Work Session Notes, Part Two

Mary Bass:
  • She asked about advanced learning and Tracy said that they are trying to expand the number of students working at a higher level.
  • She asked about Rainier View Elementary which currently has a private school program. Tracy said it was short-term so the district could reclaim it (as it is doing).
  • She mentioned that schools like SBOC, Interagency, etc. are not on the map. Tracy said that is because they are not schools that can be assigned under the regular system and students flow in and out throughout the year.
  • Mary asked about money on the Operations side (I didn't get this question) but Tracy said with enrollment climbing, there are more revenues coming in.
  • Mary mentioned Madrona's request to be an Option school and thought it lacked the pedagogy to be one. Tracy looked at Dr. Goodloe-Johnson before answering. Then she said it was unclear about alternatives and their meaning. She said the label of Option means lack of attendance boundaries and no direct assignment. (My read is DANGER Will Robinson. I did not like this answer about being unclear what alternatives are. I might be reading too much into it but I would worry.) Michael opined that the Board has to decide on these labels.
  • She asked about Pre-K schools and assignment. Tracy said there are only 2 and at South Shore you get in at Pre-K. The other is Graham Hill which is an attendance area school. She said the Montessori part of GH has and the tiebreakers there are attendance area and lottery.
  • Tracy pointed out that the current plan has a problem with Spectrum using sibling as a tiebreaker which gives some Spectrum kids an "in" to a school (given the district's stubborn refusal to have enough seats for students). She said that would be corrected in this plan so I guess no use of sibling tiebreaker if you are trying for a Spectrum seat.
  • He asked about SBOC. He was told by staff that the design team is in the process of working on this and it will take a year to get recommendations to Dr. G-J. Harium said he got that but are they accounted for in the plan after they leave SBOC? Tracy said they believed they had.
  • Harium expressed concern over our relationship with Metro. Oddly, neither Tom Bishop or Amnon McWashington, either who could address this issue, were around. He was worried about students waiting anywhere near Aurora and in areas around Franklin and Cleveland.
  • He expressed concernt that there is no pathway middle school for Thorton Creek our only Option K-5 (until Old Hay opens). (I think Thorton Creek should fight for this one.)
  • He asked for a visual reproduction of the growth to 2015. He said that he didn't want to create work but that it was hard to relate to people without a visual.

  • He asked lots of questions about geography. He clearly knows his district in terms of the lay of the land.
  • He asked about if there were Spectrum at Madison (which is a major victory), then they need it at an elementary in WS-South. Tracy said the transition plan would outline what would be available when.
  • He asked a very key question (to me) about the money for reopening the closed buildings. The slide says the money would come from "the proposed BTA III levy and/or other sources." I take that to mean they aren't sure how much money they need to reopen these buildings. Kathy Johnson from Facilities said some might be eligible for state funding and that they could take surplus equipment from other closed buildings and put into the reopened ones.
  • He asked about grandfathering siblings and Tracy said that was part of the transition plan. She said some schools might have capacity to take them but it was unknown right now.
  • He asked about kids from the Rainier Valley going to Chief Sealth but that the bus routes were difficult. Tracy said she thought that Metro was pushing light rail and had changed some routes.


Charlie Mas said…
Very nice job, Mel!

I'm surprised that Dr. Libros didn't mention the program at West Seattle Elementary in response to Director Sundquist's question about elementary Spectrum in the south end of West Seattle. Is this an acknowledgement that the program there isn't working well.

Cheryl does know how it works, so I'm not surprised that she didn't ask about the lack of an elementary Spectrum school in the Mercer service area.
Renee said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said…
"He expressed concernt that there is no pathway middle school for Thorton Creek our only Option K-5 (until Old Hay opens). (I think Thorton Creek should fight for this one.)"

This is interesting. TC will be drawing kids that live within several different neighborhood elementary school boundaries. So, should kids that graduate from TC have a feeder MS? Or should they be assigned to the MS that is attached to their home address? I'm not sure about this one, I could go either way.
kellie said…
I think the definition of Alt schools is going to be a big sticking point for this plan. Simply saying that an alt or option school is just a school without an attendance area really doesn't work for this big of a plan change.

This new assignment plan is a great opportunity to make the language immersion and montessori programs true lottery programs so that all families can all have an equal shot at these truly unique programs.

Doing this will also create a model for opening new schools. By making new schools optional schools, you don't need to change so many boundaries every time you open a school. There is one proposed new elementary for 5 separate zones. Most of these schools had been previously closed because they were geographically proximate to another elementary. Reopening them creates some extensive changes in the local reference areas.

