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.


Unknown said…
They read them off on KUOW a minute ago, but I can't remember all the details.
dj said…
What I see on the agenda are three motions that were submitted by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Does this mean that there are not amendments being proposed to the plan itself? Or am I misreading this?
dj said…
Never mind. My browser was opening a cached version. Moving along.
I can't find the amendments on the SPS site. I just get the old agenda.

I heard KUOW and what I remember are:

1. A reprieve for Old Hay
2. A reprieve for APP
3. A reprieve for Cooper
4. Breaking the current Cooper population into 3 parts and sending them to Gatewood, Arbor Heights and Highland Park (I think)
James W said…
Here are the amendment titles for those who can't get to them:

1)Amendment to eliminate impact to central cluster buildings (Bass)
2)(if Amendment 1.a.1 does not pass): Amendment of Lowell Walk Zone (Carr)
3)Amendment to provide new locations for Summit K-8 and 9-12 (Martin-Morris)
4)Amendment to remove Genesee Hill building from the closure recommendation (Martin-Morris)
5)Amendment assigning Cooper students (Sundquist)
6)Amendment of Assignment Priority (Maier)
Charlie Mas said…
Wow. What a huge disappointment.

Not only are the good and necessary amendments missing, but the amendments they offer are dreadful.

Amendment 1 from Director Bass, basically says not to touch the Central Area. Don't close T T Minor, Don't Close Meany, and Don't Split Lowell. Consequently, the S.B.O.C. and NOVA don't move either. I don't know what she's thinking, but this just appears obstructionist. If the Plan is so bad that no part of it should happen in the Central Area, then why should any of it happen in any other part of the city?

Amendment 2, from Director DeBell, is useless and unnecessary. It would allow APP students living in the Lowell walk zone to seek admission to Lowell APP on a space-available basis. Ummm... Director DeBell, that's already in the plan. Please read the document more carefully. APP students can apply to either program.

Amendment 3, from Director Martin-Morris, proposes a co-location for Summit K-8 at Aki Kurose and a merger of Summit 9-12 with NOVA. Good that he was looking for a new location for Summit, but these are bad ideas. Aki Kurose is too far south for an all-city draw and way too far south for Summit's current population. As for turning Summit into a K-8, that breaks one of Summit's significant identifiers. Moreover, Summit students are not necessarily a good match with NOVA. Add to these concerns the capacity management concerns: There's no extra room for more students at NOVA - not at Mann and not at Meany. Nor would there be room for Summit K-8 at Aki Kurose if the school were to actually attract a decent share of the children in its reference area.

Amendment 4, from Director Martin-Morris, would call off the move of Pathfinder to Cooper. I don't know what it is about Cooper that makes Director Martin-Morris think it should not be closed, but I'm pretty sure he'll have a reason. I hope it will be reality-based. I would also like to hear his reason for retaining the excess capacity in West Seattle.

Amendment 5, from Director Sundquist, would divide the Cooper community into three pieces for re-location. I guess to offer a sort of partial cohort cohesion. I don't see the point.

Amendment 6, from Director Maier, is the worst of them all. It starts out okay, in that it offers students in closed programs a preference in open enrollment. But it has three interesting twists. First, the opportunity is not extended to students in re-located programs, such as Pathfinder, Van Asselt, NOVA or the S.B.O.C., EXCEPT that it IS offered to APP students in relocated programs just as if their programs were closed instead of relocated. What's up with that? Second, the preference comes after siblings and AFTER reference area, so it's valuable if you are applying to your reference area school, but of limited value for access to any other school. So it's not going to help much. Summmit students who live in the northeast still won't be able to get into their reference area schools. Third, and I don't know if this is intentional or not, this amendment would pretty much blow up the effort to split elementary APP. Over 100 of the 236 APP students being relocated to Thurgood Marshall live in the Central Cluster. It's not as if they need this encouragement to choose to stay at Lowell. What is the "space available" at Lowell for out-of-region APP students? It's all who apply. At the most restrictive it is the number required to fill any classes that aren't completely full. So, if there are 12 first grade APP students from the north-end, then there are 11 seats of space available in that class for APP students from the south-end. Once in the school, the student is in the school until they rise out of it. Central Area elementary APP students will be more at Lowell than at Thurgood Marshall. Whom does this serve?

The missing amendments are a better use for the AAA building (thank Cheryl Chow for that failure) and a better location for Summit - such as Lincoln, John Marshall, or Meany.
Charlie Mas said…
I take back every statement of confidence I made about the Board. I was wrong to think that they would offer anything constructive to this process. They failed.
I'm right there with you, Charlie. Despite previous experiences, I'm *still* having trouble believing that things are going to be left like this.
Central Mom said…
Carr made the Lowell walk zone amendment, not DeBell.

DeBell didn't make any amendments presumably because he's the board president, or at least that's how he semi-positioned it on KUOW.

Chow didn't make any amendments, because...well, I'm sure many of the active bloggers here will have the usual opinion.
MadronaGreen said…
Anyone with any horse sense able to predict the outcome?
Unknown said…
I think the point of the Cooper kids to three other schools amendment was to put the kids in schools that don't have such a poor track record with serving disadvantaged students. I'm not sure it's such a bad idea.
Sue said…
Well, I could have said I told you so, regarding the board, Charlie, but your optimism was too refreshing. And I am not being sarcastic here. I was happy to see that you believed they might salvage this. I have to say though, that when the board gave MGJ a 10% raise, no questions asked, that was the signal to me that they will rubber stamp anything she puts in front of them.

