School Board Meeting Recap

The Board meeting of January 19, 2011 ran from 6:00 until after 11:00pm. I was there until the end.

The meeting was busy and awkward. After the public testimony was a very brief update from the superintendent on audit. Uncharacteristically, the superintendent responded to some testimony by saying that she would meet with members of the Rainier Beach High School community about the IB program that the District is starting there. There had been no communication with the community before that decision was made. Both Dr. Enfield and Mr. Kennedy were out of town so they didn't appear.

That was followed by each Director reading their annual disclosure of financial interests and potential conflicts. Those recitations were long, boring, and kinda awkward. The superintendent disclosed her seats on the Board of the Alliance for Education and the Council of Great City Schools which she had not disclosed in prior years.

Then came some Board remarks including an update on audit response from Director Carr. Here's the short version: It has been six months since the audit was released and, although we haven't taken any action in response to it, we are just about ready to take some action in the next couple months. Director Carr also announced that the Capital Projects audit will be presented to the Board on January 31 at 4:00pm. It is a public meeting and it promises to be very entertaining.

A couple items were removed from the Consent Agenda but all of them were promptly approved and then we advanced to the business of the meeting starting with the amendments to the Transition Plan for the NSAP.

Another year of preferred access to Salmon Bay for Thornton Creek students was proposed by Director Maier. Speaking for the motion he said that there were no alternative middle schools or K-8's in the Northeast for students leaving Thornton Creek. I guess he forgot about AS#1 and Jane Addams. Director Smith-Blum - have I mentioned how I admire her work - asked what we were going to do next year? Will there be a string of annual renewals of this exception or will we seek a systemic, long-term solution? The motion passed, mostly because it was regarded as harmless since Salmon Bay's 6th grade isn't over-subscribed.

Director Sundquist put forward his motion to grant preferred access for West Seattle residents to West Seattle high schools. This motion is antithetical to the very principles of the New Student Assignment Plan, but it was adopted unanimously. I think the amendment found favor because it wouldn't matter anyway - both West Seattle high schools have plenty of space.

Director Martin-Morris proposed a smaller geographic zone around Thornton Creek to improve access for students in other parts of the northeast. The motion was opposed by Director Carr, who wanted to use the geographic zone as a capacity management tool to increase the number of students drawn from crowded schools. Director Patu opposed it because she thought it was unfair to shrink the geographic zone for Thornton Creek and not other option schools. She said that her sense of fairness demanded that "what we do for one we should do for all." This sense of fairness, however, didn't prevent her from proposing that SouthShore be the only option school with a geographic zone last year. Back then it was okay to do something for just one school. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 5-2.

It has become abundantly clear that the Geographic Zones are seen primarily as a Capacity Management tool. The District really painted itself into a corner by promising students access to their attendance area school. Now it is looking for anything they can do to influence outcomes - no matter how weak that influence. The geographic zones and the tie-breakers are used exclusively as capacity management tools. There is no other purpose (fairness, diversity, academic principles, etc.) that merits consideration.

Then came the (now amended) Transition Plan. There were few questions and little discussion before it was passed.

What did get a lot of discussion was the request for a waiver for three days of professional development. The Board really pushed back on this, which is odd because it was written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the teachers. They are becoming concerned about further reductions to instructional time. This is so odd. The Board and the District leadership alternately scoff at "seat time" and wax poetic about extended days. They search for legal loopholes to justify the minimal number of hours of instruction (saying that it doesn't matter) and then they oppose professional development time for teachers (which they crowed about when they approved the teacher contract) because it will diminish instructional time. These folks need to make up their minds.

There was absolutely no opposition to a request for a waiver for three days of instruction for parent teacher conferences.

Then, after allowing a volunteer non-voting member of the Audit and Finance Committee and a few of the construction contract approvals that make up more Board votes than anything else, they got to Transportation.

By this time it was about 10:30 at night. Tom Bishop came forward and peddled his plan. You are going to hate it.

Here's the plan in a nutshell: bus transportation for elementary schools will be provided only for students living within a short distance - 1.25 nmiles - from the school. Beyond that range, transportation will be spotty or absent. They have eliminated the one mile walk zone, so yellow bus transportation will be for all students who live within 1.25 miles from the school and within the service area - even if they live across the street from the school.

In short, the District wants every student to enroll at their attendance area elementary school. Choose something else and you're on your own. They are actively working to kill choice. The only exception is for students in overcrowded schools, for whom they want to smooth the path to another school.

Transportation for ELL, EBOC, Spectrum, and APP will continue pretty much as it has been.

The District has committed to providing transportation to elementary students assigned to a school within their service area. For those who live more than 1.25 miles from their chosen school, the District will set up "intermediary stops". In short, students will walk to a near-by school and catch a ride from there to their assigned school. Some will be able to catch a ride on a ELL, EBOC, or Spectrum bus.

Mr. Bishop says that he really, sincerely wished he had more time and opportunity to do community engagement on this plan, but he just couldn't. He didn't explain why he couldn't. There will be one community meeting on the plan on January 27 at 7:00 at Aki Kurose. They have also set up an email address ( for comments and will be listening for community input at the Board meeting of February 2nd - when they will be voting on the plan and it will be far too late to do anything to change it. In fact, it is probably already far too late to do anything to change it.

This huge change in transportation policy was dumped on the Board at 10:30 at night after four and a half hours of meeting with no notice to the public. They are looking to finalize it in about two weeks. There's a lot of urgency because they want it all resolved before Open Enrollment so people can make their Open Enrollment decision with the full knowledge that the District will not be providing anything like meaningful transportation for people who choose anything but a very close school.

