Are you eyeing the exits?

In today's Crosscut, Dick Lilly once again critiques the district's proposed closure plan, saying that it is "an earthquake" (thanks to blog reader Seattlehorn for the heads-up).

What caught my eye in the article is this:
Crucially, the question remains unanswered as to how many families will pull their children out of Seattle Public Schools if their schools are closed or they are forced to move from one to another against their will. Two years ago when seven schools were closed, 20 percent of the students directly affected disappeared from the district. So far, Goodloe-Johnson and her staff haven’t offered any estimates of what might happen this time — even though an enrollment drop of 200 to 300 students would wipe out all the short and long term savings projected from the closure plan. There’s no evidence yet that the seven-member school board is worried, or even curious, about this number.
In a separate string here, Trish Millines Dziko, a respected public school advocate in our region, says her family is leaving Seattle for Vashon Island, weary of the endless transitions and changes made by the district, often without clear goals.

Even if your school is not directly impacted by the latest plan, the continual turmoil can be stressful and downright exhausting, eventually eroding your trust in the district.

Heck, maybe I'll challenge both Trish and Charlie, and say that the real issue is not choice and it's not quality. No, the real issue is trust, which requires clear commitment, stability, rational decision-making and responsiveness. When was the last time you felt like our district was stable, with everything under control?

Until we have trust, we'll never believe it when the district says schools have improved, no matter how much money or fanfare they pump into struggling buildings (think SE initiative).

If parents trusted the district, they might be able to swallow the explanation that the APP split and other program moves will improve student learning, instead of expecting to find ulterior motives.

If the district trusted us, they would really listen to what we wanted, whether it be traditional math, middle school IB, whatever, and they'd bring us on as partners in building it. To be truthful, I feel like I'm seeing glimmers of this now, but don't yet trust that the district is intentionally changing in this direction.

If trust existed between the district and familes, the notion of "forcing" families to attend neighborhood schools as a way to improve schools would be laughed at as absurd.

Which brings me back to Dick Lilly's question. Unfortunately for the district, they cannot force you to send your kid to one of their schools. There are many options, including private schools, parochial schools, neighboring districts, virtual school and homeschool. I know Seattle families who've gone every one of these routes.

Let's discuss the question that the district won't ask: Is your family sticking with SPS for the 2009-10 school year? What about the next time your kid hits a transition point (i.e. middle school or high school)?


TechyMom said…
I am.

I had not-so-great experiences in private school as a child, and had always planned to send my children to public school. I live in the Central district.

As Kindergarten approaches, I find that my choices are limited and that the schools we're likely to get assigned to just won't work for us. We'll send in the form, with 8 or 9 schools on it like the other kids on our block have done.

We're also applying to 2 or 3 private schools. I'm already fed up with the BS, and my child hasn't even started school yet.
zb said…
"I'm already fed up with the BS, and my child hasn't even started school yet."

I felt that way when I encountered the descriptions of the enrollment process in a public library when my daughter was 6 months old. (and in my eyes, incredibly opaque choice process, with reference areas, and clusters, and different schools, and iterative first choices . . .).

She's turning 8 soon, and attends a private school, even though I live near, probably near enough to be sure of assignement one of the "desirable" 17.

It was the lack of predictability and my perception that the strongest and sqeakiest and most knowledgeable wheels were going to get served first by the system that drove me out.

Trust is a big part of it, but so is predictability. I actually have a fair amount of trust for SPS -- I think they're trying to support all the students, even the ones without vocal parent advocates.
What? said…
And, pray tell, Dick Lilly, where are the 200-300 extra private school seats going to be? They're all full now... so Dick must know something the rest of us don't.
TechyMom said…
I don't mind the choice forms, or researching schools. I went to private school, and this is the normal process for private schools selection. I *do* mind that the rules keep changing.

I do mind the "well, you're white and affluent, so your kid will be fine. This is good enough. Sit down and shut up." attitude that at least some folks in SPS seem to have.
Ben said…
Maybe more people will leave SPS for Shoreline or Mercer Island public schools.
TechyMom said…
Lots of private schools are expanding capacity. There are also private schools that don't fill up every year. Sure, Bush is full, but there are other options if you do your homework.
ArchStanton said…
I've been following the threads and was finally prompted by this one to create an account and post.

BINGO! Trust.

I don't trust them to deliver on all their promises. They tell us not to worry about the Madrona effect. "Trust us - we'll create design teams"

They promise magical transportation solutions when they can't run the system they have effectively and Seattle's traffic by any other account is only going to get worse.

They tell us they want to increase access to underrepresented populations without telling us how proximity alone is supposed to get more students into APP.

They tell us it's about building condition. Then it's not.

They tell us it's about Spec. Ed. Then it's not.

They call the process transparent because they allow us to comment and participate - but they mask their real agendas, so we can't address them.

Nope. I don't trust them. Not one bit.

Stability? Before the first proposal, we half-seriously considered moving closer to Lowell to ease our commute. I would consider moving closer to either location if the program continues to thrive AND I had reason to TRUST it would not be moved a couple of years later. SPS now seems to think that Alt programs are pawns that can be relocated any time there is a demographic shift or a need to beef up the parent base.

Eyeing the exits? Not quite yet, but we are making sure we have an escape route. Private schools aren't exactly full - when the first proposal came out we quickly submitted applications to some private schools that might suit us - they still had some openings at that time. They aren't accepting more applications, but you can get on their wait lists. As this proposal is revised some parents (including us) my decide to stick with SPS - letting you move up in the wait list.

Friends of ours with a child that could start APP in the Fall were excited about the program - now, they are reconsidering private school or out of district. They aren't sure they trust SPS to make this work, either.
LouiseM said…
Mel, I'm going to give you this one. Trust is definitely an issue. I think one of the problems for Goodloe-Johnson is she's coming on the heels of a lot of mismanagement, etc. and no matter what happens under her administration these first few years it's going to be hard to get the public trust back.

I'm saddened because I actually think she's a good leader. The hole she started from just seems impossibly deep.
Unknown said…
ArchStanton, I had the "Ecstasy of Gold" playing through my head while reading your post.

Except in my version, Tuco is frantically searching for a school for his kid.
dj said…
We are staying with the public schools. I won't lie, however -- despite having committed very firmly to keeping my kids in public schools and having all but bronzed my "motivated parents have a special responsibility to the public schools" soapbox, after the proposals came out and I found out that my daughter would be moved, I was talking to friends on Mercer Island about the open public school slots there and started asking around about the private schools.
timeslid said…
Trust is the issue. Exhaustion in another. We have been a public school consumer for the last 7 years and every year we tell ourselves the we have to take it one year at a time. Its sad that we can't trust the district with our children or our tax money.

"Eyeing the exits? Not quite yet, but we are making sure we have an escape route." ArchStanton is right but we don't have the option for private school. We would have to move. This is why I have written to the Mayor's office and the city council because it is a quality of life issue for Seattle. Sure, my family is not going to be missed but I don't think we are alone in this. Not anymore.

There is no accountability. The process may be transparent, but the input from the community is ignored. I have on my aluminum foil hat and I see an agenda that is not directly addressed.
dj said…
Oh, do permit me to add, however.

I have realized with the new school assignment plan that my younger child may end up assigned to Madrona when he gets to school age. If that happens, and the district is not planning to do anything to change the approach of the school, you may need to repo my soapbox.
ArchStanton said…
"I had the "Ecstasy of Gold" playing through my head while reading your post. Except in my version, Tuco is frantically searching for a school for his kid."

I LOLed. If I wasn't laughing, I'd be crying.

"There is no accountability. The process may be transparent, but the input from the community is ignored."

At the risk of contributing to over-referencing of Charlie Mas, I have to point out this post of his from 12/29/08 on the SE Initiative page on the issue of accountability.

Here's his last paragraph:
"With these closures and consolidations, the District is making a lot of promises. But I don't think the District has done a good job of keeping their promises to date. And I don't just mean the District over the long term when it was led by other people - I mean this leadership team - this Board, this superintendent, and this Chief Academic Officer. They have not kept the promises they made six months ago when they wrote and adopted the Strategic Plan. Worst of all, they haven't kept the promise that they said would make this plan different from all of the other Strategic Plans of the past. This plan, they claimed, will be different because this one will get implemented, this one, they said, will have accountability."
momster said…
we're in and not eyeing the exits - no doubt about it.

maybe we've just been lucky, but i don't think so. i have my exasperations with the bunker mentality of downtown, but:

we have a better school board (in total) than we've had in my memory; a stronger superintendent than since john stanford and probably before; better bench strength underneath her with the people she's brought in (plus the gems who pre-date her, like tracy libros and others); and the teachers and principals who've always been the mainstay (and maybe with some accountability, the ones who don't belong will be "counseled out" as they used to say in my public accounting life).

people are angry about these changes, but i follow charlie in thinking they're mostly for the better.

the biggest worry for me is the state budget - because even though k-12 basic education is consitutionally mandated, it's not enough, and things like i-728 and the other i- that i can never remember are not guaranteed. it seems to me we need a state income tax, but pigs will probably fly...

sometimes it's a labor of love, sps, but it's still one i'm willing to make.
anonymous said…
We're not leaving public school either, though one of our children is attending a different district's public schools for MS.

When my oldest son went to Kindergarten we lived in the Central District. Our reference school was Leschi. When we toured the school, on our own by the way - they didn't offer school tours or info nights, the school actually made me sad, and I was weeping by the time I left. I couldn't imagine sending my 5 year old off to such a school. They didn't offer Spectrum back then or any other Alo's, the teachers were militant and seemed burned out, the principal was uninterested, and although the school was in a very diverse neighborhood the school did not reflect that diversity. It was primarily low income, African American. This was puzzling to me at the time. I was new to SPS, the choice system, and the politics of the District.

We chose Stevens as our first choice, and Tops as our second choice, and we got into TOPS and were waitlisted for Stevens. Our Stevens waitlist cleared. Call it a first kid thing or something, but we declined our golden ticket school assignment and enrolled our child at Spruce Street School, a private school downtown Seattle for K/1. It was everything we wanted in a school. It was small, had small class sizes, was diverse, was close by, had strong academics, and offered us a good scholarship.

When my oldest son was in the middle of 1st grade we moved to NE Seattle, and transferred him to AEII, now Thornton Creek. Over the years our children have attended AEII/TC, Bryant, Salmon Bay, and Kellogg (Shoreline). All public. And like Spruce Street School, all have far surpassed our expectations in many ways. In fact I can't say that the private school was any better than any of the public schools that we have attended.

I understand first hand why some choose private school. But, personally for my family, public school has worked out great.

Sure there is constant turmoil at the district level, but on the home front, at our schools, life couldn't be better. I am so proud of the work our schools are doing, I could cry again. But this time my tears would be tears of joy.

