hearing; if there is any fault in why this program is not more diverse, it comes from leadership. Not the Lowell parents, not the Lowell administration or teachers. Top leadership who do NOT follow-thru and make sure that this program is advertised in every single school during its testing and enrollment period. The bad-mouthing of this program or hiding it from parents by principals is why this program is not more diverse. Dr. Vaughn has bent over backwards to do outreach to minority parents but to no avail. I will not deny the possibility that putting half the population in another school further south might get more minority students. But do I think it will solve anything in a big way? No.

Why is the accountability on this issue?

About marketing as a way to get more students (and money) in the district:

"He said he’s canvassed the philanthropic community in search of marketing dollars but they’re not interested - they prefer to give money to test their theories about educational programming."

On the one hand, this echoes what former Board member, Steve Brown, told me once. He said that many philanthropists are more interested in starting a new school based on "new" educational philosophies than helping existing schools. On the other hand, it's a cop-out. There's NEVER any money even remotely given over to marketing. I know parents in marketing who would help, free of charge, but the Board and the staff never ask the parent community. We are wealthy in this district - with parents who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and would love to help but never get asked. Maybe someone should talk to the Alliance for Education.

Again, thanks to the West Seattle Blog for their tenacity on this subject.

March and Rally to Stop Closures

March and Rally to Stop Closures and Support Schools

Sunday, January 25

2pm @ TT Minor School, 1700 E Union

March to Garfield Community Center, 2323 E CherryRally 2:30-5pm.

Come anytime! This is an all-city, family-friendly event with music, food and good company. Come share your school's success stories, voice frustration, or just find out what's going on!

Sponsored by ESP Visionhttp://soseattle.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New K-8 at Addams

A request was made for a separate thread on what the new K-8 at the Jane Addams building should be. Here are some choices (although I'm not advocating for any of them, I think it would fill more easily with a focus rather than just being a traditional K-8):
  • middle school IB program
  • dual language program
  • math/science magnet
  • performing arts
Also, while we're on this subject, what would the name be? Call it Jane Addams K-8 to honor the building namesake, Jane Addams? (Her name was selected from an essay contest to name the building in 1949. She was a noted American social worker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was the first American woman to win the Peace Prize.)

From the archives:

Jane Addams Junior High School was the first secondary school constructed by Shoreline School District No. 412. At the time it was being planned, demographic studies indicated the school would serve all junior high students in the area for a long time. Few foresaw the tremendous population growth in this suburban district.

As Shoreline’s major secondary school, Addams was designed as a first-class facility with a capacity of 1,250 students. The building was meant to serve as a community center for the north end as well, so a fully professional stage was included in the auditorium.

The building was annexed into SPS in 1954. The archives say their team name was the Invaders and their colors blue and gold. I don't know for sure if this carried through to Summit (anyone?).

The Board had a motion before it recently to try to get a handle on naming as many buildings carry "double" names like Summit at Jane Addams which apparently gets confusing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

CPPS statement to the school board regarding closure decisions

TO: Seattle School Board members
FROM: Board of Directors, Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle
Date: January 23, 2009
RE: The Superintendent's Final Recommendations to the Seattle School Board

Thank you for your community service and willingness to lead as board members during very difficult times. We appreciate that your decisions impact the lives of thousands of children and parents. Now that Seattle Public Schools’ closure/consolidation process is in your hands, parents and community members are relying on you to make tough decisions that will provide for financial stability in our school system, and sensitive decisions that will enable our communities to improve and thrive in the wake of change.

Two months ago, in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion column, Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS) emphasized our need for a closure plan that is more than a money-saving strategy. We called on district leadership to make direct connections to a larger plan for student achievement, attention to quality across the district, and a policy on neighborhood schools that would reassure families about their access to quality teachers and appropriate curricula.

While some rhetoric has been directed at the idea of “quality schools,” our requests have not been addressed. In fact, where the plan is surest to bring about family and community disruption, it offers only vaguely defined promises of future school or program success in return.

