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Friday, January 23, 2009

CPPS statement to the school board regarding closure decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 comments:

Syd said...

Is it normal to get no reply for emails sent to the superintendent and board members? I wrote on Tuesday, and I did not even get an email saying they received the feedback.

Josh Hayes said...

I sent an email today to all the board members and got one auto-reply from Mary Bass saying she was out of the office.

Hmm.

At the same time, I have to think they're all completely swamped with emails and phone calls and all that happy stuff. In times past, I've gotten pretty good response from Board members (eventually), and pretty horrible response from the Supe. YMMV.

Sahila said...

I dont know where else to post this... but this is what I'm doing and I invite other parents/school communities to join me in this...

I'm appalled and sickened at the fact that the Board hasnt already stopped this approaching trainwreck and said no to the entire proposal...

The community feedback and the dissection of the data provided by MGJ and the District has clearly demonstrated that this plan is flawed and damaging, while it does nothing to 'fix' the capacity problems or save money.

The District is willing to turn its back on its own policy, on contracts with stakeholders and on legal requirements to make this plan happen...

It seems to me that in the event that the Board will choose to support the Superintendent rather than listen to its constituents, we no longer have any recourse other than a legal challenge....

Remembering that I am new to the US/Seattle/SPS and dont have a great deal of access to institutional history/memory...

I've been researching the legal aspects in terms of the position of alternative/non-traditional schools and programmes and have referrals to Jim Rosenfeld at SU and to Charlotte Cassady (in private practice)...

I understand that UW's school of education also has a department that specialises in education/legal issues...

I am making calls on Monday to each of these individuals/departments, asking whether they will undertake an analysis of the legal situation, and if there is a determination that there is a legal case to answer, whether they would take this case on...

I dont have any money - I am hoping that in the absence of funding, one or other of the SU and UW faculties will take this on as a live exercise for their senior students...

I'm taking this on myself, as a parent at AS#1 and I invite any other parent/school community to join with me in this.. Input and helpful information, including historical data and suggestions/pointers to other avenues of action would be most appreciated...

You can reach me at 206 297 7511 or at metamindunderscoreuniversal atyahoodotcom...

Sahila ChangeBringer

uxolo said...

from Kate Martin's powerful testimony Jan 21,

"I have a simple and extremely important request and that is this:
SPS must connect with the rest of this city. Stop being a silo. You alone are making this a childless town. We need continuity here, not people partying here until they're 30 and then moving to a better school district. We need the roots of youth to sink deep and wide. We can't have that when we're failing half the kids and that failure is sending half of all black men to jail. As The Child Friendly Cities Initiative says " the well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and of good governance" We need strong neighborhoods with healthy human habitat for all. That includes successful schools that anchor the neighborhood and we need them in walking distance. You are working in direct conflict with all other growth management and comp plan policies for environment, transportation, and others with your consolidation program."

owlhouse said...

FEET IN THE STREET.
Please help us send the message- not just to the district, but to the city.

March and Rally to Stop closures AND Support Schools

Sunday, January 25, 2pm @ TT Minor School, 1700 E Union
March to Garfield Community Center, 2323 E Cherry
Rally 2:30-5pm. Come anytime!

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

Sponsored by ESP Vision
http://soseattle.blogspot.com/

Beth Bakeman said...

Stephanie, which decisions does CPPS mean exactly when you ask the district to "...defer those decisions that require more study, more community input and that will not yield community improvements or have not been fully developed"?

Is the District supposed to read between the lines and guess which ones you mean? Or do you detail them in your communication with the Board and staff but just not want to publish them on this blog?

Stephanie Jones said...

CPPS is trying very hard (and it has been excruciating for some of us) to not take the bait and suggest specific moves, closures, etc. We believe very strongly, and have told the board members so, that it is not the job of parents to pick and choose closure or re-purposing recommendations. It's divisive, and it is not our expertise.

Instead the board and district should be engaging parents in discussions about the strengths and challenges in their schools and communities and working with them to make appropriate changes and improvements. That would be true community engagement.

Unfortunately, the sky is always falling and there is never time, according to our leaders. That is frankly wrong-headed and CPPS will be working hard to change that dynamic in the future by bringing the schools, communities, board members, etc. together more regularly and purposefully.

That said, it is clear that most of the recommendations in the current proposal are about more than simply closing a building and dispersing or moving its student and family population. I believe that more complex decisions related to redesigning programs should not be attempted in such a short time frame, and our letter attempts to remind the board members of that, to challenge them to put their panic mentality aside (remember the total year one savings is pretty non-existent), and get them to offer a plan that telegraphs what they intend to do while allowing themselves and the district appropriate time to do it.

To be clear, we DO NOT want to go through this process again next year! But the board COULD make its decisions now, and allow more time for some of the planning and implementation, and it should.

Beth Bakeman said...

Thanks, Stephanie. That clarification is helpful.