Now, we can sit back and watch them screw up the assignment plan as well. Sigh.
zb said…
So, what are the predictions? Will any of the amendments pass? My guess is not.
Josh Hayes said…
I predict that the first amendment will fail (i.e. Lowell will be split), the second will pass (the walk area will be preserved), and everything else goes down.

I too am astonished at the lack of scope in these amendments, and I'm literally flabbergasted -- I mean it, my flabber is COMPLETELY gasted -- that nobody proposed the Summit -> Meany move. I am very sorry to the apparently sure to be displaced Summit community. Let us hope some sort of miraculous save can be worked out.
Robert said…
There is no Lowell walk zone?!?!?

Assuming normal walk zones having it as your reference app draw school would settle some confusion of children close yet have a 30 minute bus ride.

It appears that MB has several amendments is this an up down on those? Oh and she didn't object to closing Meany... So not totally against the plan?
Well Director Sundquist's amendment acknowledges that West Seattle, the closest school to Cooper is fairly poor. Also that no kids from Cooper were going to get into Sanilso, Lafayette, Schmitz Park or Alki anyway. I'll bet a lot of Cooper parents were going to select Arbor Heights anyway. I know if Cooper closes, we're going there or private.

But it still trashes a good program and sends all the future kids from the area to poorly performing schools. (Don't worry, we'll make them just as good as the school we're closing)

Look at the numbers, Highland Park and Gatewood don't have very good scores. That's why they have room for the Cooper kids. Arbor Heights is a good school, but you can't get any further from Cooper without leaving West Seattle.
Central Mom said…
There is an official Lowell walk zone. Find it on the walk zones data page.

Charlie is slightly incorrect about this amendment. MGJ's final plan allows Central District APP families into Lowell on a space-available basis. This amendment assures those (very few) families living within the Lowell walk zone access into that building.

I support this amendment as it keeps the neighborhood directly adjacent to the building some community "ownership" of the building.

However, those particular Lowell families would be assigned w/ the rest of the APP elementary kids to Washington, not Hamilton middle school. (So their rising up pattern will follow by address, not by program cohort.)

From what I understand, these are the same rules that are being developed for the new student assignment plan, and will be cause for further discussion for alt schools and etc. But that's for another day and another thread.
anonymous said…
Wow, what a huge dissapointment. This is not at all what I expected from this board. I truly thought that there wold be an ammendment to move Summit to a viable location. Aki is a joke. There is no space at NOVA, not to mention the two programs are very different. The other amendements are equally ridiculous.

And of course, nothing from Chow. What a waste of a school board seat.
Central Mom said…
Summit to Aki Kurose has the same problems as Summit to RB had. Even if the amendment passes, who of the current population is going to ship K-8 kids that far south? Plus, it creates another K-8 in an area that already has an alt K-8 (Orca). And Summit 9-12 to Nova is odd too...presumably, that is an option many alt families will look at with or without the amendment.

I find Mary Bass's amendment unhelpful, especially in light of her upcoming 2009 re-election. She can tell her district folks that she voted against closures and against the APP split...while knowing that the amendment isn't going to fly w/ the board members.

If she were trying to effect change, she could have broken up the proposals into more than one piece, some of which might have garnered board support.

The 2 Cooper amendments both seem to say that the board recognizes Cooper isn't getting Excellence for All in the dispersal of its students. The board might go w/ the proposal for Cooper to stay put for now, then subsequently allot Capital funds for a new Pathfinder facility (that Obama educational infrastructure $$ plan is front page news today) and also address the whole West Seattle enrollment area again in the new student assignment plan. If so, look for another stab at closing a West Seattle school at that time.

Maier's proposal doesn't do much for the affected students' options. MGJ's current proposal offers 1st choice to alt schools (after sibs and w/ current transportation rules in effect) for those alt school students affected...Summit and AAA. Maier's proposal is a minimal expansion of this plan for non-alt students.
Robert said…
Thanks ADHOC, didn't know they had the map. Not sure what to make of it though as the walk area for Lowell is 1/5 of the area of Steven’s / TTM etc. ? This is the one I was going off of (below) that represents the larger area. But based on MGJ previous statements I think staff is using that dinky one. And they didn’t even notice it. WHAT A JOKE!
Charlie Mas said…
I have never felt so motivated to run for the Board than I am right now.
Robert said…
Do it charlie... Please... Is it too early to discuss recall?
Central Mom said…
Robert...what you're looking at is data for the new student assignment plan address assignments. Study it and you'll see the general direction of that new plan...which is going to impact a heck of a lot more of the current school population than this closure exercise is. (No disrespect to the current populations affected.)
Central Mom said…
I'm assuming that the board will vote to discontinue Summit. If that happens, pls. note that after tomorrow all of the programs (minus test-in APP) for elementary schools that the District currently defines as Alternative will reside in K-8 packages, except Thornton Creek K-5. Do you think the District wanted Thornton Creek to become a K-8 in part to "simplify" its enrollment and transportation packages? I sure do. And I believe it still will...proposing to limit transportation for sure and quite possibly enrollment draw areas for these programs.
Good catch, Central Mom. Something to ponder (by design or just how things turn out?).

Have you looked at the real numbers in West Seattle? Closing Cooper will leave about 250 seats along the southern edge of the cluster.
West Seattle has about 1000 housing units coming online in the next 4-5 years. About 1/3 are under construction now, with the rest permitted.

