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Saturday, November 06, 2010

A Couple of Quick Thoughts (Based on Reading Some Comments)

I would like to believe that the district wants to effectively and in a timely fashion communicate information to parents. Is that what they do? No.

I actually don't know whose duty it is write what shows up on the webpage. I don't know whose duty it is to put up the information on the website. Are they told "Get this up ASAP, parents need to get this information quickly." (I have the smile when I write that - who am I kidding?)

Like the Superintendent, I think most of the people who work in Communications have the skills necessary for their jobs. But they get their direction from top and basically, they serve as public relations for the Superintendent. Not the district and certainly not the Board. (I've heard complaints from the Board about being able to get their own message out. What they might want to say might not always jive with what the district has to say.)

The Superintendent has completely taken over Communications and she decides what we hear and learn about our district. The message is in her control.

Which brings me to this comment:

I'd love to get involved. But what can we do, really? Isn't this a done deal?

This district is made of the people who work there, the children who attend the schools and the parents who choose to enroll their children in those schools AND support those schools.

So, yes there are things that can be done but they have to be done in a large group and loudly and repeatedly. Like shampoo - lather, rinse, repeat.

If you feel like your school's PTA or parent group feels your concern(s), band together and make a plan. Need help? I know Charlie and me and other activists are more than willing to help.

I say with great sadness that I don't think the Seattle Council PTSA is the place to go. I've tried over the years and it always seems like they are more interested in supporting the district's view than supporting the parents. I respect everyone there who work so hard (and they really do) but I have always wonder why parents never get the backing from the Seattle Council PTSA that you might expect for a parent group.

A done deal? The Board members are there for a limited time and elections for the majority are next fall. The Superintendent, well, she's a pretty ambitious person so I'm thinking once she gets TFA (and sees charter legislation on track), she will exit our district. The NSAP? Please. That's a work in progress and I'd say at this point the only thing that's a done deal on that is its a neighborhood plan.

We're voters, we're parents and we should flex some muscle. Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is.

27 comments:

mirmac1 said...

I a boycotting my school's PTSA this year (mainly because of the Seattle Council's overtly political shenanigans.)

Give us an alternative to the PTSA that recognizes there are some things more important than collecting box tops.

Bird said...

So this TFA thing has really tipped me over the edge.

I feel like the Board is more beholden to outside interests than to the parents and children in their district.

I've never gotten involved in politics beyond voting and donating money, but I'm ready to step up now.

I'm not up for running for office, but I am up for finding someone competent who can win in the upcoming Board elections and getting behind them.

I don't know what's already in the works backstage, but I'm looking to find out, and if there isn't some real opposition brewing, I'm up for recruiting some.

If anyone else feels likewise, send me a mail at tootsmurphy a t gmail.com, and we'll hook up.

StepJ said...

Last year there were quite a few boundary adjustments, and some changes to tie-breakers or enrollment rules because of input from parents.

It is worth a try.

Some ideas:

Contact your PTA and see if they will help by posting links and a story about the potential impacts of the transition plan to your school. Ask parents to attend a meeting or provide feedback via the District website.

PTA communication could be via the PTA website, PTA newsletter, bulletin board, e-mail to room parents or all of the above.

Spread the word through what I like to call the 'mom' network. There are list serves for most every corner of the city -- Green Lake Moms, Central Moms, Madrona Moms, etc.

There is also now a healthy network of community blogs such as The West Seattle Blog, myBallard, and the Queen Anne View.

In addition to opposing something outlined in this first draft of the Transition Plan, I encourage also clearly stating what you want to stay the same at your school -- the current boundaries, current programs, etc.

SolvayGirl said...

I have to agree with Melissa about the Seattle Council PTSA. A few years ago, when our school was having some serious issues with our principal, the Council did little to help us and hindered us in some ways. The PTA board felt betrayed. They definitely were on the side of the District and Admin.

StepJ said...

I'd also like to give an advance warning to those new to District fun and games that most everything will be presented in a manner to pit parent against parent.

Us parents need to stick together and not be sidetracked or expend our energies in argument against each other.

Your voices will carry more weight pooled together. Please be vigilant against the divide and conquer strategy that is likely to be used against you.

Remember the Etruscans.

Josh Hayes said...

I can't overemphasize the value of a coordinated, energized parent group at any particular school in promoting the concerns of that school.

The parents at AS1, for instance, have fended off, uh -- I've lost count now, what is it, four closure attempts in the past ten years? And now we're on the fifth? Anyway, we're tired of it, sure, but we're wearily picking up our swords and shields and getting ready to fight again.