We are truly grateful for the public schools.

This family is not bailing or looking for any exits, but we will continue to advocate for good public schools across our District. All kids should be so fortunate as ours have been.
TwinMom2003 said…
We eye the exits, and are working on a contingency plan.

We have not been lucky, and have about 1% trust. Denise -- I think your intuition or instinct as to why people pull out, or just don't go along with changes at SPS is spot on. It is a lack of trust.

Which promises have been kept? The promise to relocate Summit to a central location? The promise that the portables at Pathfinder are temporary?

I'm been reading this blog for the last five plus months -- please name me a promise that has been kept?

I do have an odd, good feeling about Dr. MGJ - but through lack of communication skills or downright obfuscation - she can't seem to break through and truly translate her intents into trust. In the trust department it would help if she would jettison some of those funky folks in facilities that will give you a different number each time you ask, those employees in enrollment that are rude if you ask one question - as if they are doing you a favor, or if she would not be so willing to trust the info. she is being given even if it means giving two different answers to the same question in a two week span of time.

We are trying to tour every school in our cluster and some outside as we don't know where we will land as our NE Cluster is very overcrowded.

We also might look to enroll outside of district. Say - Edmonds, where they switched to traditional math because of the wish of the majority of parents, or Mercer Island where parents are considered and consulted as an integral part of a childs education. Where they would never split siblings (even though they have no set policy) unless it was the wish of the parent.

The system we have experienced values documented process vs. common sense, logical reason, or the best interest of the student. You can't build trust on flushing a student when common sense is screaming otherwise in your face. You can't build trust if you make promises and never keep them.

Parents in Seattle are not stupid. They will not trust blindly in the face of all the broken promises.
TwinMom2003 said…
As an addition.

I spoke with a current school board member recently. Her neighbor has triplets that were assigned to three different highschools - not their choice - over ten years ago.

My immense distrust comes from obvious situations such as this that would be easy to manually fix - but remains ignored for decades or more.
beansa said…
I am sorta glancing sideways at the exits.

We had a terrible experience at a traditional elementary in our neighborhood, which ended with us homeschooling for the last few months of our daughter's K year.

Now we are at AS1, which is a much better fit for her, and for us. We all love her teacher, as well as the feel of this small, welcoming school.

But, I wonder what the "restructuring" of AS1 will look like, and how will we get our enrollment up with the threat of closure hanging over us again? Will the alternative assessment come in time for us? Will enough people opt in to the WASL this year to save us from Step 5? Do we still have the strong leadership and vision needed to keep our school from becoming ever more mainstream?

I don't know, and the uncertainty is taxing. If AS1 closes or changes so much that it loses what drew us to it, then I will seriously consider homeschooling again.

I wish I could trust that the district will support AS1 through restructuring, but I have profound doubts. Hopefully I will be proved wrong.
Josh Hayes said…
I hear you, beansa, because I too am an AS1 parent, but I'm an oldbie. I've seen the school change over the years, and it seems to me the changes have wrought declining enrollment, not the other way around.

Perhaps because I'm in a grim mood for other reasons, I think the removal of AS1 from the closure list is purely a matter of capacity management: it's on the border between the N and NE clusters, and the idea that one could simply eliminate 200+ seats in those overcrowded clusters was never going to fly, neither with the public nor with the Board.

I still can't figure out how AS1 has demonstrated a "persistent failure" to meet standards when we only began to take Title I money THIS YEAR. Hey presto, we went from NCLB level 0 to level 4 in one swell foop. I guess if we hadn't taken federal funding we'd still be doing great, huh?

Frankly, though, I'm astonished that Dr. G-J, who has made her disdain for alternative education crystal clear, took us off the list. I had already made plans to home-school my son and sue to get my daughter access to APP/Spectrum testing for next year. Right now I'm still on the fence for both kids. I love what AS1 is supposed to stand for, and I've got the energy to fight for that, or to fight the district, but I don't think I have the energy to wage both fights at once.

At least that's how I feel tonight. Maybe in the bright light of day I'll be more optimistic.
SP said…
This is a repeat of my post on Crosscut, but is something I've been tossing around:

Surely there must be other options to saving money that have not yet been mentioned, rather than closing schools without a serious "masterplan" that holds water for more than a week before it is changed again. Our kids should not be the ones who shoulder this heavy price.

What about doing what King County has already started as one of their major budget cuts? All of the downtown SPS administration should take one unpaid day off per month for ten months each year. "Fridays off!" for all of the John Stanford staff?

Second, what about the new Basic Education Finance Joint House & Senate Committee proposals that are currently listed on the WA Legislative website? Cheryl Chow, Seattle School Board member, is a sponsor and member of one of the proposals to lower class sizes down to 17 students in the lower elementary classes and 15-25 in the middle school and high school grades.

What will that do to the Seattle capacity if these proposals become law? What will be the costs to shift gears and re-open recently closed schools?

Why put Seattle students in this position of flux and turmoil until a proper plan is sorted out?
Sahila said…
Seattleparent -
if you havent done so already, could I suggest that you post your comment on Harium's blog...

I dont know how many directors/staff read this blog, but Harium
does read (and respond to) input on his blog...

I think the Board really needs to hear about other ways to save money, other initiatives that are going to impact this issue, rather than get only the Super/Staff view of things....
Shannon said…
We are 'supposed' to be entering public school this year with my 7 year old going into 3rd grade. He has been in a small North Seattle private school (KapKa K-2, which incidentally is NOT full, possibly because it works on a co-operative model).

This turmoil has not changed our plan to join the public system for Elementary School but we have now decided to make a plan for Private school in Middle School. I just don't like the way things look in the NE - the pressure to get into our local school (Eckstein is 1 mile away), the pressure of numbers in the schools, the split of Elementary APP (which does not improve our access) and the social issues our friends kids have faced.

We are also still on the fence about APP. It seems likely my son will test into APP (he did last year) but this whole "split the program to improve access" doesn't feel authentic. I am looking from the outside in but the feeling I get is that the program will be stressed and unbalanced by this move. I am going to tour schools when the tours finally get underway but right now we are feeling a bit sad and worried.

We are also considering Vashon or even a move overseas for a few years (I come from Australia) for some of my younger (2) son's schooling. Moving is cheaper than private school!

We have good family friends from Tacoma who were going to relocate to Seattle as her daughter starts K next year. They have decided to move to Bellevue instead.
anonymous said…
Shannon before you move to Vashon or overseas, check out Shoreline Public Schools. They are our neighbors to the north, and their schools system is fantastic. It's small so it works the old fashioned way. Predictably. All elementary schools on the East side of I-5 feed into one middle school, Kellogg. Kellogg the only middle school feeds into Shorecrest, the only HS.

All of these schools are within 3 or 4 miles of Eckstein.

We live in the NE too, and our son is attending Kellogg for MS. We love it.
e said…
Do I plan to keep my child enrolled in SPS? Yes- for elementary school, at least. My child will stay in SPS because I feel that the teachers, staff and administration of his school are of the absolute finest quality. When it comes to the practical matter of where to send my child to school, I am less concerned about what happens at the top as I am about what happens on the ground.

I am in the unique position of having worked very close to the heart of SPS administration as the former Capital Projects Community Liaison. (Hi, Mel.) I bore witness to what happens on the inside at the highest levels. Like everywhere I have worked, some of the decisions and processes were sheer idiocy and some were beautifully brilliant. Of course, when it comes to our children, we hope with all of our hearts that the brilliance far outweighs the idiocy, but we do have to suffer with some of the idiocy just as we do with any other organization to which we are a party.

It's been a year since I resigned from my position at SPS. My own child (the most important child in the whole district, of course) attends the elementary school a block from our home. Knowing "where the bodies buried" from my experience on the inside, I have watched with a highly critical eye what has happened in the past year. I know very well how to read the tedious documents which are available to the public if you are willing to drill 17 clicks down into the website and I can also easily interpret what's what behind what is distilled and presented to the public. Not to be haughty, but rest assured that I know what the heck I'm talking about. Also, since my "horse in the race" is my own beloved child and nothing else, know that I'm not about to tow the line for the district where the line doesn't deserve to be towed.

Knowing what I know, I would be appalled and outraged if SPS did not close school buildings. As a taxpayer, I am incensed at the inefficiency with which we operate schools at 1/3 of their capacity while other schools fall into dangerous disrepair. As a parent, I am saddened that resources continue to be allocated to beat on the chest of programs that are as dead as Ronald Reagan.

Make no mistake: financially, this school district DOES NOT HAVE A CHOICE to close schools. Anyone fighting the idea of whether or not we should close schools would make a much greater positive impact to direct their efforts to: Which schools should we close? How should we close them? What should happen to those properties?

Schools must be closed. Let me say that again: SOME SCHOOLS IN THIS DISTRICT MUST CLOSE.

This being said, I can wholeheartedly see why people cannot accept this because the school district has such little credibility with so many people in this city. Why on earth would you accept such a painful reality from such an unreliable source? Why believe the numbers as they are presented by the district? Why trust that this delicate process will be handled with care? Why support a public agency that lacks the support of other public agencies? I have compassion for those who fight on principle because they have been wronged or mislead before. I understand that many people have no reason to believe that the district's challenges are as the district reports them to be and subsequently are unable to accept the solutions offered by the district.

Unfortunately, solving the district's credibility problem is an adaptive challenge: it's not something that has a linear and/or logical solution. Massaging adaptive challenges can take generations.

However, the district faces technical problems RIGHT NOW that do have linear and logical solutions. The district must do what it can to chose the best solutions available. Frankly, the district has competent technical leaders in MGJ and Mr. Kennedy who are overseen by a very thoughtful Board of Directors. These leaders must make substantial technical decisions in an environment of concerned people who are understandably "stuck" in an adaptive quagmire.

The district's willingness to be transparent with the public as the final recommendation evolved through multiple iterations is, to my knowledge, unprecedented. Perhaps the tides are turning in regards to their willingness to take on the task of having a more collaborative and open process. The district has shown that it is listening and changing course in response to feedback if necessary which should give a modicum of hope to this communicty. If we take this "baby step" the district has made and foster it, those who wish to affect this process will likely see some positive results. Those who dig their heels in and seek only to stop the process through protests and lawsuits will be exhausted and disappointed, which will not be the fault of the district.

The most important thing we all must demand is appropriate communications. Unfortunately, we have a communications team that works twice as hard and half as smart as it needs to (with the exception of David Tucker) and consistently moves in a direction that not only doesn't serve the district, but in fact is paralytic to the evolution of the district's credibility with the community and particularly with other public agencies. Part and parcel to the need for communication is the outright necessity that a dedicated team of qualified individuals be assembled to contend with the very HUMAN side of the closure process. We're not closing buildings or changing programs, we're disrupting the course of hundreds of children and staff. Because it is a requisite and unavoidable disruption, everyone would be best served if all of the passion we're seeing is directed towards how to make it a worthwhile and productive change.
Trish, much as I wish I had written this fine post, it was written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker and has obviously struck a chord.