Do we want another Queen Anne or NE cluster? Cooper had 400 students enrolled before they closed High Point to bulldoze it for the new houses they are building now, scheduled to finish construction by 2012.

Here's what I think needs to be done.

1. Finish the assignment plan.

2. Look at West Seattle Elementary's real capacity, just like they walked through Cooper to see if Pathfinder could fit. How did West Seattle's functional capacity go down by 68 students and make it too small for Pathfinder when they said Pathfinder would fit 2 years ago.

3. Look where the capacity excess is. Roxhill, West Seattle and Gatewood are adjacent to one another, all with poor academics and about 100 extra seats. Cooper has mid-range academics, but they are high for it's demographics. It's bounded by Sanislo and Lafayette (both overcapacity) and West Seattle which has the worst academics in the cluster.

Pathfinder needs a good home, but looking for a convenient building without looking at the area as a whole is bad policy. Weren't they promised a new building under BEX II?

Roxhill, West Seattle and Gatewood are adjacent to one another, all with poor academics and about 100 extra seats each.
Steve, I answered the BEX II question over at the West Seattle blog but just to answer here; no, Pathfinder was not on BEX II. It should have been on BEX III and people here have heard me many times on this subject. It is all the more sad to see outcomes from the wrong schools being on the list showing up now.

As I said on the West Seattle blog, I doubt that this amendment will pass. However, if the Board does stop the Pathfinder move, then all of the SW/West Seattle schools should stand together and say Pathfinder has to be on the next BEX list and number one in the list. Otherwise this madness will keep going on until the district pushes someone out of their building.
K said…
Central Mom - definitely on to something. It seems like the district would like an alt K-8 in every part of the city (TC, Salmon Bay, TOPS, ORCA and Pathfinder). Of course, they only wanted what they perceive to be "good" alts (bye bye Summit and AS1) and since they don't understand (or pretend not to understand) that every alt school is unique, they then can restrict transportation and cut costs while offering alt education to everyone in the city. I think TC threw a wrench in their plans and made them reconsider AS1 (but sadly not Summit).
Central Mom said…
I would put a very solid bet on the fact that this is by design.

And I would put another bet on the fact that Thornton Creek won't be getting a whole lot of extra good will from staff in the near future by refusing to move to Jane Addams (they had their chance to grow, etc. etc.)

SW Seattle cluster lost its K-8 w/ the demise of AAA, but every other cluster now has at least 1 K8. There are only 2 K8s in 2 clusters...AS1 is close to the new Jane Adams K-8 (and the District wanted AS#1 to close) and Central (TOPS and Madrona). I guess TOPS could be called the one multi-cluster K-8, or they could treat it the same as others...but in any case...the Alt schools really need to see where this is headed. I am convinced that the District will treat K8s as one "entity" at least in transportation and quite possibly in enrollment whether or not they consider themselves alternative.
Ben said…
A naive question:

If the Board wants to create a single K-8 alt school in each cluster—and I'm not saying they don't—why don't they just say it?

Why can't we have some real transparency?

They offered up one justification after another for the APP split, when in reality, they just believe the split is the right way to go. It wasn't about school condition, or capacity, or special ed, or any of the other reasons they gave us. They just do not like a single, stand-alone APP elementary school. They seem content to replicate the Madrona experience as long as it means they can split APP.

Likewise, they dislike (mistrust?) of alternative schools.

Why can't they just be up-front about what they're doing and why they're doing it?
beansa said…
Charlie I would surely vote for you if you ran for school board.

These amendments are so disappointing. I really thought HMM would come up with a good place for Summit. The rest of the amendments just seem so ill-informed, especially considering all of the incredibly thoughtful feedback the board has gotten throughout this process.
Charlie Mas said…
steve in west seattle is, of course, correct. The empty seats in West Seattle are in the south. Does that mean that is where the excess capacity is?

The question is, is the excess capacity there because the District has over-built or is the excess capacity there because the students are leaving the cluster for school?

Using the data on the student assignment map, the total number of elementary students who live closest to Gatewood, West Seattle, Sanislo, Arbor Heights, Roxhill, Highland Park and Concord comes to 2,705. The total functional capacity of those buildings is 2,715. Remembering that some of them will choose alternative schools, this is a good fit.

I know that I included West Seattle, a north cluster school, in this count as if it were a south cluster school, but look at a map and you'll know why.

The total number of elementary students who live closest to Alki, Lafayette, Cooper, and Schmitz Park total 1,155 and the total functional capacity of those buildings is 1,595. Believe it or not, the excess capacity, 440 seats of it, is in the north half of West Seattle. It is at Cooper.

I know this is incredible, so I invite folks to check the numbers for themselves.

Even if you move West Seattle Elementary from the South to the North, the North is still 307 seats over-built. Even it you move Gatewood AND West Seattle into the North, the North is still 383 seats over-built.

Yes, more families will be moving into the High Point redevelopment. That's just more reason that West Seattle Elementary should not be the one to close.
Sahila said…
Dear Directors - I dont mean any disrespect, but who have the Board members been listening to, in formulating their amendments.... certainly not the SPS parents/community...

In colloquial Kiwi jargon - what a balls up, mate!...

Not a single amendment has been put forward that will improve on this crazy plan... and its not just me saying this, who opposes the plan in its entirety... look on thus blog and you will see respected, long-time bloggers with years of experience, understanding and input in the doings of SPS all thinking the same...