I have to admit that the JSC's loathing for alternative education is probably too powerful to overcome this time, but we're going to try, the same way we did last time: going to the Board, since they have the ultimate say-so. But yeah, fighting for what you want may well not get it - but NOT fighting will SURE as hell not get it.

Unknown said...

Salmon Bay School has it's own parent group, and has always been outside the PTSA. It means we spend a bit more for our D&O insurance, but we don't have to adopt their bylaws, which has provisions that I always worry about. So we get to manage ourselves as we see fit, which works for us, or at least, it has up till now.

On the down side, there's no collective voice. We're on our own. That has limitations.

mirmac1 -- I hope that while you're boycotting the PTSA, you're still supporting your school to the extent you can. And I mean financially if its in your budget, or with time if its not.

mirmac1 said...

Yes Rosie, we pledged the walkathon, bought the Chinook books, still all that.

It's frustrating.

I'd like to talk to you more about the Salmon Bay organization offline if I could....

wsnorth said...

Josh, or anyone, I'm curious about this statement: "JSC's loathing for alternative education"

In the three years since I've gotten really involved in the district they seem to be bashing the crap out of the neighborhood schools (which is what woke me up) while the alt/option schools continue to get everything they want. Gut WSH, overload Garfield, tons of $$ for STEM, option schools keep their transportation and avoid closures. In West Seattle the move of our "alt" school (Pathfinder) - though I agree 100% it needed a new building - has caused massive chaos in our neighborhood schools. Similar in other neighborhoods? Orca? Jane Addams? Madrona?

It seems to me that alt/option schools are the darlings, and neighborhood schools are the downtrodden.

north seattle mom said...

wsnorth,

The alts took more than their fair share of damage in this process.

The previous year, Summit and AAA were closed and AS1 was restructured.

AS1 was threatened with closure and had its transportation reduced to about 25% of its previous range and told to double in size under that reduced transport.

And in the NSAP, the alt lost most of their transportation. TOPS went from 7 clusters to one service area for transportation.

Salmon Bay went from all city transport for middle school to two service areas and as a result for the first time ever did not fill the middle school and took additional budget cuts as a result.

TC is about to be "remade" as a school in portables.

Sahila said...

WSNorth.... Summit - an alternative k-12 programme based at the building that is now called Jane Addams, was closed on the grounds it was underenrolled.

The District offered first to relocate it to Rainier beach High School, knowing full well the community would not go for that...

In reality it was closed to pander to complaints of general ed parents that their other north end schools were oversubscribed... that was true, but the "solution" provided has resulted in a new much more traditional k-8 programme that is no more enrolled than Summit was, and there are now two other k-5 schools in the north end which are seriously underenrolled - hardly enough pupils in them to justify their re-opening...

The alts (except perhaps Salmon Bay and Thornton Creek) have been under consistent attack since their inception...

Sahila said...

PS - and the District refuses to consider the need for more alt programmes in the District... there are huge waiting lists for all the "alt" programmes - alt schools, language immersion, montessori...

owlhouse said...

wsnorth-
I think part of the confusion may be the district's renaming of the traditional alternative schools- now "options", many of which have no history or connection to our "alternative" schools..

The old alternative schools, around which much work was done to identify foundational characteristics and guiding principles, have not been supported. Board policies defining their rights, purpose and roles, have been ignored.

In my student's school-age lifetime, they've been moved, merged, grown to k-8 models against their wishes, threatened, and worst- closed. Curricular alignment is a huge threat to our alts. And now, they are being used as capacity management tools.

To those in the alt community, the damaging churn feels relentless. Of course, neighborhood schools have experienced similar pains. I'd say "none of us escape unscathed," but that feels like admitting defeat.

A couple other points-
Nova was moved and grown, against its wishes and w/ out proper supports. Still waiting for plumbed/wired science labs...

Jane Addams is a district initiated option school- tied to the alts only because it is housed in the now closed Summit.

Madrona is a K-8, not an option and no tie to the alts.

Cleveland is a new, district initiated, option school, no tie to the alts.

It's great to raise the question though, continue the conversation to ensure that across schools district wide, we don't fall to the trappings of blaming one another for district decisions or action/inaction. I have to believe that eventually, when student and family voices unite, we'll be loud enough to have a seat at the table.

Anonymous said...

Sahlia and WSNorth

If you think TC and SB and all the alts haven't also been part of unwanted district mandated changes, you just aren't looking back enough years.

SB was a forced merger of Coho, an alt elementary and NOMS, New Options Middle School. Neither community wanted to be co-located but they were forced to merge and later renamed as Salmon Bay. I still think of them as Coho/Noms.