I'm not stepping out because next year is senior year for my last child in SPS. I'll see it through.

Trust. I can't tell you how many times Charlie or I have gotten raked over the coals for not "trusting" the district. "Why can't you be pleasant and work with them and trust them?"

Denise has managed to say what needs to be said in a calm and unthreatening manner. Good job.

But whether it is Charlie and his tongue of fire, me with some sarcasm or Denise with a measured tone, in the end is we all don't trust this district to do the right thing. And that lack of trust is borne simply out of years of seeing the same chop-chop kind of solutions, no (seemingly) forward thinking with a real A-Z vision. Or no follow-thru on promises made.

My main puzzlement has always been the Board. I sense a couple of problems. One, I have no idea where they hide this stuff but every new Board member drinks some Kool-aid and comes out the other side changed from the candidate they were. It's astonishing. Two, I think that many Board members believe their job is simply to ask questions, get those answers and then vote. As you can see, at least for this group, that isn't working.

Some of it may be that Board members aren't paid, don't work full-time as Board members and don't really vet these plans. Mary Bass has said frequently that she has no staff person to help her and she's at the mercy of staff to give her answers. Mary has sat out on a limb, asking hard questions and sometimes being the cheese who stands alone on votes. She simply will not vote for things she does not believe in. I wish that other Directors would even occasionally join her (we can see a little of this in Harium).

I have thought about running for School Board but from the reactions I see from people who are uneasy with "activist" Board members or think the Board is there to rubberstamp the Superintendent's wishes, why bother? People say they want the Board to be stronger and ask harder questions and refuse to vote in things they do not feel serve the best interests of the district but when you get to the Board elections, that feeling goes away.

I recall from the CAC work that I found staff to work very hard. (I think Tracy Libros probably has a little cozy cubbie under her desk a la George Costanza so she can sleep there.) But I also found that they have a very clear idea of what they want and why and really aren't all that keen on new ideas. (This mirrors, a lot, what you can find at schools if you even question anything related to curriculum or running of the school to an administrator or teacher. They simply believe they are the experts and that's it. It's painful but I managed to have not one but two experiences with this - not even in academics - in the last 2 weeks.)

BUT, I believe in public education. This has kept me working on education issues because there are those in our country who want to privatize education - leave it to charters and vouchers and a few fine public schools. I cannot accept that because of what free public education has meant in my life.

But that's a big picture ideal, I know. Again, I say, you have to, you MUST do the best thing that you believe will give your child a good education. I will keep working to try to see that happen in SPS but unless there are many parents still in that fight AND willing to stand up and fight, I will likely be a lone figure.
hschinske said…
I have one child who's technically affected -- he's in fifth grade at Lowell this year, and, if the current plan is implemented, will go to Hamilton rather than Washington. I'm somewhat concerned about the music program, but right now he's far more invested in boychoir than orchestra anyway, so it may not make that much difference to him.

I must say, I'm rather looking forward to having a school that's so much closer to us than Washington is (a lot easier to do after-school activities), and that's in a less depressing building. But I'm not counting on one single thing until next September, with all the rug-out-from-under-you action we've had lately.

Helen Schinske
ParentofThree said…
SPS is patting themselves on the back for such a having so much transparency during this closure process.

What they do not realize is they created a couple of white elephants along the way.

Parents see turmoil, not transparency in SPS.

Schools on the closure list but are now off are now posion pills - how many parents will enroll in a school the was on the closure list this year? So unfair to these schools.

It seems that next year a high school could be closed. Does anybody believe that they will only close one more school next round? (remember those poison pills schools...they will be under-enrolled.)

I don't trust SPS one darn bit. I think we will be posting here on this same topic in a year....and yes my children will still be enrolled in SPS as we just do not have any other options at the moment.
anonymous said…
The thing that is most shocking to me is how insular and uninformed much of the parent community is.

I have one son at Bryant. When I talk to other parents about the closures I am shocked to find out how many parents are not even aware of whats going on. Some have vague knowledge and recall "hearing something about that". Others know absolutely nothing about it. At all. You, see , it doesn't affect them. Bryant, Eckstein, Roosevelt and Hale are safe. They will likely never make a closure list. These schools are all full, and performing well. Parents are happy. The end.

On the other hand, when I speak with old friends from Thornton Creek (our son used to go there), which is less than a mile away from Bryant, everyone knows all about closures. Everyone is well versed ad educated about the plan, it's successes and it's failures. They advocate not only for their school but for schools across the District. Everyone seems to feel the pain felt across the District. Even though they are full to the brim, displaced students of AS1 or Summit or any other school are welcomed with open arms.

It's interesting to me.
SP said…
to: Sahila (1/10- 8:37am)

I took your suggestion about Harium's blog- thanks.

There is also some more info. posted on what groups (WEA among others) are proposing bills to lower class size.
Sue said…
ADHoc, I have to speak to your comment.I would imagine that people at the schools you mentioned do feel secure, because they got lucky and got into those schools. There are others of us though, in the cluster next door (Loyal Heights, Adams, West Woodland, Whittier, Greenwood, Whitman and Ballard) who ARE watching what is going on.

We know that closures and consolidation affect us all. And we know that this district has future plans that will impact every school in this city. We know that some buildings need to be closed, but we do not trust this district to do the right thing, the right way EVER. We are seeing schools off the list, both this time and last time, who should have been on the list, but because of politics, are not.

We are now extremely concerned with the superintendent's upcoming plans for standardizing of academics and for assignment areas. We are concerned with the direction SPS will be taking over the next few years - mega schools, one-way fits all academics, without addressing many of the real problems facing schools.

I just wanted to let you know, that we are watching, and concerned - for the entire district, even though it may not seem like it. We may be quiet, but we are concerned.
Free said…
Following is a response from Meg Diaz to criticism on the Seattle Times blog, and I think you will find it relevant to this discussion:

I am a former analyst who built financial models that were reviewed, cell-by-cell, by investment banks (who had not hired me) which were making their investments based on my work. On the research end, before I became an analyst, I did research at the British Library on a fellowship. Does that make me an absolute expert? Nope. The job of an analyst is, without doubt, very different than being an auditor or an accountant. But I am able to look over a financial analysis and see where the flaws are. It may be dull, but it's not rocket science.

It is perfectly fair for you to feel that any work I have done is not valid. You are entitled to say that my analysis is simply an opinion. Since you are also paying taxes, and this is your money, too, I suggest, again, that you look over the financial analysis that has been provided as an appendix to the final proposal. Assumptions, in any financial analysis, should be explained with clarity, and hold up to scrutiny. This is not the case for the final proposal. The range of potential liabilities has been poorly examined, and savings appear to be highly optimistic.

Closures may well need to happen. It is a little surprising to me that the district has not set a desired capacity range, at any level, but that is, for the moment, a secondary issue. The district has been told by outside auditors that it needs to deal with its empty seats, its deferred building maintenance load, and its out-of-proportion overstaffing of central administrators. Moving forward with a bad proposal, though, simply because SOMETHING needs to be done, is a dismal way to make decisions, and is likely to further deepen the district's financial crisis.

Let me add that it is damn hard to work collaboratively with a district that isn't honest with the facts, viz. the rationale for splitting Lowell.

If protests and lawsuits result, it will not be because we didn't try other means first.
Sahila said…

please, dont watch silently from the sidelines....

speak out and get involved...

Silence is often read as agreement... for things to change in SPS, we need as much vocal and active involvement as possible... as you say, next time it might very well be your school - why dont you (not you personally necessarily) get involved now, so there is no next time - or at least future change proposals wont be as damaging and hare-brained as these last couple....
ParentofThree said…
and remember...the new assignment plan is coming and it is looking like mandatory assignments are on the way. So every family is involved, they just may not know it....yet!
Jet City mom said…
Thank goodness my youngest graduated last year.
( from Garfield)

However- I am still very interested and involved in education in the region- but as many would agree, that is a more inclusive category than merely Seattle public schools.

My oldest attended private schools K-12. We did attempt to get her into public school- but we wanted to choose. We attempted this for three or four years while she was in elementary age.

However- while some seats did eventually open for her-, we were not notified until she had already been in her classroom for several months & what SPS had to offer was not compelling enough to make that disruption.

My youngest attended Matheia, a private school now in Ballard for preK-lower elementary ( it is now preK-5) although we also looked at public.
Great teachers and curriculum.

If we had known how inconsistent and UNaccountable our experience with public would be, we would have never switched to it- which we did to find a little larger school.

We likeliving in Seattle- we didn't want to leave our neighborhood for the suburbs- or where schools were perceived to be better- but having missed a strong education ourselves in childhood, (which we are still struggling with) , we had that as a priority for our children.

I never would have dreamed we would have used private schools at all. We are blue collar, neither my husband or I have ever attended a four-year college & the only people we knew growing up that attended private schools, were strongly Catholic.

( we didn't think of it- until Nancy Robinson an educator at the UW, prompted us to consider other programs, when I realized how much aid was available and how exciting the programs were- private became a very real option)

But, while I would agree there are some hard working and inspirational people working in SPS, I couldn't say they are at the administrative level.

Regarding seats in private schools- new ones are starting all the time- as one of the most educated areas in the country- we have a ton of teacher and resources available. When my youngest began at Matheia, it had only been around for a year or two.

My oldest attended elementary school that originally was part of a pilot study at UW for preschoolers. It had been in the McDonald school when the study ended as parents and teachers wanted it to continue. When she first started there it was in the old City print shop behind the transfer station, now it has a spiffy building on Roosevelt.

I know it may be difficult but when you look
beyond the physical attributes of the building- there are some great programs out there.

When she started middle school- she attended a school that was 6-12 and shared space with a temple on Capitol Hill. Classrooms were in one building- art/theatre space was a few blocks away & space for PE was across another street.
But now they also have new space.

For our family- which was struggling not just financially, private schools offered resources and support that were not easily available in SPS.

It was this sort of experience that prompted us to change to SPS, when a space finally opened up at Summit K-12 for my younger daughter. ( which was the school that we had tried to get her older sister into but couldn't)
Sue said…
Well Sahila-

I would just say that I have been involved in this district for over ten years now, and been vocal, and signed petitions, and been to meetings, and spoken up - as have most people at my schools that I know.