Please, tomorrow night, put forward an amendment to give Summit its old home back or give it a central location where the programme can stay intact...

And then vote the entire plan and amendments down

And then put forward a motion that this whole capacity issue be looked at after the new assignment plan and the alternative schools' audit have been completed...

If you think this matter will end with the Board vote on the plan and its amendments tomorrow night, you are wrong. Legal challenges, complaints to the US Department of Education and recall actions are being planned...please be strategic and use common sense in avoiding creating the need for parents and the community to make those moves... give Summit its home back and vote the plan down, cut costs at the District administration level and use rainy day money to tide the District over long enough to go back to the drawing board and to do this properly...

Thank you
Sahila ChangeBringer
Oh Ben, that is a funny (and observant) question.

Why aren't staff transparent in why they want certain things?

1) Staff, in all departments, have their own ideas for what should happen. As I mentioned previously, I cleaned out files (in a major way) this past weekend and found all sorts of district documents. One was the old Moss-Adams report along with the Committee for Fiscal Integrity report of June 2003. Both these documents point to the need for an organizational culture change. I'm not sure that happened and I'm not sure how departments interact with each other when making plans. So there may be a lack of interaction or clashes in culture that make people hunker down.

2)Ever played poker? No one wants to reveal all the cards in their hand. So the district plays it close to the vest because they have long-range plans that they don't want to reveal (and they may or may not have good reason). For example, they probably knew, when forming the BEX III list, that Facilities wanted to close the Mann building and the Genesee Hill building (and they likely knew AAA would close as well). But where to put those populations? And, since those are two of the worst buildings in the district, how to explain NOT putting them on the list for rebuild or renovating? Silence. That's right; just don't say anything. Of course, it seems puzzling at the time but in time, much gets revealed. They knew more school closures were coming and they knew they didn't want to rebuild those schools, so they waited for closures to come to get rid of those buildings.

3) Philosophical differences. It isn't wrong; educators all have differing ideas of what is best. The person at the top might set a course based on his/her beliefs and, since that person is top dog, gets to do that. I think that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson may be just streamlining and standardizing but there may be more to it than that. It may be that she doesn't really agree with alternative schools (but K-8s are what parents want so that may be her compromise) and/or she doesn't believe in separate gifted programming ergo the APP split. (I honestly believe APP is underenrolled for minorities because of philosophical beliefs on the part of some principals.)

But can they come out publicly against an in-place district program? No, so there is no transparency there. But there's no law against quietly trying to undermine or underfund a program until it goes away.

Board members play it close to the vest (this group at least). On the last Board, Darlene Flynn and Irene Stewart were both pretty open about their disdain for gifted programs and Darlene loved Summit.

Ben, we just don't know. What we do know is that as time goes by, we see the district do things or advocate for things they could have put forth months before and don't. So this accountability and transparency stuff is not real if you or any other parent has to pose that question.
Beth Bakeman said…
Two interesting potential wrinkles to the whole plan/process:

1) Board members can introduce additional amendments tomorrow night. They committed as a group to submit them ahead of time to allow adequate review and thinking time. But nothing in the rules prevents any Board member from introducting additional amendments tomorrow night.

2) As Charlie has pointed out before, the Board only has to approve building closure decisions. The Superintendent can make program move decisions without their approval.
Meg said…
But doesn't the Superintendent require board approval for the APP and SBOC changes, since for APP a long-standing policy has to be changed and for SBOC several points of a board action have to be rescinded? So although she could move the entire APP elementary program to, say... the AAA building, she needs the board to overturn policy in order to split them? I put it as a question instead of a statement because that's my understanding... but I don't know if I've understood correctly.
Charlie Mas said…
Meg, you are right. The Superintendent can move APP wherever she likes without Board approval.

She cannot, however, add to the number of program sites without Board approval (or, as she is doing, getting the Board to amend Policy D12.00).

APP is the only program placement that is constrained by Policy.
anonymous said…
Charlie I'll be on your election committee! Do it, do it, do it!
Beth Bakeman said…
And by the way, while I completely agree with Mel and Charlie that Pathfinder has been yanked around for years and deserves better treatment, the same is true for other communities as well.

SBOC has been promised a new building for years and even has some of their promises in a MOU. The Cooper community has been on the chopping block frequently. AS#1 and Summit have frequently been part of closure/consolidation proposals as well.

All of this has a cumulative, very harmful effect. Which is why I believe that stopping the closure plan at this point would be a mistake. It would mean Pathfinder and other communities would be back in this process again next year.

I had hoped the amendments might improve the final plan, and I join others' disappointment that they didn't.

Perhaps the Superintendent and staff were better at listening and responding to the community during this process than the Board members.
Charlie Mas said…
I have this really wicked idea.

What if I wave my arms around and get loud and scream and about how Director Maier's amendment is totally stupid and counter-productive? What if I am just a complete jerk about it? Could I create enough ill will against me that the Board passes this moronic amendment in response to my boorish behavior?

Then we can see what will happen when 50 to 100 Central Cluster APP families apply to keep their children at Lowell.

Consider the liklihood that only half of the T T Minor families will show up at Lowell - if this closure is anything like the last one. Then what? Thanks to Director Maier's amendment, the District will assign those Central Cluster APP students to Lowell because there will be space available. After all, the District has now told us the building's real capacity, so they can't deny access claiming that the school is full if it isn't enrolled up to that capacity. Then the two elementary APP sites will be grotesquely unbalanced. Lowell will have 300-350 APP students and Thurgood Marshall will have only 130 to 180 APP students. When that happens there can be no way that the District can create equitable programs.