However, if Old Hay, Rainier View, Viewlands, Sand Point all opened as language immersion schools with a straight lottery to get in, this would create equal access and the boundaries would not move so much. Macdonald could become the new reference school for Latona and JSIS could become lottery.

This really just acknowledges what these school already are - alternative options.

The district has said in the past they couldn't do this because these schools were so labor intensive but opening 5 schools is going to be labor intensive no matter what. This way they would be opening 5 of the same type of schools and they would be doing it one grade at a time. If you open a new attendance area school, you need to be prepared for all grade levels.
seattle citizen said…
The definitions of Option Schools and Alternative schools could be made to closely resemble, if not exactly meet, "requirements" for charter schools as seem to be required under current and upcoming NCLB "Race for the Top" onuses (oni?)
Many of what we consider to be alternative schools in Seattle (particularly those that echo the Checklist developed by the District's Alt Ed Committee - see its Report of June, 2007) are already, in effect, "charter schools": They began with parent/district collaboration or initiative; they are community supported; they follow pedagogies that are often markedly different than those followed in more "mainstream" programs...

A "charter" as people have come to understand it (people meaning the general population nationwide) is what our alternative schools(and, increasingly, our other programs, such as Montessori, STEM, International Schools...)already are: a choice for students/parents who would like to do something different, something specialized to meet a student's need, and supported by some part of the commnity which works a deal with the responsible district to meet certain goals...

Specialized option schools, alternatives, are charters already.

A new definition of either/both could provide new impetus for choices while meeting the spirit of national law and national mood regarding these choices.

Start with Policy C56.00 and the Policy supporting program creation cited by Charlie (I forget which on...D4200?) and from their create the framework to support these interesting and effective "option" schools, lottery schools probably, and advertise the success far and wide. Including to Arne Duncan and President Obama.
GreyWatch said…
Couldn't agree more with Kellie. Having a language immersion school as your neighborhood school may be the golden ticket for some kids, but it isn't a great fit for all kids. With the distance tiebreaker and cluster system gone, families in these zones have to trust their luck on the lottery if they want to attend a nearby traditional school.

The option designation makes sense as people do move in and out of neighborhoods, cities, states. If you move to Wallingford or Beacon Hill when your kids are in grades 2 and 4, JSIS or BH aren't options unless you have time for some serious catch-up with your kids in the summer, or hope trust your luck in the lottery.

Yes, these schools are popular, and I understand why the district wants more of them. But please acknowledge them for what they are -- non-traditional alternatives.
Bird said…
JSIS or BH aren't options unless you have time for some serious catch-up with your kids in the summer, or hope trust your luck in the lottery.

Acutally, the district is guaranteeing admission to a nearby "linked" school if you feel immersion is not the school for you.

That's not to say that it doesn't make more sense for immersion to be an option school
zb said…
I also think language immersion would be popular in N. But, opening 5 language immersion schools in an area of town that is already well served by good schools isn't really going to happen.

It does seem, however, that moving to the model of making more "non-standard" programs option programs would be a useful way of increasing capacity, rather than using only the opening of new schools for that purpose. So, JSIS International, Montessori, other programs become option programs, and any newly open schools get attendance areas.

I'm presuming they're not doing that because of capacity issues. But, for example, it seems conceivable to move the JSIS international program to Jane Addams. Then give JSIS boundaries, like other attendance area schools. Add a significant language component to the middle school (not immersion, since the kids won't be ready for that, but give them language, and make space for the new immersion kids to continue their language at the same school. That'd help fill Jane Addams, potentially relieve pressure on both Eckstein & Hamilton.
reader said…
Did anyone hear the presentation about special education tonight and any board questions?
Anonymous said…
Seattle Citizen, I think that you are right on target about alternative/optional schools and how they are presented to Arne Duncan to receive Race to the Top funds.

One interesting note, I was in the meeting on Tuesday at Garfield High School where Ron McGlone with SPS was introducing the basic concept of the assignment plan. I asked him if the alternative schools were being affected by this new plan and he went on to describe all of the schools as "optional schools" and listed eleven schools that they term "optional schools". All of the alternative schools were included on his list and he said that "no", they would not be affected by this plan.

The outline on alternative schools is clearly set out by SPS themselves with the C54 policy and then broken down into more detail by the Alternative Education Committee's Final Report dated June 30, 2005. If it's not clear to our superintendent what an alternative school is, she needs to look no further than those documents.