And you know what - it never made a damn bit of difference. This district does exactly what it wants to whomever it wants when it wants, and no amount of protesting has ever changed that. (unless you have lawyers on tap like Queen Anne, Magnolia and North Beach parents)

So that may be why I sound discouraged. Does that mean I intend to stop speaking up and out? Absolutely not. I am gearing up for the fight of the century to make sure that the upcoming mandatory assignment plans are done well and thoughtfully; that in pursuit of excellence for all the superintendent does not gut AP and honors programs to the bone; and that standardization of cirriculum and offerings does not lead to SPS administrators forcing high performing schools to lower the bar to accommodate lower performing schools.
I will say though, that after 11 years, you just get tired, and that when you kick a dog long enough, it eventually gets the message.
Teachermom said…
I am definitely eyeing both the schools for my kids exits and the jobs for me exits. I am hoping to stick it out for two more years and see if all of this leads to actual improvements......

A smaller district is sounding ideal to me right now, as it just seems to be too big in Seattle, and no one has been able to handle it. I have been involved with the district for 10 years in one way or another, and it has always been chaos....

If the district were split up into smaller districts, it might be more manageable.....just a crazy thought.....

Trust is definitely not there for me. The concept of trusting SPS flew out the window for me during the hiring process, more than a decade ago, and it hasn't changed much since...sad.
momster said…
eleanor - thanks for your perspective - it's really valuable to me. When they're on the inside, staff can't really be candid, and when they move on, they either don't want to tell tales or the do just "move on" - emotionally, physically and otherwise - so you really never get their perspective.

funny = i thought bridget in public affairs was ok too - though i have often thought that others in that group were nice, but sadly not the "A" team you need for a district like seattle.

spsmom - where are you getting that there will be mandatory assignments? everything i've heard says there will be choice but smaller clusters at elementary, defined elementary-to-middle feeder patterns, and high school regions (but some seats set aside at middle and high for choice - plus the alternatives which are generally regional).

i get this trust thing, but i don't get how people feel it's appropriate to label the entire district (including its hundred schools and thousands of staff) - whether positive or negative. isn't it so much more subtle than that?

and shouldn't we all feel some responsibility to keep the district strong, for the sake of all of those who don't have choices? and because it's the foundation of a democratic and civilized world?

not that activism and criticsm are wrong - i don't think that at all - and i think people like mel and charlie and beth are part of what keeps the district on its toes (and make it stronger).

i guess i just wish that the activism and criticism would be as informed as theirs is. while i respect personal experience and opinion, i agree with adhoc that much of it is not as informed as i wish it were.
dcarnegie said…
The aspect of trust absolutely resonates with me. I read this post last night and think I spent more time thinking about this issue than sleeping.

My son is a first-grader at lowell. We had him tested for early entrance to kindergarten, so this is really our third year involved with SPS.

Our experience with SPS has been stressful and exhausting at the administrative level; fantastic at the school level. My son has had incredible teachers and principals who really seem to care and work incredibly hard with my smart, energetic, often not compliant kid. APP has really been a blessing for him.

My husband and I both had strong public school experiences and believe in public schools. But, that said, the idea of having some kind of customer service at the administrative level and peace of mind might be worth the cost of private school - if we could afford it.

I'm going into next year with an open mind and will work toward a smooth transition. If SPS does not make good on some of their promises to APP, I will be looking at going the private school route.

Somewhat related to trust - I was one of those who was pretty oblivious to the issues facing the school district. The past six weeks has definitely been a crash course and I feel like I'm seeing things with new eyes. Watching the school board meetings, I have seen exhausted staff members who seem to truly care; most board members have impressed me with their thoughtful questions.

MG-J just seems very cool and hard to read, which may cause some of my mistrust. I get that she is in a hard position, but why not have cuts at the administrative level first? Why not be more forthcoming on the other ways that costs will be cut? Why not clearly answer why this change to APP is a good idea, and specifically answer how the implementation will happen? Why not take smaller steps on school closures - because the past few years have been so turbulent, and because they affect kids (and many kids who need stability) the most?

Charlie Mas said…
Trust has never really been a big issue for me because I have never expected it. I have always expected the District to lie to me. Actually, I'm okay with it. I critically question the truth or merit of every statement I hear or read as a matter of habit. It's those damn critical reasoning skills! I can turn it off for fiction and the movies, but it's hard to switch off in real life. I presume that everyone is going to try to sneak a few lies through. I only really mind when they tell me lies so feeble that they insult my intelligence or when they are caught in a lie and they won't admit it.

Trust, for me, is not a black and white question - it's a gradient. There are folks that I would trust for $5 that I would not trust for $500. Then there are those I would not trust for 5 cents.

I do not trust Seattle Public Schools - the institution - in the least. That's because the District doesn't act like an institution. Every promise you get is strictly personal. Every process or practice is strictly personal. If there is a change in personnel, then all bets are off. I can't tell you how much I lost when Steve Wilson left the CAO position - he owed me big time. All of his promises to me were void the moment he retired. Carla Santorno did not inherit his debt.

Director Martin-Morris, on his blog, is asking for a list of commitments the District has made. It's tricky because "the District" doesn't make commitments so much as District staff members do.

So I don't trust the institution, but there are people within the institution whom I trust - at least to the limits of their authority. I absolutely trust Bob Vaughan, Tracy Libros, Linda Sebring and Bernardo Ruiz in word and deed. They have earned that trust time and time again. Some may not believe it, but Michelle Corker-Curry and Holly Ferguson have always been honest with me. So has Princess Shareef and Patti Spencer-Watkins. We haven't always agreed, but they have always been clear about where they stand. There is no artifice in them.

I'm learning to trust Brad Bernatek, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, John Halfaker, Kathy Johnson, and Shannon McMinimee (except in adversarial situations - she is a lawyer after all).

I'm hoping that I can come to trust Bridgett Chandler, Carol Rava-Treat and Michael Tolley. My trust in them depends on the resolution of some outstanding items.

Then there are other folks in the District whom I utterly distrust: such as Lin Carlson, Ruth Medsker, Jeff Clark, Cothron McMillian, Susan Derse, and Ammon McWashington. I wouldn't believe anything that any one of them said. I would not rely on any of them to do anything they promised to do.

None of them are as bad as June Rimmer was. If she told me that the sun rose in the East I would begin to doubt it.

I am undecided about Carla Santorno. She has never really kept faith - the list of broken promises is getting long - but she just seems so sincere that I can't bring myself to put her in the distrust pile - although she probably belongs there.

As far as the Board goes, I trust Mary Bass and Harium Martin-Morris. I find Michael DeBell honest and sincere. I think Sherry Carr and Steve Sundquist are well-intentioned even if they are reluctant to act on those intentions. Cheryl Chow and Peter Maier, however, are a waste. They are worse than useless because they are taking up jobs that could be done by people who really want to do them.
ParentofThree said…
To momster RE: mandatory assignments was from Jessica Blanchard's PI article and was part of Melissa's post as she noted this would be a departure from what we all had been thinking in terms of high school.

I believe the elem and MS will work like this: You have an assigned elem and MS based on your address. If you are happy with that assignment, you do nothing. If you want to try for another school you put in for it. If there is space you will get a seat, otherwise you will remain at your assigned school.

From the article:

"Choice has only worked for some students; is it time to consider a mandatory high school assignment that offers the same choice of rigor and programs?"
e said…
Momster, glad you appreciate the perspective. It certainly isn't going to win me any points with former colleagues. However, it's been difficult for me to watch from the sidelines on such critical issues, so I might as well throw my .02 in for what it's worth.

I'm not trying to be critical of the communications department, but I would have liked to see more progress with the credibility issue by now. The individuals who work in that department work HARD, LONG hours. Unfortunately, those hours don't seem to be be producing the results so badly needed. Although, as I said before, "fixing" the district's credibility is an adaptive challenge that doesn't necessarily have a technical fix, so those folks are engaged in vertical battle on a greased hill.

The credibility issue may be the largest issue facing the district. Why? Because with no credibility, the district is paralyzed. The solutions coming out of the district could be nothing short of brilliant, but because parents, teachers, students, community groups, corporate partners, and other public agencies don't trust the district, the district is unable to effectively execute a darn thing.

Generally, in large urban school districts there is external support for the district that can essentially "lend" the district some credibility in difficult times. The mayor's office, the state, major local businesses or influential community groups stand next to the school district to buoy ideas and garner support. SPS is left twisting in the wind at every turn. There have been many years of bridge burning between the district and potential partners and subsequently little organized effort to mend fences on anyone's side.

I had great hopes that MGJ would be able to come in and begin some of that work. Alas, MGJ is an educator and not a politician. MGJ is far more interested in actually getting academic initiatives through and solidifying the operational foundation than she is in kissing the appropriate arses to smooth over years of friction. Sadly, without the unwavering support of key partners, none of those efforts will ever be as effective as they could be.

If MGJ isn't able or willing to do it, it could be claimed that it is incumbent upon the Board to lay the groundwork. Michael DeBell has made great efforts in this area. Michael's more than willing to pick up the phone or go sit in a City Councilmember's office and participate in a dialogue. However, I feel for Michael and other individuals who take steps toward this goal and then end up several steps behind for one reason or another. It would be nice to see an organized and tireless effort on the part of SPS staff, but it takes two to tango and frankly, the Mayor's office seems to enjoy nothing more than launching Howitzers at the district. The Mayor's office greedily capitalizes on the follies of the school district like a wolf pouncing on injured prey. How and why the city's administration feels that it behooves the city to take pot-shots at the school district rather than get in there and salvage the relationships and create working partnerships that strengthen our communities is something I will never understand.

I know people often claim this blog is long on complaints and short on workable solutions. How would you like to see the district begin to address its credibility issue? Where should the district begin? What is one totally non-cynical and realistic step that the district could take to build trust?
Charlie Mas said…
One totally non-cynical and realistic step that the district could take to build trust would be to say what they mean and mean what they say.

They need to stop speaking in code. Does anyone understand how splitting APP will improve access and diversity?

They need to put actions behind their rhetoric. How can they say that closing the academic achievement gap is their top priority and never make a plan to do it?

They need to keep their word. Their promises are more commonly broken than kept.