Then what? Director Maier is revealed as the thoughtless person he is and I get to say "I told you so" as loudly and obnoxiously as I campaigned against the amendment. Ah, sweet vindication.

I told you it was a wicked idea.

No. I have to put such thoughts away. They are counter-productive and don't help the students or the District. I will campaign against the amendment, but I will do it respectfully and I will hope it is defeated.

It's just no fun being a grown-up.
Stephanie Jones said…
I agree. I'm tired of being a grown-up. This set of amendments leads to nothing, helps nothing, reflects no community perspective, and gives me a stomachache.

But I am committed to an organization (CPPS) that is committed to helping parents help each other -- from the enrollment process to voice with the school board (obviously that one needs work). So we will keep on...
TwinMom2003 said…
I've never known Director HMM to be anything other than a thoughtful and hard-working person. I can see his rationale with keeping both Pathfinder and Cooper in tact. I suspect there will be further explanation tomorrow night.

However, I have to admit the placement of Summit in his amendments is puzzling. Again, perhaps that will be explained Thursday night. I'm still in the benefit of the doubt space.

My concerns are in regards to the next BEX vote. Have the monies for the next round of BEX already been voted on and approved? If not, I don't know if it is a sure thing if the next BEX will pass. So, if it is Director HMMs thinking to put the current Pathfinder building at the top of the list for the next BEX that would be the shaky part of the proposal.

People I know are looking at the exits -- private school, move out of district -- because of the turmoil and overcrowding north of the Ballard Locks. If they are still here and they have gone private or other why would they vote to pay this tax -- especially in current times?

A bit off topic -- will someone be live blogging the meeting tomorrow night?
WS said…
In addition to whomever reports on it "live" for this site, I will be posting live at WSB, including the non-West Seattle developments, since the non-regular meetings don't seem to be on tv.
Beth Bakeman said…
First, as a mom of twins myself, I love your name.

I agree with you completely about Harium. I have been very impressed with his work as a School Board member and am looking forward to hearing him describe the rationale behind the amendment further, which I assume must include plans for the money to rebuild/remodel Genesee Hill.

The next BEX vote is not until 2013. No decisions have yet been made about what will be on that list. (Or I guess I should say no decisions have been made public. I assume the Facilities staff already has a list in mind.)

And yes, I will be live-blogging tomorrow night.
TwinMom2003 said…
Woo hoo! Thanks Beth. :-)
Eric B said…
OK, folks, the next BEX levy is in 2013. That would mean leaving Pathfinder at GH for at least another 6-7 years. In that time how many MORE times will the District try to reduce excess capacity in West Seattle? There have been 6 proposals in the last 4 years already. This is an alternative program - they have to recruit every single one of their students. Can any of you imagine committing to a school that has gone through this and has no hope of stability until your kindergartner is well into Middle School?
TwinMom2003 said…
Eric B,

I'm probably not the norm, so take that discount right up front...but, if Pathfinder has the goods -- as in I think my littles will thrive, prosper, and succeed during that period of time -- then yes, I would sign up.

I don't know the condition of G. Hill. Does it need 1 or 2 million, or 10 or more million in repairs? If 1 or 2 it does seem like the district is able to find sums in that amount available for cost overruns or other projects all the time. Why not for G. Hill?
Josh Hayes said…
In re Charlie's "wicked" idea: hell, Charlie, don't damage your chances of election: let a well-established crazy jerk do it for you! I'm available for parties as well!

As for Ben's trenchant question: "If the Board wants to create a single K-8 alt school in each cluster—and I'm not saying they don't—why don't they just say it?

"Why can't we have some real transparency?"

Melissa offers up some good explanations (although one really bothers me, and I'll come back to that), but here's another:

Because they don't know what they're doing.

It's not at all uncommon for bureaucracies to react to short-term trends with policies which, not by design, produce unexpected long-term results. I think the off-the-cuff nature of the District's response to enrollment declines will produce changes down the line that they haven't planned for, or tried to implement, but which nevertheless are a direct consequence of their actions. Think long-term medication for chronic medical problems: this often winds up producing bad things down the line, not because that was the intent, but simply because that's the consequence of trying to fix things NOW and not worrying about tomorrow.

I don't think SPS staff have some Super Sekret Plan to place a K-8 alternative school in every cluster (if anything, I think their long-term plan is to place one fewer school than that per cluster, dig?), but I do agree that that might be the consequence of their current actions.

The "poker" analogy bugs me, not because I think it's wrong, but because in poker, of course, one "person" is trying to beat another. It's a zero-sum game (leaving out the vig to the cardroom!). I'd hate to think that SPS views families and kids as their adversaries. I think they're more likely to view them as clients and products, respectively.

Your numbers are correct at this moment if all you think about is the "butts in the seats" (as you put it before) right now and you think the School District's numbers are correct. I have issues with them. I still believe the district decided to close Genesee Hill without looking at West Seattle as a whole using both numbers and academics.

1. I think the capacity numbers are questionable. Where's the 45 seats at Lafayette? What happened to the 60+ seats they miss-placed at West Seattle? Did they run the numbers without portables? What about the other 2 terrible buildings in West Seattle (Alki and Roxhill)?