CPPS believes that district leaders have confused community input with community engagement. While the district has solicited input in a variety of ways, too often the input process has pitted neighbors and school communities against each other rather than encourage the kinds of problem-solving that creates community-wide buy-in.

Community buy-in is key to successful educational programs and a vital benefit to leaders who seek to build high functioning schools. Without consideration of community dynamics alongside measures of building capacity or quality, and without identifying and planning improvements for displaced families, you should not be surprised to experience enrollment losses, unanticipated shifts in choice patterns and declines in support for public schools.

CPPS exhorts you to make decisions that will restore community confidence in our school system. It is unconscionable for our district leaders to destabilize programs and derail community efforts without the context of well-defined plans for student assignment, program development, demographic changes, educational restructuring or community buy-in.

We want you to lead. We need your smart and sensitive leadership to honor our communities by advocating for thoughtful, appropriate solutions to capacity and quality needs rather than crisis-motivated impulses. As you deliberate the plan in front of you, we ask you to approve closures that can be defended by, and connected to, a plan for quality schools and programs and is not simply a fiscal exercise.

We ask you to have the courage to defer those decisions that require more study, more community input and that will not yield community improvements or have not been fully developed. We have heard you say that you want to plan for the long-term; we believe long-term planning requires more parent and community involvement – more time and investment in community buy-in – than this process has allowed. We want your leadership to make the tough choices in the right time.

The Re-Purposing of Summit K-12

In comments on the post School Board Meeting on January 21, there was a request for a separate post about Summit K-12, as well as much discussion about the decision to close the program. Many people seem to not know about Summit's unique situation in this process. Summit K-12, whether you consider it a program or a school, is doomed, no matter which way the board votes next week, without direct school board action. This post is simply a timeline and assessment of the current situation. Why Summit should be saved is a topic for another post.

On November 12, 2008, the school board voted to "re-purpose" the Jane Addams building, Summit's home for the past 24 years, into a K-8 school, as part of capacity management in the northeast cluster. The original School Board Action Report can be found here, as a PDF file. The pertinent suggestion, in Attachment B, is to re-purpose the Jane Addams building for a new K-8 program with decisions regarding the future of the Summit K-12 program to be included in any building closure process.

Video of this portion of the board meeting can be found here. During the meeting, the concern of many Summit parents that this was a de facto closure of the program, was brought up by Steve Sundquist beginning at about 10:30. Director Sundquist and the other board members all agreed that this was not a part of the current decision and there was a discussion of what "re-purposing" meant in this context. Director DeBell stated that if it was a motion to close the Summit program, he would have a very different feeling about it. The motion was approved.

Prior to this meeting and during the public comment portion (video), many people involved with Summit had spoken up about the program and its value, in an attempt to keep the program viable, even if the Jane Addams building was re-purposed. Despite our dismay at the decision, we have continued to be active after this meeting, as well.

When the Superintendent's preliminary recommendations were released on November 25, 2008, it was recommended that the Summit K-12 program co-locate with Rainier Beach High School. Since this re-created the same situation that had been problematic for Summit in the past, namely placement on the outskirts of the school district leading to complaints about transportation costs, there was a call for a more central location. At the December 3rd board meeting, there was a discussion about the move to Rainier Beach perhaps not being fiscally feasible. It was noted that this might lead to a final recommendation to discontinue the Summit K-12 program.

On December 9th, at a board workshop, further modifications were made to the recommendations. The preferred option discontinued the Summit program. The non-preferred option suggested moving Summit K-8 to re-locate with Nova at the Meany Middle School building and discontinuation of the 9-12 portion of the program.

As was expected, the final recommendation on January 9, 2009 was to discontinue the Summit K-12 program and re-assign students to where they lived. It has been proposed that this include an option for Summit students to enroll in their regional alternative school, but that isn't yet official.