They need to follow their own rules. The district staff blithely and routinely violate policy - the Board, too.
momster said…
great stuff, eleanor - i know what you mean about the mayor and his office. i was astonished by the bad-mouthing he did at the time he was touting norm rice for sup't - as well as by the latter, who hesitated when asked by a journalist whether he would recommend seattle schools, and i think even said the equivalent of "no".

i thought sps would get "lent" credibility from the alliance after leadership there changed - but i don't hear it - could be because no one is talking up the good things, the relationships, etc. patrick d'amelio seems like a really good guy.

great questions about how sps might improve its credibility - i happen to think they have credibility now, on the main, and am willing to support these latest and coming moves because, as you said, maintaining half empty schools is a dereliction of fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers as well as a breach of duty to students and families.

i do think voices on this blog are a minority - both the super-informed voices and the super-angry-frustrated ones. there are some 40,000 families out there, i bet many of whom are pretty content but not too aware of the details.

charlie, i agree so much with your roll call - and realize i also don't "trust" or need to, so much - or maybe, it's that i trust but verify, always, not just with sps but everywhere (though i verify less with you because you are, after all, the nate silver of seattle schools.)

i have a variation on your mean what you say and say what you mean suggestion, and that is that trust and credibility are built one decision, one action at a time - and wiped out in one 'swell foop' as someone said above. it takes forever - but just because that's so and you might be in a deficit position is no reason not to commit to it every day.
TechyMom said…
Here's one...
Explain the real reasoning behind the APP split. What is the goal of splitting Lowell? Is it to increase minority enrollment in APP? To increase testing in certain schools? To decrease transportation costs (or increase transporation profit, since the state pays for it)? To increase minority testing? Is it just to make room at Lowell for General Ed students, because the district thinks having Special Ed there without general ed violates the law? All of those?

How will that be measured? x% of students of color who pass the test enroll in APP? Testing in the SE cluster increases by y%? Every school has at least z students tested? Transportation profit increases by q dollars?

Is it a goal to move the northern part of APP to the north end at some point? What's the reason for that? When?

What are the goals of splitting Washington APP? Is it to make room for Meany students, so they can close Meany and save money? Is it to reduce transportation costs? To throw a bone to north-end parents? Is it the same goal as splitting Lowell?

Are they considering splitting the Garfield cohort? If so, what are the goals of doing that, and how will it be measured?

What additional steps, besides splitting the program, are being taken to support the goals?

Why is this plan effective? Show your work. Explain your reasoning.

What happens if the goals aren't met in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
TechyMom said…
Oh, and I forgot one...
What is the overall vision for advanced learning? Not some single sentence statement (though it's ok to have one of those too),

What do you want advanced learning to look like in 10 years? How does this move help you get there?

If the district would answer those questions, it would go a long way to helping me trust them. I want to know what they'r trying to acheive (no hidden agenda), and that they are competent to execute on it.
MadronaGreen said…
It is very hard to trust the district to do right for our kids regarding Elementary APP when they are willing to rend a very successful program in two in the hope of persuading parents who chose not to send their kids to Lowell to send them to Thurgood Marshall.

(1) Is the risk worth the reward?

(2) Are the confident that the kids who wouldn't come to Lowell would come to Thurgood Marshall? If so, why?

(3) How many parents will choose not to transition their kids from Lowell to Thurgood Marshall?

(4) What about the damage to the kids staying at Lowell?

(5) What about displacing kids from Marshall so there is room for the kids from Lowell?

(6) What about the kids staying at Marshall. Do they want the kids from Lowell to come?

All in all it seems like a lot of damage, a lot of work, a lot of risk, a lot of "what if's".

Because of the district was not clear about their goals from the start - yes, access was there, but so were many reasons which have disappeared - there is little time for critical thinking and analysis about how risky this is, and how many changes it requires.
ParentofThree said…
"How would you like to see the district begin to address its credibility issue?"

I think we should start by electing a new mayor, one who will not leave the district "twisting in the wind."

Great insight!
duh! said…
Oh. God!!!! The Lowell travesty. Let's just have 2000 more emails and blogs about it. And all those genius first graders that (sob, sob) might have to go to a school with only 200+ other geniuses.

Duh! They need to split the middle school for capacity.

Duh! If they're going to split the middle school program (and they WILL), why NOT split the elementary program? ???? They can move it north later. Or not.

Duh! Maybe they want to change the nature of APP, so that OTHER people (you know, the all the other dummies?) might get some advanced learning too. A little differentiated instruction maybe??? (Oh!!! The injustice of that!) Perhaps they'll find an ingenious way to integrate the schools to make that possible.

Duh! The more you whine and complain about the obvious, and the reasonable... the less sympathy others have for you.

Flame on!
Ben said…
Yes, by all means! Let's restructure APP so we can finally show all those academically accelerated kids who's boss!

Talk about injustice: expecting the public schools to live up to their task of appropriately educating students!

"Duh! Maybe they want to change the nature of APP, so that OTHER people (you know, the all the other dummies?) might get some advanced learning too"

I'm not even sure what you're suggesting here. That we should change APP so that it is no longer exclusive to kids who can test into it? And this will make it different from general ed how?

Well, who cares? Those genius kids will just have to figure stuff out for themselves. Take that, you bunch of smartypants whiners!
ArchStanton said…
Please don't feed the trolls.
-the Mgmt.
Ben said…
"Please don't feed the trolls."

My apologies.
duh! said…
Yes, by all means! Let's restructure APP so we can finally show all those academically accelerated kids who's boss.

Talk about injustice: expecting the public schools to live up to their task of appropriately educating students!

Duh! It's NOT about the kids. It's about crybaby parents like you, Ben. Your 6 yo is SOOOO special, my God. He's going to absolutely DIE if anything changes. And wow. So horrible. We wouldn't want anybody else to have advanced learning. It would be SOOOOO unfair to son-of-Ben.

By all means. Let's have another 1000 blog entries. We haven't heard enough about the "injustice". We need to weep more!

Feed the trolls.
old salt said…

Carla Santorno assured me personally that with the EDM adoption, teachers would be encouraged to maintain fidelity of implementation for the first unit only and could teach whatever they wanted after that. That is not at all what she has communicated to teachers. I do not trust her.

I have given up on the "earned autonomy" that MGJ promised.
Free said…
For duh! and others who would benefit from learning why Lowell exists, please read the stories at the new website:

My child did not ask to be born the way he was. If he were on the other end of the spectrum (profoundly-disabled), would he have your sympathy or scorn?
SolvayGirl said…
Well, I've been too busy filling out school and financial aid applications to respond much to the blogs lately. We had been pretty set on returning to SPS after middle school at an independent school, but the recent happenings have made that much less likely.

The Center School was our first (and best) choice, and even though it was spared this year, things don't look good for 2010. Do I trust the District? About as much as I do my dog alone with an open pizza box.

If they close The Center School and implement mandatory high school assignments, we would end up at Rainier Beach. I'd hate to have my child be in the first year of an experiment that may or may not work. A few years down the line it might be a fabulous school, but I just can't guinea pig my child.

With that said, we're still going to The Center School open house on Wednesday. Maybe they'll have some reassuring words for us.
Charlie Mas said…
I should say that there is a huge divide between the District headquarters and the schools. I don't trust the central office staff or leadership very much, but I have a great deal of faith in the integrity, industry, and involvement of the vast majority of teachers and school staff that I have met.

While my complaint/praise mix for the District staff and leadership has been about 90/10 over the years, I have the inverse ratio for the teachers and building staff who have worked with my children.
duh! said…
Duh! We don't put 5% of our disabled students in extra special segregated programs like APP, and we don't send them on field trips to Washington DC. (and a lot more if you're white) If we're expanding the program to be this size, then there should be SOME (my GOD, a little) access for other kids too. There are other ways to skin a cat.

Duh! Don't worry Ben, your smartypants-genius is safe. He won't have to sit next to any of the stupid people. The district won't figure out how to give anyone else access for a long time... and maybe not ever.
TechyMom said…
Duh, at the risk of feeding the trolls, I'm not saying that the APP split is a travesty. I'm saying that the district has been unclear about their goals, that they have no stated measurements of those goals, and that there is no way to reach those goals. I may or may not agree with the goals. I just want to know what they are, and how the district expect to achieve them. If the goals and success metrics are stated, and then then achieved, that would go a long way towards making the district trustworthy. That's true whether or not I agree with the goals.
Josh Hayes said…

Several weeks back I accused adhoc of being a troll, and now I'd like to publically apologize for that remark. Especially in light of some posts by a recent contributor.

I'm sorry. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Josh Hayes said…
I am certainly eyeing the exits.

If I had been a gambling man, I would have lost my shirt when the final recommendation came out and AS1 was not on it. I was already drawing up lesson plans for next year.

The fact is, however, the district is unwilling to support, or even tolerate, any school which is not in the traditional model. This is obvious when one looks at what programs are set for closure. The current administration views schools as factories and students - children, OUR children - as interchangeable widgets. The administration seems bewildered when people object to willy-nilly closures and movements of students: they're really all the same, they say, any school will be adequate.

I have the utmost respect for, and trust in, my kids' teachers. I have neither for district management, which has proven itself untrustworthy over and over and over.

My heart aches when I think that I may have to flee what the district leaves in place where my school once was. I won't be touring other schools: I'll continue working on my lesson plans. Another 6 grand or so lost to SPS next year.
SolvayGirl972--good luck with those apps--I'm waist-high in them, too.

We are looking at SPS, Shoreline and private options for our son (who enters sixth grade in fall).

Why? A couple reasons--or, more specifically, a couple conversations--that remain crystal clear in my mind. Both get to that trust issue.

First was a conversation with a principal during the last round of closures, when everything felt crazy and willy-nilly. We'd been in the district for a few years, yet this was the second (or maybe third?) round of closure process.

I asked the principal, a district veteran, when things would ever settle down, and in response he laughed and said, "things are always this chaotic in the district." A nearby teacher seconded him.

It made me realize that perhaps chaos and instability are part of the very culture of the district. Otherwise, why would they not make stability--that thing that defines healthy families and kids--a priority?

My second conversation was a quick exchange with Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson during one of her introductory community meetings, held at Nathan Hale. I already had middle school on my brain, so I asked her what she planned to do to improve Seattle's middle schools.

Her response? That Seattle's middle schools were some of the strongest schools across K-12 in the district. She then encouraged me to go take a look myself.

I did, attending several school tours last year. And I realized if this was the "best" the district had to offer, I might want to do some comparison shopping.

What was troublesome was how bluntly, decisively G-J stated the middle schools were good. Just because you say so doesn't make it so. Worse, if you don't see problems (including that problem of trust), you're unlikely to commit much energy to change.

It's as if our district needs therapy...

In response to Duh!s sniping, I can tell you that my kid is average -- not APP, Spectrum or even ALO. Not SpecEd, FRL, or any other special category, either. Okay, maybe Alt Ed, if you count that as a category. Yet when I see the district treating any group of students in an unthinking manner, setting up experiments without clear goals, or making decisions that disproportionately impact specific communities, it impacts my trust.

And, to cram one more thought into this too-long comment: Charlie, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about trusting school staff vs. the district.
uxolo said…
to Denise and Trish:
If either of you want a spot to speak to the Board and are able to attend on Jan 22, we need you up there. As highly-respected public personalities, you might just sway the Bd to do the right thing. If you need a spot, we should find each of you one.
seamom said…
We are not eyeing the exits, but we are doing the MS dance...I am shocked the MGJ is so solid on her opinion of the middle schools--c'mon, they all need work!