2. I want to know what the plan is before they make changes based on in, not just we have a feeling we're moving this way.

3. I still don't see how West Seattle is loosing school age kids, and the current plan leaves only 6.6% room for expansion.

I like to think public education is about education. It took Cooper years to improve their academic program. I don't have faith that SPS will bring up the academics at West Seattle, Roxhill, Gatewood and Highland Park. They had the same chance to improve over the past 10 years as Cooper.

High Point Elementary should have been reorganized 2 years ago when they took it out of the last closure round. Did they give it any help or just a new name?

There is a reason the schools in West Seattle North are full and the South schools aren't. It's about academic quality. Until SPS can bring up the quality of the West Seattle South schools, they will be under-enrolled. If they force parents to send their kids there under the new assignment plan, they will loose marketshare to private schools. That would keep the enrollment projections on track.

Your post made me realize the numbers I ran weren't for the current reference areas, they were the numbers from the nearest elementary map. I can't find the current reference area numbers on the SPS website.

P.S. Charlie, I'm just picking on you because you do bring up good points.
dan dempsey said…
After reading all this, I have but one question:

Where do I send my Campaign donation for the "Charlie Mas for Seattle School Director" ?

Just when I think that the board has the ability to significantly correct the miserable plan put forth by MG-J and Facilities ... these amendments are put forth.

Incomprehensible ...
Charlie Mas said…
Steve, I don't feel picked on by you. This blog is for discussion, which can include disagreement. I learn things here all the time that make me change my mind.

Moreover, I don't disagree with your conclusions.

It may well be that West Seattle, as whole, is NOT over-capacity. The 383 extra seats (or however many there are) are necessary to provide needed liquidity and room for growth.

This points up another problem with this plan, there was no stated, quantified goal. At no time did anyone at the District say "Our target for excess capacity in each cluster and region is 5% and 8% districtwide" or any other number. One thing that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has right is that accountability requires objectively measured goals - and they had none for this exercise.

It has been noted that the original goal of the effort was to reduce capacity by 2,000 seats and that the switch from planning capacity to functional capacity resulted in a capacity reduction of about 2,000 seats, so they could have declared victory and stopped right there. The fact that they continue to pursue the plan despite having the reached their target makes the whole exercise seem capricious.
Sahila said…
Its not capricious... If you know a lot about human nature, you'll recognise its because they're stuck between a rock and a hard place...

Its about trying to save (a very public) face... better to offer something, anything that hopefully gives the impression that you've put in some time and thought and good intentions and push on with it, regardless how ridiculous it is and how negative the outcome will be...

Better that than admit that you've made two mistakes - one in hiring the Superintendent and two in not having the courage to stand up to her once you have had access to all the data and community input that contradicts the justifications for the plan...

And it operates at the individual and group level - a couple of the Directors might feel strongly enough individually to want to disagree publicly and vote the whole thing down, but that means stepping out of the (safe) shadow of the group and that takes a lot of nerve... without the backing of the group, I dont think any of them will do that...

Not much removed from Lord of the Flies...

And, procedurally, how many 'nay' votes does it take for the plan to be skittled? A simple majority, or is one dissenting vote enough to derail it?
dj said…
Josh Hayes -- I am not sure how to describe the relationship between SPS and parents/kids. Seattle is unlike the other places I've lived. In most places I've lived, you cannot control where your child goes to school except by picking up your stakes and moving to another house or by taking your child out of public school altogether. Here, obviously, that is less the case, since families can apply to move to other neighborhood schools and can select all-city draw schools. There is some market information -- we have schools people flock to, and schools people avoid like the plague, because they have the ability to move schools without moving homes. What I haven't seen (and my time here, as I have posted many times, has been limited) is any effort to flesh out or use that information.

It seems to me that if the district -- either the superintendent or the board -- were really folling the customer model, they'd be doing more work to find out *why* schools attract and repel families, and they'd seek to replicate the attractive schools everywhere. What worries me about the coming assignment plan next year is that what I suspect will happen is that they will reassign students to schools the families do not want them to attend without doing anything to improve those schools or to make them conform more closely with what "consumers" want.
Beth Bakeman said…

I believe the procedural process is that every vote tonight (both the individual votes on each proposed amendment and the final up/down vote on the whole proposal) is a majority vote.

In other words, it will take 4 School Board members in agreement to approve any amendment. And it will take 4 School Board members to approve or reject the overall plan.

Charlie, Mel, or others more knowledgeable than me, please correct me if I'm wrong on this.
TwinMom, I concur with Beth. The BEX IV list isn't out although Facilities has probably already got a list.

This is old news but I'll say it again. Much of what happens (and especially these closures) is about the buildings themselves. The backlogged maintenance is huge (the State Auditor pointed this out) and, of course, there are plenty of capital projects to go around.

However, the reasoning about the projects is mystifying. "We're doing all the high schools." Why? Do they all need it? Why is RBHS's project on hold? After this BEX, every single comprehensive high school will have had major work done. (Sealth, Ingraham and RBHS kind of get the shaft as they have "major upgrades" and not total remodels. Makes for hard feelings - ask Sealth.)

They spread it out geographically (even if one area needs it more). I could go on.

What I suspect for the next list is at least one elementary in the north (John Rodgers, Laurelhurst) to be redone, McGilvra in the Central area, Eckstein or Whitman.