With the option middle school now forced to be part of Coho/Noms, all the alt elementaries were forced one by one to become K8s.

The heart of the West Seattle issue lies at this forced merger. If Pathfinder hadn't been forced to become a K8 with a configuration of "temporary portables", then they wouldn't have needed a new building.

Every year for the last decade SB has been focused on managing that transition and now that they have lost their bussing, it may no longer be possible for them to manage this crazy mushroom model.

And TC has had a new restructuring proposal every 2 or 3 years since they were forced to move to the Decatur building. They were moved to the Decatur building because it was built as a K2 and not fit for a neighborhood school.

The attack on alts has been going on pretty much as long as my kids have been in school and I am really glad that they are graduating from Hale before the rest of the destruction of the alts is complete.

- signed frustrated alt parent

Sahila said...

thanks frustrated alt parent for that bit of history... yes, I know many alt parents who are glad their children have (or are) graduating out of the system before the alts are finally terminated...

Anonymous said...

Charlie or Melissa - this was discussed in threads earlier this year, but could you start a another thread for Advanced Learning testing?

The change this year was that MAP testing would determine if students were qualified to take the CogAT, rather than the reverse, where students first take the CogAT, then if they have qualifying scores, they take an achievement test for math and reading.

In recent years, I believe the K-2 kids took the the Woodcock-Johnson test and the older kids took the ITBS test for reading and math achievement.

Now the MAP test is being used as a gatekeeper and preventing many students from taking the CogAT. There may be some justification for this in the higher grades, if MAP scores show a strong correlation to ITBS scores, but I have not seen evidence that MAP in the primary grades is a valid measure of a student's academic performance when testing for highly capable programs.

Annoyed

Melissa Westbrook said...

WS North, I think the district can be an equal opportunity offender to both neighborhood and alts depending on what the plan is. I think schools go along pretty well sometimes but if the district has a different plan, oh well. I think the changes that may come to the Ballard biotech program if they align the science curriculum as they want is a good example.

Unknown said...

Sure mirmac1 -- email me at rdgt1701@msn.com. Then we can introduce ourselves and exchange phone numbers.

Chris S. said...

I would also love to see a district-wide parent organization alternative to PTSA. Had my hopes for CPPS, where are they? The Alt Schools Coalition, for me, has been great, and so eye-opening: we have way more in common than we ever suspected. I think there would be an element of that even for a wider organization. I think there's a place for an organization that DOESN'T have an agenda, just a place to share what works, what didn't work, what our challenges are. I'll send you an email, Bird - I suspect you'll get quite a few.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And no one got my movie quote (but my husband said it was too subtle). Oh well, I still say Bluto is right.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And no one got my movie quote (but my husband said it was too subtle). Oh well, I still say Bluto is right.

Josh Hayes said...

I'm sorry, wsnorth, I should have been more detailed in my description of "alt schools". I am reminded of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's visit to AS1 when she first arrived in Seattle; one of the parents asked her what her general approach would be to alternative schools, and she said, "You mean, like special ed?"

Right then, we knew we were in trouble.

The history of Coho/NOMS is illustrative, and actually, even FURTHER back, the history of AS1 is similar: it was originally housed in the Bailey-Gatzert building, but we were booted out and pushed way the heck north to the Pinehurst building, against everyone's wishes, with the district's promise that we would always have all-city busing available to us so that all students could still have access.

Promises, promises.

I think at the heart of the matter is that a lot of administrators are uncomfortable with alternative pedagogical approaches; they're neither fish nor fowl nor good red claret, and they just don't know what to DO with them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

More tortured alt history; know who originally was promised the old building that was where TOPS stands today? Summit.

Summit, a K-12, used to be more centrally located (which would make sense for who they would be trying to attract). Then they got moved to the far north (Jane Addams) with the promise of the old building where the current TOPS is today.

I don't know why that changed but it did and of course you will never know if Summit would exist today if it had just gotten a central location.

Maureen said...

I expect that was when TOPS was in portables at Stevens. TOPS was started there because AE#3 at Latona enrolled too many Central area kids and SPS wanted it split and half located more centrally. TOPS was given the closed Seward building in about '91 under the condition that they grow to K-8. I hadn't heard that about Summit. What year were they moved to JA? Seward is a great location for an all city draw, but maybe not big enough for a K-12?

mirmac1 said...

Keep checking Aunty Broad's scribd site over time for more examples of how MGJ and her minions craft the message.

Is it a subscription or a renewal?

or

That's my story and I'm sticking to it

Finally,

What, me worry?

wsnorth said...

There is just something mentally wrong with the people running this district.

If they find something that is working, and it wasn't their idea, they just seem to want to squash it!

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