Charlie, I have another name you can trust: Tom Ogg, in Nutrition Services. I've talked with him repeatedly over the year, and he always takes what I say seriously, and is an all-around good person. The district is lucky to have him.

I have always been a believer in working with what we have, so we will stick with SPS, I will take a hard look at the the MSs we have (we are equidistant between them, so we need to investigate both) and we'll enroll accordingly. BUT: we're fortunate to choose between Eckstein and Hamilton. And by fortunate, I mean 11 years ago when we house-hunted, we deliberately looked at SPS and the schools, and knew we could be happy with the choices available to us in our neighborhood. We deliberately did not shop in certain areas where we saw a downward trend, or building(s) in disrepair.
Charlie Mas said…
I have had one interaction with nutrition services - not with Mr. Ogg - and it was not the sort of candor that I would have liked.

Of course the discussion was about the decidedly gray market guerilla lunch program that the NOVA PTA used to operate, so maybe candor wouldn't have been appropriate.

That program is gone, but it's gone because a set of people who are supposed to be working for the students put their own interests and slavish obedience to the rules ahead of the students' interests. I can't respect that either.
Unknown said…
I'm definitely looking around. We might stay, or we might not. I agree the teachers and staff at individual schools are wonderful in my experience, and from everything I've heard from other parents. The schools are great. The trouble is there's no trust and no stability. I'm in year 1, already poised to take it one year at a time.
CS said…
We're staying. The grass is not greener--just different.

I'm glad we didn't go private, move out of district, homeschool, etc. We have friends who did. Are they better off? Not really.

My daughter attended Seattle Public Schools from Kindergarten through graduating from The Center School. She moved on to the UW (quite successful so far) as an articulate, focused, worldly, and confident individual. I certainly don't take all the credit for this.

I would have loved to attend the schools my children have attended. Their school communities have been vibrant, diverse and stimulating. I've had discussions with my daughter about some of her classes regarding race relations, gender equality, current events, and even discussions about the homeless man she named "Mr. Whiskey Arm" at the bus stop. She had a math class where they studied probability as applied to Dance, Dance, Revolution. She had a humanities project where she did a psychological analysis of a video game character, The King of all the Cosmos. These are just a few examples of what has instilled in her a strong love of learning. It's something that doesn't necessarily show up in test scores or school data.

One of the biggest things my kids are learning is that perfect is highly overrated. They've learned to take a less-than-ideal situation, deal with it and make the best of it. They've learned to appoach situations with teachers or colleagues they don't like in a respectible, constructive manner.

I'm not saying that we should 'put up' with the things that aren't working at our public schools. But I do think there is way too much public school bashing.

To zb who said.. "I'm already fed up with the BS...". I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the reality is that you're going to run into BS wherever you go. Private schools included. It's learning how to approach and deal with the BS that really counts.
Stu said…
We have a son in APP at Lowell. We live in North Seattle -- 1.25 hour bus ride each way, by the way -- and are not only unhappy about the split but also about the unwillingness of SPS to, at the bare minimum, put one half in the North end. They're not moving any program into Jane Addams now so there's plenty of room there for half of elementary APP.

Are we eying the exits? Partially. We are applying to a few private schools, though we would need scholarships, and have decided on a backup plan. If everything goes through as proposed, and our son is unable to attend private school, he will finish Lowell next year and then we will try and withdraw him from the APP program and, instead, attend Spectrum at Eckstein. While this isn't the ideal situation, at least it's our neighborhood school and he won't be part of some politically-motivated experiment in education.

We are already resolved to the fact that we will have to supplement his math and science interests; the SPS have shown they have no idea how to teach math and, to be honest, their science programs ain't so hot either.

We love the APP program and the education, and confidence, it's given our son. Splitting it, at any level, is ridiculous; it's one of the most successful program in the district and the per-student costs are low when compared with other schools. Unfortunately, I don't believe the the school board members have the courage to be objective with this plan; if they don't approved the closures, they feel they'll look weak AND it'll show a lack of support for the superintendent they just gave a raise to.
If they wanted to show real leadership, they would delay all decisions until AFTER the new school assignment plan is implemented. That plan, which supposedly will steer students to their neighborhood schools, will have a dramatic effect on the current capacity issues AND will save almost as much money as these closures simply with the revamped busing.
hschinske said…
Stu, Jane Addams is supposed to get a new traditional K-8 program, so there's no room there for APP.

You'll have a year to see how Hamilton works out (assuming that plan goes through) before your child would actually attend: let's hope you're pleasantly surprised. Or heck, maybe the K-8 will turn out to be pretty good. I know Harium has talked about advocating for it to have a math/science focus.

Helen Schinske
Jet City mom said…
I have had communication or the lack thereof with Michelle Corker Curry ever since my daughter was in grade school - lack of follow up- never returning calls- even when I contacted the state which put things in motion for a while. However, in my daughters last couple years in SPS, I learned it is quicker to call the lawyers first.

I believe that at the time she says it, Corker-Curry believes she means what she says. However, like all of us- we have limited time & I do not believe following up on SPED concerns, is a priority for her. or perhaps her job description is more than she can handle.

Along with certain a principal/district administrators/principal again- who actively avoided collaboration and had her own agenda, I would agree with assessment of McWashington as not a guy who is good at the followup.

I would also disagree that the middle schools are the stronger schools in district. They are very poor- and while they do have a big job, they are often where parents decide to go private, as there are many choices, especially for girls.

At Summit ironically, I was happy with the middle school. In 6th grade, which is part of elementary- she had a very strong classroom teacher, was able to participate in all school academic & extra curricular programs.
For 7th & 8th grade, she was essentially with same cohort & same teacher for LA/SS for two years. ( they team taught and the middle school did things as a whole)
I wasn't thrilled with the districts science curriculum for middle school- but the high school teaching staff was strong and she was able to participate in one or two of their programs.

Art, music & drama were all good and she was able to take them throughout middle school as she wanted. Electives were shared with high school, enabling more courses to be offered which was a huge plus for a small school.
We did switch for high school, because she wanted a larger school- but many kids stayed- or they would have, had SPS made it clear that Summit sooner or later was going to lose the building that they had worked hard to improve.

It is tragic that the opportunities available at a K-12 school, will no longer be available in SPS.
momster said…
Denise, you said about the sup'ts suggestion to check out middle schools, "I did, attending several school tours last year. And I realized if this was the "best" the district had to offer, I might want to do some comparison shopping."

Specifically, what were your issues with which middle schools?
anonymous said…
My take on MS in Seattle is that for the most part we have settled for mediocrity. There are a couple of schools that perform well below average, and a couple that perform at or slightly above average, but for the most part MS's in Seattle represent mediocre at it's best.

Eckstein is probably one of the strongest MS's academically, but has 1250 kids. It is the largest MS in the state of WA, and is larger than most high schools. Sending a child off to such an enormous school is a high price to pay for decent academics.

Aside than Washington MS's APP program which you have to test into, Salmon Bay and TOPS are the only other two high performers in the MS arena. Both are alternative schools. Both have very small middle schools (less than 300 students) which means that they can not be comprehensive middle schools. They can't offer what the larger schools offer so you have to decide if that works for your child. They are both very difficult to get into, with TOPS being almost impossible to get into for 6th grade. I believe the TOPS principal told me they accept between 2-6 new kids at 6th grade.

Orca and Pathfinder, the other alternative schools are both on the lower end of the performance spectrum, although they seem to be very popular with parents. They would be worth checking out. The 7th grade math WASL pass rate at Orca was about 34% and at pathfinder it was 37%.

Broadview-Thompson began growing a middle school last year they were a k-5) - I haven't heard much about it. It would be worthwhile checking out if you live in that area and are willing to give a brand new MS a try.

Whitman slides by. They do well enough to stay off the radar, but not good enough to garner any recognition. Mediocrity at it's best.

Hamilton slides by too.

Meany was a very low performer but has been making some strides as of late, but was under enrolled, so now the District is closing the school.

McClure performs below average, although I hear they have a strong Spectrum program. The school has had trouble attracting the families that live in it's neighborhood.

Denny doesn't do well. They perform well below the district average, with a 34% pass rate on the math WASL.

I don't know enough about the regular ed program at Washington, but haven't heard anything particularly appealing about it. Perhaps Charlie or another contributor can speak on the Washington gen ed program?

AS1....well who knows how they are doing? Nothing to measure them by.

I'm sure I'm missing some schools, but these are the ones that come to mind.

Nothing impressive.

Elementary and HS seem to be in better shape. We seem to at least have some stand outs and high performers that are somewhat accessible.
anonymous said…
Oh and how could I forget AKI... The most notoriously unpopular school in the district. And the lowest step 5 of NCLB.
TechyMom said…
I just toured TOPS, and I have to say, it compares quite well the private schools I've toured so far. Language program isn't as strong as Epiphany, but is in better than St. Therese and similar to Bertchi. They use Everyday Math with no supplement, and the class sizes are twice as big as the private schools, but otherwise, they stack up quite well. So, congratulations to the staff at TOPS. Well done.

Now, why is there only one school like that in the district? Why are there only half as many places as applicants?
Maureen said…
Techy Mom, individual teachers do supplement Everyday Math at TOPS. For example, in 4th grade they do a whole system of worksheets with weekly testing to make sure all of the kids are fluent in their multiplication and division facts. I'm not sure why the principal said that today--maybe she just meant that they don't supplement with Singapore?
TechyMom said…
I don't know. The question was about supplementing in general, and the example given was Rocket Math. Anyway, that's good to know.
Janis said…
Techy Mom --

I have a second grader at TOPS and his teacher also supplements. They have weekly testing on addition facts.
hschinske said…
Probably the principal meant that there was no formal, school-wide supplemental curriculum being used. I can't offhand think of a single elementary school teacher my children have had who didn't use supplemental materials in math.

Helen Schinske
TechyMom said…
Good to know. In that case, TOPS is comparable to the private schools except for class size. Each school has it's strengths, and TOPS seems to be about in the middle of the pack when compared with central area private schools, at least on the areas I'm interested in.

Now, why aren't there more schools like this?
Maureen said…
Beth, is it time to add a thread for tours/choosing a school?! Of course, given this year's deadline, it will be pushed off the front page long before the process is finished. Maybe it's better to wait.