What IS coming up is the BTA in Feb. 2010. That's for major (although not capital) projects like roofs, HVAC, windows, carpeting, technology upgrades and some academics. The district has a problem with too many buildings reaching the 50+ year mark and needing renovating but can't be done so they throw more money at the buildings via the BTA because they need to keep them up and running. So they certainly can throw more money at Pathfinder's building but it won't make it better. BUT, maybe Pathfinder should say, if they don't get moved into Cooper, buy us new portables for the middle school. If you can't build us something, if you can't put us in a better building, then invest in better portables which you can reuse elsewhere if Pathfinder (someday) gets a new building.

But there's the issue of a lot of ill will towards the district as well as the looming State Auditor's report on the capital program (BEX). That's due out in a couple of months. So will BTA pass? I surely hope so but the district doesn't help itself by not listening to parents and the public.

And, of course, there's always the issue of pouring money into a school like say Denny and then tearing those improvements down in 5 years or less. Let's cry over that money that could have been used elsewhere.
Robert said…
On the Lowell walk zone SPS transportation standards are:

Elementary Schools - 1.0 mile for all students assigned within choice or cluster.

Exceptions for medical, IEP or ambulatory issues.

But I agree with other posts that this is just getting rid of a glaring issue with the split with no relief from the real issue of the split... That being the split!
That is my understanding as well, Beth. Majority vote on each item.
Anonymous said…
I'm wildly confused about how the Maier amendment would work for elementary APP students. Specifically, what does it mean to give Marshall APP students a "priority" for "open" slots at Lowell. Would the number of APP "slots" vs. general education "slots" be determined in the abstract before they try and construct classes? Or would they count the number of assigned APP kids plus the number of preassigned TT Minor student plus the number of people who get in on the first two tiebreakers then admit students irrespective of whether they are APP or not (e.g., first give seats equally to students displaced from Lowell and from other closed schools then fill slots with other students)? Or will they make projections for how many APP "slots" are available by guesstimating how many students will be necessary at each grade level to complete another class? All are perfectly compatible with the language of the proposal (and none are particularly appealing).
Central Mom said…
Robert...(just posted on Harium's blog) I've lived through this issue...1.0 mile is the *maximum* walk boundary for elementary schools. That does not mean there is a circle around a school and everybody less than a mile from the school walks. You have to look at the walk route maps to which I keep referring you. Within the official walk boundary you walk. Outside it, you may opt for transportation.

For the purposes of the Lowell amendment, do not pin your hopes on that larger map. The walk route for Lowell is very small. Either the amendment needs to be changed or north capitol hill's perception of the benefit of the amendment needs to change. As is, my understanding is that it is a very very small number of families who will receive the Lowell placement benefit.
Sahila said…
I had half an ear on KUOW's programme around 12.45-1.00pm, and there was a (Phyllis Fletcher?) news item that specifically mentioned a disagreement currently going on between the Board and MGJ about who has the power to close programmes versus closing buildings...

And there was an audio clip of MGJ reiterating/emphasising that she doesnt need the board's permission to close programmes...

So, there's mutiny in the ranks maybe...
Charlie Mas said…
I wrote to the Board, in a respectful way, about the potential disaster promised by the Maier amendment.

Director Maier wrote back, and I have answered him.

Here is the email thread:

Dear Members of the School Board,

I, like a number of other interested watchers, was gravely disappointed by the amendments you have requested to the Capacity Management Plan.

I was hoping that you would offer an alternative to the Van Asselt move that puts two neighborhood reference area elementary schools just three blocks apart, removes a full, successfull neighborhood school from its community, and fosters an elementary school of close to 700 students. These are extremely poor outcomes that could have been easily avoided.

I was hoping that you would find an acceptable home for Summit K-12, most likely at Lincoln, John Marshall, or Meany. In the failure to find an acceptable new location for Summit, you dull the impact of your effort to increase capacity in the northeast by filling more of Jane Addams seats with former Summit students than with students from overcrowded reference areas. Moreover, you execute very poor capacity management. While the Plan might work fairly well to balance capacity and demand geographically, it utterly fails to balance capacity and demand for non-geographic communities, such as alternative schools. With the closure of Summit and the AAA, the demand for alternative education is terribly out of balance with the capacity of our remaining alternative schools. It's not good work.

I was hoping that you would at least commit to finding a north-end location for north-end elementary APP when developing the new student assignment plan. In the absence of such a commitment you run a strong risk of fostering imbalance between the two elementary APP sites. Nearly half of south-end elementary APP students (101 of 236) live in the Central Cluster. Most of them would prefer Lowell over Thurgood Marshall because staying at Lowell avoids a transition, because, for most, Lowell is closer to home, and they have higher confidence in program quality at Lowell. Without cause to believe that the Lowell half of the program will soon be moving north, they are likely to choose Lowell APP for their APP-eligible children in significant numbers. This will unbalance the division between the two sites. There will be a strong site at Lowell with perhaps twice as many students as the weaker site at Thurgood Marshall. Rather than offer an amendment to address this potential imbalance, Director Maier offered one that will compound it. This evidences a misunderstanding of the situation and a sort of willful ignorance of the key factors for success.

I fear it is too late for you to add needed fixes to the Plan and that's a shame. The students and their families will be the worse for it.