There has been a lot of discussion about the terms "alternative" versus "optional" and I am not clear myself as to why we are having that discussion or what the motivation is behind it.

It is apparent that certain employees at SPS seem to be clear on what "optional" means.
Anonymous said…
The C54 document can be viewed at

The Alternative Education Committee Final Report can be viewed at
adhoc said…
Looking at the charts Eckstein goes from their current 14% FRE up to 25%. Meanwhile Hamilton is going from 58% FRE down to 12%.

As I predicted there are some big changes in demographics in the north.

Eckstein seems like a manageable and reasonable increase, at 25%. However Hamilton's demographic change is tremendous. From 58% FRE to 12%! They added APP, plus some affluent neighborhoods like Laurelhurst, Windermere, and south Bryant to their draw, and at the same time cut out south end transportation.

adhoc said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said…
There are also other big changes in demographics in north end high schools.

Hale's FRE rate will increases from 20% to 28%, while Roosevelt's FRE will decreases from 19% to 13%. That means Hale will have 28% FRE while Roosevelt will have 13% FRE.

Ingraham drops from 53% FRE to 39%, and Ballard drops from 26% FRE to 17%. That means Ingraham will have 39% FRE while Ballard has 17%.

It's all very interesting.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm using the feedback on the district web site to ask for immersion programs and Montessori programs to be treated as option schools.

I'm also using it to ask about program placement for Spectrum in the Denny and Mercer service areas and for a north-end location for north-end elementary APP.
Shannon said…
Thanks Charlie!
Sue said…
I saw that too AdHoc. I suppose that is what will happen when you put all of a relatively affluent neighborhood in to Ballard High School. But I forget, we wouldn't want to split up Queen Anne and Magnolia to Ballard, Garfield and Franklin, now would we?

Hale will be interesting to watch as well - to see if they have to change their current somewhat alternative style.
Central Mom said…
Charlie, I'll take the same feedback action on feedback for immersion and Montessori schools. But if this is a topic that interests others out there, you'll have to add A LOT of voices.

You'll remember that board members did discuss this lightly before and they (including Harium)decided that because of staff worries about places-for-bodies-in-seats concerns, and also the idea that most middle school service areas would eventually get these programs, the board appeared OK w/ leaving Mont and Immersion as standard schools.

That thought process still seems extremely backward to me, both in terms of alternative pedagogies and in terms of program access and equity. And there is still time to change it for the SAP.

Make them alt schools, give them small geographic zones for nearby neighbors, and open these facilities to those in the wider area keenly interested in the programs.
seattleparent said…
Could you say a little more about being unclear about what alternatives were? Did you mean tracy was unclear about what alternatves were? How can that be?
My read is that the district, via Dr. G-J, is transitioning the whole idea of an alternative. You might recall that she came here believing (at least from her words) that alternatives were all reentry (and they may have been in her former district). I'm not sure she buys into the idea of our alternatives even though they have a lot of charter aspects which you might think would help our state's argument for federal money.

So, I'm not surprised that, under a new SAP, we might have some new nomenclature. What is worrying is that I'm have to wonder what alternatives may or may not survive the transition. I might be making too big a deal of it but I just have a general unease about what Dr. G-J thinks of alternatives. I think if the Montessori/language immersions were in attendance areas that she would call them Options.

I just don't know but it certainly is something to keep on your radar.
Charlie Mas said…
It's interesting to me that the Board didn't ask about how the new Plan is worse for highly mobile families.

The plan is worse for highly mobile families because, if they move from one attendance area to another, the new plan requires their children to change schools at the end of the school year. The current plan is much kinder to them by allowing the students to remain at their current school through the highest grade available. The new plan requires transitions when the old plan did not. The new plan is much WORSE for highly mobile families - despite the fact that the Framework (from the previous Board) directed the staff to develop a plan that would accomodate highly mobile families and allow their children to remain in their school.
Megan Mc said…
How will they handle transportation during the overlap years? Will they continue to provide busses to students outside of their attendance school?

Do they have a plan to phase out transportation after next year's Kindergartners finish 5th grade? What about kids at a K-8?

How will transportation work for options schools that are full?
Roy Smith said…
The plan is worse for highly mobile families because, if they move from one attendance area to another, the new plan requires their children to change schools at the end of the school year.

Which, incidentally, is the way that most school districts that have neighborhood schools do it.

I think we can file the demand for neighborhood schools in the "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" category. It's very tricky to demand all the good aspects of a neighborhood school system, yet try to say "no, we don't want the negatives that come with such a system".

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