Techy Mom Maybe there are other schools 'like this.' Lots of people seem to love Bryant and Whittier and Montlake and so on. You don't hear about them as much because everyone knows you have to live close to get in. Maybe more people talk about (and apply for) TOPS because thousands of kids have at least a theoretical access to it. Of course this applicant pool also allows TOPS to create a more diverse community than the average neighborhood school and, as you pointed out earlier, lots of people have diversity somewhere on their list of preferences. I think TOPS is a really special school--but I have virtually no other experience, so it's difficult to make a real comparison.
Dorothy Neville said…
We are eyeing the exit, but it is a plan put in place several years ago by my son. He is applying to an alternative program that accepts about a third its applicants. We will see. If he doesn't get in, who knows.

We already have exited a couple times. Once partly through kindergarten. As far as I can tell, that caused no monetary problems for the district as it was after the count date. He returned for first grade at a different school.

My son attended middle school part time and home-schooled part time. That worked out well for us. And I got lots of phone calls and emails from friends and friends of friends wanting more details. I know at least four families who pulled kids out from at least one class after talking to me. One family is now full time homeschooling two kids, one family is part-time homeschooling two and both told me I was instrumental in their decision and are very happy. So I guess you could say I have already helped others find the exits. Techymom is right, this level of chaos is not new or unusual.
Oh TechyMom,I asked that question - why isn't there another TOPS - to the principal...more than 10 years ago. The answer was, "Our staff is so special and crucial to the program,it can't be replicated." And indeed, it hasn't.

The district does not listen to what parents want. Hence, no other TOPS.
momster said…
adhoc, i was disappointed by your (literal) run-down of seattle middle schools - and wondered as i was reading how many of them you've been in, and when...

maybe you've been in all of them, and maybe recently - but i'd be curious as to how, on a tour? and then you reviewed some wasl scores? (and as of when, i'm wondering?)

you may not be one of them, but it seems that unless they're talking about the school their child is currently enrolled in, 90% of the people i hear talking about seattle schools - either specifically or in general - have nothing backing up their pronouncements except "conventional wisdom" - i.e., "I think it, therefore it is so" and they feel no qualms at all about spreading their "information" all over the place.

i wonder if it needs to be said any more times on this blog that wasl scores do not equal "quality" or "performance" - they come with the student and are far more highly correlated with poverty than they are or likely every will be with the caliber of the teaching or administration at a school (which i assume is what people are looking for when they look "quality" at any school).

so what most people are saying when they say "quality" "performance" is "gee, that school has a lot of kids who are poor, not white, and/or from the south end, and i'm just not comfortable with that and i'm not sure my child will be safe there" - which of course is perfectly ok to say and to feel (if not likely accurate) - it's just not ok to hide it under the cloak of "performance" or "quality".
beansa said…
adhoc -

I don't know if this helps or not, but on the OSPI Washington State Report Card page you can see AS1's WASL pass rates with the zeroes removed - you just have to look at the detail for each grade.

For example, for last year, the 7th
grade scores were:

Reading, 64.3% meeting standard

Math, 42.9 % meeting standard

Not the best in the district, but not the worst either. I don't know how these scores would be changed if every student took the WASL, I guess that remains to be seen. But for now it's the closest thing we have for a standardized measure for AS1.
anonymous said…
No momster I haven't been in every school, but I have been several, and talk with families across the district frequently. I also enjoy doing research and collecting data.

The info that I posted was largely based on the only school assessment info available to the public, the WASL. And, yes momster I agree with you that the WASL is a flawed and not very useful form of assessment None the less it's all we have. Any data that I posted is factual, and was taken directly from the Seattle Schools 2007 annual reports. You can find each schools annual report on the SPS website.

And of course I added my opinion when I felt that I knew enough to do so. So of course, take that for what it's worth.
BL said…
I'm heading toward the entrance, but have an eye on the exits.

Like TechyMom, I'm a Central Cluster parent with a preschooler starting kindergarten in the fall. (I was also at the TOPS tour yesterday.)

I went to public schools from K through MBA and have very strong feelings of support for public education. In elementary school, my classes had between 28 and 32 kids in them, and my teachers taught everything, including art and PE, so I'm not put-off by large class sizes like a lot of parents are.

Initially, I was excited at the notion of choice in the SPS enrollment process, but now I am completely turned off to it.

I live in the Stevens reference area, but outside the perimeter typically necessary for kindergarten enrollment. I'm pretty confident that I'll wind up with an assignment I'm pleased with, but I have also applied to one private school in my neighborhood.
seattle citizen said…
Ad hoc, I'm late to this thread, and haven't had a chance to review previous posts, but while "the WASL is all we have," it is not prudent to drink the koolaid and use this "tool" to analyze schools.

There are SO MANY variables in WASL scores, and there is SO MUCH that goes on in a school that isn't reported via WASL. So while the feds and the state and the district might find that "the WASL is all we have," we citizens could and should look beyond these scores
momster said…
adhoc, thanks for your response.

it would be very helpful if, when you and others "grade" schools as you have, you include caveats to indicate what empirical data you're working from (e.g., 2007 wasl scores; visited a few in 2006 on tours; talk to other parents occasionally).

note - the wasl was given again in 2008 and, while not available on the sps website, is available on ospi's. it may be largely the same for a school, but you should at least check.

and note - even if one decides to rely only on the wasl (and note - i'm not a wasl hater - only a despairer of the way it's abused as a measure of 'quality' and 'performance'), at least use the disaggregated numbers - e.g., kids who've been in the school and/or district 2 years vs not (which is a better measure of the teaching going on there - as is the difference between last year's 3rd grade and this year's 4th grade - the same cohort.)

people like adhoc who speak seemingly authoritatively on schools sadly have a large influence on people who assume they know exactly what they're talking about - and adhoc, while you have real life experiences and some information, you don't seem to have all of the information you would need in order to opine on schools as you have.

just tell us what you know, please. that will be enough.
momster said…
denise gonzalez-walker, too, if you're out there - if you're going to speak authoritatively (and as a former pi blogger, people are going to assume you know something about seattle schools), give us specifics, please - not wholesale damnations of an entire category of schools with not much more than insinuation, i.e., "if this is the 'best' seattle schools has to offer..."

i'm not asking people to be cheerleaders - i'm just asking them to 1) have data, 2) say what it is, and 3) be specific about which school you're talking about and why.
I'm midway through a very hectic work week, so apologies for not obsessively checking in (too bad we don't get paid to blog!).

Last year, I toured Whitman and McClure. Whitman is our reference school, and McClure attracted me due to its smaller size. I probably glanced at WASL scores, but they don't carry much weight with me.

At the time, I blogged about my McClure tour over on my PI blog:

Honestly, the very visible differences and literal separation between the mostly white Spectrum kids, mostly minority regular ed kids, and totally minority special ed classes freaked me out.

As a kid (a smart kid, at that), I attended very diverse (30% white, 30% black, 30% native american) schools, where we were all mixed together in classes. I'd love for my son to have a similar social experience in middle school, yet McClure looked very stratified.

On to Whitman, which I didn't blog about at the time. My group's tour guide there was a mom who breezed us through the tour without providing much detail. Like AdHoc, I'd heard that Whitman is solidly mediocre, and on my tour, I didn't see anything that proved otherwise. Whitman was big, too--both the school as a whole and the class sizes--and if you have a kid who might easily fall through the cracks, that's concerning.

Shortly after my Whitman tour, a student from that school was shot at Northgate in a possibly gang-related event:, which gave me pause, as well. Let's face it, the district is pretty opaque on the school security front.

More globally, my son is interested in a science-based career, which means he'll need a strong math and science foundation. Middle school parents, you tell me, will the middle school curriculum alone provide this?

If we're going to be spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on tutoring in middle school to provide this, why not just go to a school that offers it to begin with?

Middle school is not just about academics, either. It's a tough stage for kids, when many begin to mentally check out of school. There's loads of research out there about the importance of kids having strong connections to peers and teachers in middle school, in addition to strong family support at home. I didn't hear a single reference to this during my public school tours. Private schools, on the other hand, address this issue head-on.

I'm blogging here primarily as a parent who has a keen interest in our schools, just as I did over on the PI. I write about things as I see them, and keep an open mind.

My comment about Seattle's middle schools was certainly not a "wholesale damnation"--from my earlier comment, you would know that we are looking at several Seattle middle schools this year. Indeed, there are some great middle school options in Seattle--TOPS and Eckstein (if you don't mind a huge school) come to mind.
anonymous said…
momster, I would not insult the intelligence of the families that read this blog by saying that my opinion would influence them in any way. I find the majority of contributors to be very intelligent well informed people, who make their own decisions, and come to their own opinions.

I think I have clearly stated that I used 2007 WASL scores, along with some personal experience, and my own opinion. As I said - take it for what it's worth. I am no authority, and nobody should use my opinion in place of their own research. This blog is a place where we can share opinions. We can share data. It seems to work well for the most part. I used the data that was available to me, and data that I had time to quickly research. If you want disaggregated numbers please feel free to do your own research and share the results with us. I'm very interested and always try to learn as much as I can about our district and the schools. If you want to use something other than the WASL as a form of measurement or to base your opinon on, that too would be great. Please share.

Challenge me on anything that I post. I am up for that. But don't just rag on me. I don't work here, and you are not my supervisor.
momster said…
denise, thanks for your information and for taking the time to post it.

it's a lot more helpful to me (and probably others) than what you wrote earlier, which i'm sorry to disagree with you when i say that the way it was written was a pretty wholesale denunciation of all of seattle's middle schools - especially now knowing that it was largely based on two schools.

one other thought - people drop in here all the time, and may not have the advantage of knowing your whole body of work or comments on a particular subject, such as favorable comments you've made on specific schools in the past. i'm not saying you should recap everything each time you write - only to think about what you're writing being taken without any other context.

as a poster (vs just a commenter), you're an opinion leader just as mel, charlie and beth are - and i personally think that brings with it a greater responsibility than the average commenter has (though i have high hopes for them, too).

one other note - i'm not sure what northgate mall has to do with whitman - or mcclure? maybe you're saying that kids who look sort of scary during tours tend to be gang members who would be doing these shootings? (perhaps not untrue - but i just wanted to be sure i understood.)

from personal experience, i hope you visit salmon bay, because it seems to have many of the things you're looking for (including express acknowledgement of the 1)criticality of social connections during middle school, and 2) the need for parents to not step back during this time in their kids' lives, but 'step closer')

adhoc asserted that it's extremely difficult to get into, but based on the enrolled vs first choices for 2008 (i think the pi has that on line if the district doesn't), it looked like about 50% probability - though some of those are siblings and thornton creek, so it might be somewhat less for 2008 (but greater in 2009 if tc doesn't have a preference?)

adhoc was also mistaken when s/he said it has fewer than 300 students in middle school - it's about 360.

adhoc - sorry you see it as ragging - it was in fact a challenge to post - specifically to the validity of your characterizations within it.

when i make an assertion about a school or schools, i promise to provide the data and personal experience behind it - but i was not actually making any assertions about school or schools - only questioning your methods and requesting that you provide the reasoning behind them.

and just for the sake of factual clarity, you did not in your 1/13 10:28 comment disclose that your definition of school 'performance' was 2007 wasl scores.
anonymous said…
Just FYI momster, my child went to Salmon Bay for 6th grade. I know the school fairly well. Here are a few facts about enrollment for Salmon Bay at 6th grade.