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas


Here is Director Maier's response:


The tiebreaker amendment I intend to offer would not cause or exacerbate the "imbalance" issue as you suggest. The amendment gives a tiebreaker priority for assignment to available seats; it does not give anyone a guaranteed assignment. In other words, it does not add to, or subtract from, Lowell APP or T. Marshall APP population.What it would do is avoid the anomaly of a Lowell APP student being reassigned to T. Marshall and then having an empty APP seat at that grade level (perhaps vacated by a family moving) being filled by an entirely new student.

Hope this helps.



Director Maier doesn't seem to understand that the "entirely new student" is entitled to a seat in the program as well.

I wrote back:

Director Maier,

I don't think you understand how enrollment to APP works. Every APP student who elects to participate during the open enrollment period is admitted to the program. They are not turned away. There is no wait list for those who enroll on time. The capacity of the program is totally elastic, so the concept of "space available" in APP is completely novel. It would require the determination of a maximum capacity. How would you determine the program's capacity at Lowell? There is no good answer.

It could be done class by class and grade by grade. If, for example, there are 12 north-end students in the first grade class next year, as there may well be, does that mean that the class has 11 available seats to bring the count up to the contract maximum of 23? Is that the "space available"? If not, why not? And if that is the space available for Central Cluster students, then it is very likely that 4 or 5 will take the opportunity. That could create a first grade at Lowell of 16 and a first grade at Thurgood Marshall of 6. This ratio could be repeated at every grade and that would be an imbalance that would preclude any equity between the programs.

Other than defining capacity and space available on a classroom-by-classroom basis, the District could do it on a schoolwide basis. We now have a defined capacity for Lowell, the functional capacity of 472. There are 29 special education students there, so there are seats for 443 students in APP or general education classrooms. If only half of the T T Minor students make the move to Lowell, as only half of relocated students followed the District's relocation plan in the last round of closures, they would take about 100 of those seats. Would that mean that Lowell has "space available" for 343 APP students? That would leave only about 156 APP elementary students for Thurgood Marshall, creating an imbalance that would preclude any equity between the two programs.

Because APP enrollment starts small in the first grade and grows each year, simple models, like the two classes per grade mentioned in the Capacity Management Plan document, simply aren't reality-based. General education programs, however, can follow such models. If the general education program at Lowell is set at one class per grade, it would have 146 students. From the functional capacity assessment, we know that leaves 297 seats for APP students at Lowell. If Lowell APP were filled to that capacity, then Thurgood Marshall APP would have an enrollment of only 202. Again, this imbalance would preclude any equity between the programs.

The question is complicated further by the likely use of mixed-grade classes. Since APP students do not arrive in tidy packages of 24 and it is not cost-effective to form classes of less than 15, we can anticipate a lot of mixed-grade classes at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall. How do you determine "space available" at each grade level when the school is mixing grades in the classrooms?

This problem is thornier than you may have originally imagined. I don't think you have a good sense of the number of families that would like to take advantage of it or the delicate balance that you are toying with. While I appreciate the interest that Central Cluster APP families have in placing their children at Lowell instead of Thurgood Marshall, this solution exasperates the problem.

The best course would be for the District to establish a north-end location for the north-end elementary APP students. Without that, the District is in violation of Policy D12.00 (which requires the program sites to be distributed among the clusters), Policy C56.00 (which calls for programs to be placed where the students live), and good program placement practices. Until then, the District is inviting the sort of trouble that is sure to come from unbalanced programs.

Please withdraw your proposed amendment or at least restrict it to students in discontinued program and do not extend it to relocated APP students. No other program that was relocated was included in this amendment; I don't understand why you made an exception for APP.

- Charlie Mas
Charlie Mas said…
I have written to Tracy Libros and asked her how the Maier amendment would be interpreted.
Danny K said…
It's pretty disheartening. The amendments are weak and incoherent and seem like token efforts to me.

It also seems clear to me that there aren't any board members that care about gifted education (as opposed to the interests of kids in their district who are in gifted ed) or have a real vision of what the District needs.

They're about to get rolled by the supervisor. That's what I'm getting from this.
Ben said…
Good grief! So the school board needs to be told how APP works?

The situation is worse than this professional pessimist feared!
Sadly, many on the Board don't know a lot about the district as a whole or programs or policies when they get elected. And, likely when they do get elected, there are so many schools to visit and new things to learn, some things fall to the back burner. And it's basics like how does the Advanced Learning program work or what each of levels means for Special Ed.

I wish each Board member would get assign a topic (like they have districts) to which he/she is the "expert". Meaning, having gone out and done the research/visiting/meeting with district staff and schools involved, finding what's done in our region/state/nation on an issue so that each director knows a subject inside and out.
Josh Hayes said…
dj writes:

What worries me about the coming assignment plan next year is that what I suspect will happen is that they will reassign students to schools the families do not want them to attend without doing anything to improve those schools or to make them conform more closely with what "consumers" want.

I don't disagree at all. What do you think will be the ultimate consequence of that? Will those parents abandon SPS for neighboring school districts (e.g. Shoreline)? Or scrape together the money for private school, or home school? Or will they just grumble and settle for what they're given, maybe even working to improve those schools?

I'm not trying to make points here, I'm just trying to work through the long-term consequences of (ill-thought-out) short-term actions. I really don't know what'll happen; THIS parent would probably go the home-school route for one child and grit my teeth with the other.
Ananda said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Going back to twin mom's comment about HMM. I agree with her that the Summit at Aki just seems weird. Does anyone from Summit have any insight into this?
h2o girl said…
Dearest Charlie,
Please run for the school board again. Please.
Rudy D said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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