If the board votes yes on the final recommendations without amendment, Summit will be discontinued. If the board votes no, as many active in the discussion suggest, Summit still has no building and will be effectively closed. At this point, Summit, as a program or as a school, is homeless and cannot be saved without direct intervention.

Last Night's Public Hearing

An interesting slog. It was a packed house with many Cooper and Summit parents, a smattering of TT Minor and AAA (although vocal) and APP parents (Lowell and Washington). Director Martin-Morris was not there and there was no reason given for him not being (although I know that every director did not attend every public hearing so he probably had a conflict in schedule).

This meeting, combined with listening to the KUOW interview with Dick Lily, Michael De Bell and Mary Bass yesterday, has really turned some of my thinking. I do believe that I agree with Dick Lily; the district needs to table this for at least a year. It has gotten so convoluted.
Phase II did not go through so this could happen but I believe it would damage the relationship between the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson so they will continue on. However, after listening to the KUOW interview, I think there will be some changes to the final list (although no new schools added).

Highlights from the interview

Michael De Bell
- Board members can submit amendments to the final closure plan by Tuesday at noon. He said they would be available for viewing on the district by Wednesday. Very significant - he said that some Board members had some creative ideas and that "sound changes are floating out there with my colleagues and I expect that there would be some changes."

-I was quite surprised to hear De Bell say that the closures were about demographics, better choices for students and equity and access. This is not what was initially presented. I think this morphing of rationales is confusing. It allows the district to close one school for one reason and yet close another school for a totally different reason. It ends up sounding like "because we said so". Or as Dick Lily said "it stirs the pot without education vision".

-He said they wanted to give students better choices. Is that really true for Summit or Cooper? Not really or, at least for Summit, they are not going to get real choices that they can truly access?

Mary Bass:
-She said that south end kids had been coming up north for years, shoring up north end schools. I'm a little confused by this statement because I don't know if she was referencing busing in the '70s or the choices made by south end parents currently. Hamilton would certainly be underenrolled if they didn't have south end students, for example.
-She was thoughtful in her reasoning over saving TT Minor but for some reason this seems to fall on deaf ears to the rest of the Board.

Dick Lily:
-Lincoln should be a high school in the near future (neither Board member chimed in here).
-No pluses, only minuses to this plan (I would agree).

Practically the only schools/people to get something out of this are Pathfinder (and what a heavy burden to bear) and NE parents who get a new K-8 (but it leaves the NE without any alternative programs). What does the Central district get? What does the SE get (Van Asselt gets a new building but if you read the public hearing minutes, there's not a lot of understanding/enthusiasm there for the move)? What does the SW/WS get?

What the district gets are a few closed buildings and a WHOLE lot of work to be done.