They offer 120 seats for 6th grade. Fifty five of those seats are taken by Salmon Bay 5th graders rising to 6th grade. That leaves 65 seats remaining. Of the 65 seats about 15-20 historically go to TC rising 5th graders (and no, that probably won't change as momster suggested since TC will remain a k-5) so that leaves 35-40 seats open to the public. Salmon Bay receives about 130 applications for enrollment, which means that they can only take about 1/3 of the students that apply.

Salmon Bay is one of the most difficult schools in the District to get into. Not many, if any???, other schools in this District have such low odds of getting in, with the exception of course of TOPS (for 6th grade).

Thanks for the Challenge momster, Challenges I can work with!
anonymous said…
And yes, momster you are right, I said they had about 300 students, and they actually have 360 or so.

My point was, and still remains that they are not a comprehensive middle school. The number 300 vs 360 does not change that, though for the sake of clarity, I should have been exact.

Salmon Bay is not able to offer advanced math up to INT II or III. Kids do not have access to a strong band program, though they do have a small band. They do not offer any foreign language, though they do have a foreign language sampler class. They do not offer any honors classes or Spectrum.

What they do offer is a smaller, intimate, school experience which is very important and valuable to many people.

That was my only point in the post on Salmon Bay momster. You have to pick and choose. If you want the small school experience then you have to give up some of the things that you get with a larger comprehensive HS, whether you have 300 or 360 kids.
Dorothy Neville said…
Not to be too picky, but my friend's child was 149 on the waiting list for Salmon Bay 6th grade, four years ago. A little bit worse than 130 applicants for 50 spots. (and I believe her number never moved.)

And every year or so there's movement afoot to stop or decrease the TC access and/or transportation. So far that change has been avoided.
momster said…
here is/are just about all the data you could want on first choices, assignments and waitlists - by school and by year - back to 2004.

i can't vouch for it because i didn't prepare it - and i wonder about it a little because dorothy said her friend was 149th on the waitlist for sb 4 years ago and this says there were only 145 total on the waitlist in 2004.

i'm also confused because it says there were 164 first choices for sb 6th grade last fall, and 82 assigned. because the 6th grade class is 120, there must be some specific definition for 'assigned' which maybe doesn't include the sb 5th graders? so, does the first choices of 164 also not include the 5th graders? (82/164 was where i got 50% in an earlier comment)

re thornton creek - i wondered if those families might choose sb less and the new k-8 more, since it's probably closer for most of them - which would open up more spaces at sb.

i wonder if the decrease in first choices at sb 6th grade is people thinking 'oh, i'll never get in, so i won't make it first choice and i don't want to lose my chance to get into my 2nd or 3rd choice school' - which as discussed elsewhere on this blog is a myth...
anonymous said…
Again, Salmon Bay offers 120 seats at 6th grade. After the 55 5th grade Salmon Bay students are accommodated and the 15-20 TC students (this number changes slightly from year to year but is generally between 15-20) there are only about 45 seats open to the public. If their WL is up to 149 that means that only slightly more than 1 in 4 of the students that apply get in, making the odds of getting in even worse.

I don't believe there is any other MS in seattle with worse odds of getting in than Salmon Bay, except TOPS. TOPS gets between 50-60 applicants for 2 to 6 sixth grade spots making their odds less than 1 in 10 of getting in.
anonymous said…
I should add that Eckstein and Washington, the only other schools that get very large waiting lists use the distance tie breaker, unlike Salmon Bay and TOPS who are multi cluster (TOPS) and all city draw (Salmon Bay MS). So if you live in the reference area of Eckstein or Washington you have a good chance of getting in, if you don't it's a long shot. Almost every other MS in the District has plenty of openings.
TechyMom said…
"Eckstein and Washington, the only other schools that get very large waiting lists use the distance tie breaker"
Can someone remind me again why we're closing the only other middle school near Washington?
(rhetorical question)
h2o girl said…
We 'won the lottery' and got into Salmon Bay for 6th grade this year. (Went to Whittier for elementary.) I seem to recall the principal telling us on the tour last year that there are only 40 5th graders from Salmon Bay moving up, meaning 80 spots were available. (Hmm, just checked on the SPS website and indeed, there are only 41 fifth graders enrolled at SB this year.) So there are 80 open spots in the 6th grade every year, it seems. Not sure how many kids from Thornton Creek actually come over? Sorry for splitting hairs but we are proof that yes, you can get in to the middle school at Salmon Bay. There were 6 kids from Whittier this year, although only 2 last year.

I totally agree with Momster here:
"from personal experience, i hope you visit salmon bay, because it seems to have many of the things you're looking for (including express acknowledgement of the 1)criticality of social connections during middle school, and 2) the need for parents to not step back during this time in their kids' lives, but 'step closer')"

Salmon Bay is the best fit for my kid - she is bright, (was on the waiting list for Spectrum the entire time she was at Whittier, but that's another post) enthusiastic, friendly to everyone, and honestly a bit odd and goofy. Middle school is such a crucial time socially and emotionally and so far she is excited to go to school every morning and says things like "I love my school!" I mean what more can you ask for. She's in the band, the first concert is next week, where I'll be able to evaluate the quality of the program. :o)

As far as eyeing the exits, I really want her to go to the Center School for high school, and am very nervous about its future. The rumors about the Ballard High northern boundary being the north edge of the school building are also disheartening. Will have to look closely at the Ingraham IB program, although her father went to Ingraham and swears he won't let her go there.
momster said…
h20 girl, there was one other boy from our elem who was something like 12 on the waitlist near the end of summer, and got into salmon bay.

we are over the moon with sb for our 6th grader. he's bright but not super strong in math, and i thought he might fly under the radar in a bigger school - so put sb first, eckstein second, hamilton third - and really would have been ok with any of them, for different reasons.

at sb (in case anyone else is still reading):

1) they had student-led parent teacher conferences where home-room teacher helped compile work from all of his other classes

2) i emailed his hr teacher when he laughingly told me about a slapping fight between two of his friends (girls), asking if she knew about it and how they handled it - she got right on it, talked to the girls, referred it to asst principal - and best of all, handled it more as a 'teachable moment' ('they're good kids - they're just still trying to figure it all out', she said) than a disciplinary situation

3) once weekly in hr students have to review the source with parents, including missing assignments, etc - and parents sign off

4) all teachers (at least 6th grade anyway) use the source - meaningfully, not superficially - all assignments and grades are posted

5) i know the teachers are busy and so i email sparingly - and they always answer within 24 hours if not faster

and i could go on. the teachers are more attentive and responsive than his elementary school was - and i fully expected the reverse (and did not have a problem with it).

pretty unbelievable.
Thank you, Momster, for sharing your perspective on Salmon Bay. The school is definitely on our short list.
Danny K said…
As the parent of a WMS APP student:
I haven't heard much, good or bad, about Hamilton Middle School, and I couldn't find much on the web either. My kid says it's got a bad reputation among his peer group (all of whom are proud Junior Huskies at WMS!), for whatever that's worth. The new building is supposed to be nice.

I haven't heard anything yet about how the principal at Hamilton feels about this whole business, or whether many APP teachers will be moving from WMS to Hamilton. They've committed to building up the Hamilton music program and making music class part of the school day.

I haven't heard anything about math classes at Hamilton, but there was speculation at the big meeting in December that the few kids in each APP middle school who are doing advanced math might be bused to the nearest high school, since there probably wouldn't be enough of them to make up a whole class. I don't believe Hamilton has a math club.

So, since my kid lives for music and math and math competitions are really important to him... what do I do? I'm keeping my options open for now. As a former "gifted kid", I can remember clearly what it meant to be in a school where my abilities weren't respected or fostered, and I won't put him in that situation. I hope enough information is forthcoming soon that we can make a sensible choice about his next year of school.
hschinske said…
Danny, I don't know if anyone besides me is keeping up with this thread any longer, but here's what I figure: getting a quorum for a math club shouldn't be all that difficult. That's not dependent on the few students who currently qualify for Int 1-3 in middle school.

I have always gotten the feeling that many students in the "regular" two-years-ahead sequence were frustrated by the slow pace of Int 3 in high school and found it to be largely a repeat of Int 2 as taught by Pounder. Also, at one time the district was proposing Spectrum and APP math standards for elementary that would have prepared most APP students for Int 1 in sixth grade. I thought that was a stretch, but my sense is that roughly twice as many kids *could* take Int 1 in sixth grade as currently do. The mysterious slowdown of math in Lowell's fourth and fifth grades (the sixth-grade CMP materials being stretched over two years) has always puzzled me.

Mr. Pounder has in the past allowed some students to transfer from Int 1 to Int 2 at midyear in order to prepare them to start Int 3 the following fall. Also, one of the standard math classes at Garfield is a "catch-up" math class that is Int 1 and Int 2 in one year, taken by a variety of students who are fairly serious about math achievement and haven't previously had the opportunity for advanced math. I suspect such a combination class could work well in middle school, too. Eventually the presence of APP ought to draw non-APP-qualified "mathy" kids to Hamilton, further swelling the ranks (and there may be some there already, of course).

I should mention that I don't by any means think that *all* APP students should be striving for acceleration in math at all costs. (In fact, some should -- and do -- drop back a year on entering middle school.) If it looked like involving significantly more work, I wouldn't suggest it -- only if students would be doing *more meaningful* work for the level they're really at.

On Harium Martin-Morris's blog it was pointed out to me that busing over to the high school is not a great option for schools as far apart as Hamilton and Roosevelt (even Washington and Garfield, only 0.7 miles apart, are still a little far for this to work well, though they have done it in the past).

They will certainly be moving APP teachers. While there is only one of Mr. Pounder, my daughter tells me that Mr. Buchanan (for one) is an extremely able teacher who probably doesn't get the admiration he deserves, being in the shadow of Mr. Pounder's somewhat larger-than-life personality. I think he would be one good choice as department head.

Is your son in band or orchestra? I get the impression that Dan Rowe's more of a band guy, but I don't know that much about him. I don't get the impression that Ms. Fortune-Gobo would get moved north, not so soon after Mr. Knatt's retirement, and if they already have a guy who's good at band, they're not going to move Mr. Knatt's successor, either. (I apologize for forgetting her name.)

Helen Schinske

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