Public Hearing highlights:
-Maria Ramirez (a blogger here) explaining why SBOC doesn't want to move (and nothing against Nova) but best practices do NOT say non-English speakers do better in a school with English speakers. The group, Friends of SBOC, is not for this move. (It was also referenced by another speaker that SBOC had been co-located before and it didn't work. I didn't know this myself.)
-There were a few threats to vote the Board members out and/or recall them.
-There were also a number of speakers who referenced legal issues around the closures. There were several RCWs cited and I hope to research this issue. There was one around the proper newspaper notifications being placed, that citizens can appeal Board votes to close schools and most interesting, that the district can, in times of financial problems, access the interest on capital funds (at this point roughly $22M) for the operating fund. The district does have a lot of interest on the capital funds largely because they did a bond measure last BEX which gave them the money in full rather than a levy that doles it out.
-A couple of children spoke and were articulate and moving in their remarks and love for their schools.
-It was referenced that there was a middle school in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's former district in S.C. that was going to be closed but got reinvented and is now a very popular school.
-A couple of the Cooper parents played the race and income card as well as TT Minor parents. It got a little strident at times with a lot of "have mores versus have nots". I think a better argument was made for TT Minor that Montlake and McGilvra have smaller numbers, about the same size buildings (but TT Minor has no portables) and yet TT Minor is the one being closed. One speaker apologized for throwing Montlake and McGilvra under the bus but said that several Board members told them to come up with better ideas (read: schools) and that was this speaker's answer.
-There were a couple of Washington APP parents who were worried about the music program. I agree it's a great program but in the face of what other schools are losing - namely, their entire school - it sounded a little hollow.
-Several speakers did a good job in saying how Meany has worked hard and now has kids from all over its region trying to get in.
-One great line "This (process) is like Survivor meets the Stanford prisoner experiment."
-Summit and TT Minor scored points in pointing out that their WASL scores have risen steadily over the last two years and virtually no other schools can make this claim.
-Charlie and I both advocated for Van Asselt to not move to AAA and make better use of the space. Also, putting 4 elementaries just a mile or so apart (Van Asselt, Wing Luke, Dunlap and New School) seems very wrong. We both agree that Aki should be closed and moved to either the new South Shore building or AAA and reinvented. If it's good for Denny and Sealth to work together, it should be great for RBHS and Aki. (I did get cornered and called out for "throwing AAA under the bus" by its former principal. I did explain that this was one decision I did not believe the Board would change and I was advocating for the best use of a K-8 building. All I can say is AAA's program never filled its new building, lacked community support even as it sat within the community it was built for and lacked academic progress.)
-According to one speaker, the district has committed to no less than 11 design teams (versus 1 in the last round of closures) and yet the dollars allotted for this effort this time has only increased marginally from last time.
-Another thing I didn't know; Cooper, after its rebuild, had 400 students and then their reference area was redrawn. So they did have some good numbers at one time.

I stayed for 36 speakers (they had moved on to the waitlist by then) before I left.

From Michael De Bell's statement about the amendments and my own gut feeling that they won't walk away from this effort, I do believe that next Thursday some schools will close but that someone is going to get a reprieve. If I had to venture a guess, I would say it will be Lowell but only because their school's recommendation is so complex. That may also signal a reprieve for TT Minor (or not if they choose to close and disperse the regular ed population).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Priority Assignment and Choice

Here's a copy of a letter I sent to School Board members and District staff today. I haven't had time to run this by anyone for feedback, so I'm interested to hear what blog readers think of the idea.


School Board members and District Staff,

If you go forward with the closure of any schools or programs, please consider letting the students/families displaced by the closures have both priority enrollment and choice within the cluster where they live.

As Tracy Libros said last night, the current proposal for assigning students prioritized having students closer to home over having large groups of students and teachers staying together in the move. I know some Cooper parents are advocating the opposite, and are looking for a way to have their school program moved intact.

But not all parents/families want the same thing. Some parents may be thrilled to have first priority enrollment for an open spot (after siblings) in a school close to home. Others might be happiest if their children could in large cohort groups along with their teachers. And others might prefer to have first priority enrollment for an open spot (after siblings) in another school within the cluster, whether or not it is the one closest to home. I don’t think the District should make this decision or even try to guess what is best, but instead leave the choice up to the families.

So here is my proposal:
1) After the vote next Thursday, don’t provide families with an initial assignment for their students. Instead, provide families of any displaced students with the option to enroll in any school within the cluster and then run through the enrollment process giving those students first priority after siblings.
2) Then, notify those parents/families of where they were assigned.
3) Finally, allow any parents/families a chance to resubmit an application during the Open Enrollment period so that as they learn more about where their children’s friends and teachers are placed, they can change their mind about what might be the best placement for their children.

Three additional notes:
1) For ELL students or other students with special needs, details need to be provided about which schools offer the programs they need.
2) Because of the changes in the Cooper reference area, you might consider giving Cooper families first choice for any open spot in either the West Seattle North or West Seattle South clusters.
3) For Summit K-12 and AAA students, the priority for alternative school proposed last night could be added on to the cluster priority, in effect providing students for whom the alternative nature of the school is the most important priority at an alternative school, and students for whom location is more important priority within the cluster.