This was followed by a very brief presentation on the new contract with the principals. The principal evaluation process remains to be negotiated.


Dorothy Neville said…
Charlie, good recap, but you missed one aspect of the new transportation plan is that yet again, Tom Bishop will be deciding bell times for all students and high schools will be starting earlier, back to the old 7:45 AM start time it looks like.
TechyMom said…
So, kids who live near enough to walk to a school will get a bus, and kids who don't won't. Brilliant.

Any word on when bell time will be decided for elementary schools?
SE Mom said…
Wow, thanks for your endurance in sitting through the entire meeting and writing up notes for the rest of us.

I am curious to know if there was any discussion about effectively eliminating the high school 10% choice seats. Or about not admitting new APP students for 9th grade for IB at Ingraham.
Dorothy Neville said…
They aren't going to admit non current APP kids to this new IB thing because they don't have to. The survey showed enough interest within the APP kids so they don't have to look further to fill a class. So they are using that fact, plus saying that they don't have time to create and administer a test and that the students would not be up to speed because they wouldn't have had the excellent and advanced science and social studies that current APP 8th graders would have.
Dorothy Neville said…
Maybe in the future they will figure something out, give private school kids a chance to demonstrate both highly capable abilities and academic standing. You can hear Vaughan explain that yourself in the video of the meeting.
Charlie Mas said…
TechyMom nailed it.
"So, kids who live near enough to walk to a school will get a bus, and kids who don't won't. Brilliant."'

Mr. Bishop promised two big big benefits as a result of this change:

1) Shorter bus ride times.
None of the bus rides will be longer than 25 minutes. Thanks to the shorter distances the buses will be running, they will be running for shorter times. The shorter times allows for a third run in the morning and afternoon.

2) Cost savings.
Since each bus will be able to make three runs - early morning for secondary schools, first shift elementary, and second shift elementary - the district will need one-third fewer buses. The plan will save about $4 million.

In case you're wondering why the early times couldn't be for elementary schools and the third run of the day be for middle and high schools (when they are more awake) it is because it would push the high school end time out to 3:30 and that would squeeze the after-school activities.

So after-school activities dictate the schedule for the middle and high schools.
seattle citizen said…
"[Board]...concerned about further reductions to instructional time. This is so odd. The Board and the District leadership alternately scoff at "seat time" and wax poetic about extended days. They search for legal loopholes to justify the minimal number of hours of instruction (saying that it doesn't matter) and then they oppose professional development time for teachers (which they crowed about when they approved the teacher contract) because it will diminish instructional time. These folks need to make up their minds."

One way to increase seat time is to minimize the standardized, high-stakes testing:
MAP: Two hours x 3 per year = 6 That's a day gone.
HSPE: Three hours x 3days = 9
That's a day and a half.

Two and half days gone...where? To what end? Are the results worth the time? HSPE = "Failing School" designation; MAP = "Failing teacher" designation. Is there something in there for the students?

WV wants ancers, and so do I.
Steve said…
Given that Transportation is saying the proposed changes will save $4 million, did any board member get an accounting of the savings from the last major transportation changes? I think we're still waiting for that one, aren't we?
Central Mom said…
Steve, Harium promised a transportation report. Tom Bishop promised a transportation report. None ever appeared, at least to my knowledge, despite persistent, repeated requests from parents affected.
peonypower said…
7:45 for high school. Why oh why do we insist on having students who need sleep the most up the earliest. It is just silly when study after study shows that high school students perform better if school starts later, and what about Metro and and rush hour traffic? STUPID
Anonymous said…
According to last night's presentation, transportation WILL change for APP: Northend APP kids and TOPS will share buses and use the neighborhood "cluster stops."

Bell times are supposed to be announced next Wednesday. There was some discussion about having to switch arrival times ten minutes earlier (for middle and high school?) to accommodate the three tier bus schedule. If this weren't done, the third tier elementaries wouldn't depart until 3:55. Yes, 3:55 before they would even leave the school...
Dorothy Neville said…
Steve, the only transportation chart I have seen is this one

Nothing along the lines of the promised task force that would use better community involvement in setting transportation and bell times.
dan dempsey said…
The part I find really interesting about all this transportation talk...... is this.

I went to the Senate Ways and Means committee meeting on k-12 education funding.

Transportation has been under funded by $150 million according to RANDY DORN.

The proposed budget will increase transportation funding by $90 million. One senator talked about the need for increased exercise in children and that walking and biking to school need to be encouraged.

In grade 8, I rode my bike 2.5 miles each way to school. (not in heavy snow but regardless of other weather).

Just when I think the district cannot possibly put forth any more ridiculous proposals .... at 10:30 Mr. Bishop puts fourth another one. --- What an amazing district......

Increasing Separation and Inequality between schools..... and all in one evening.
Dorothy Neville said…
Not just a report, they promised a transportation task force.

“conduct further review of this topic to explore all options in the future. A Transportation Task Force, which will include school-based staff, family representatives, central
office staff, and our union partners, will be formed. Any further changes recommended by the Task Force and approved by the School Board will be incorporated with implementation of a new Student Assignment Plan in Fall 2010.”
dan dempsey said…
Hey wait the Transportation savings from NSAP is going to be used to make every school a quality school .... oh and every school will have open choice seats. [NOT]

For SE eventually there will be STEM and RBHS IB all other students I guess should head to Renton SD. Is that the plan to improve SE for SE families?
anonymous said…
"Tom Bishop will be deciding bell times for all students and high schools will be starting earlier, back to the old 7:45 AM start time it looks like."

Why would Tom Bishop have anything to do with HS start times, when students don't receive yellow bus transportation to high school? Aren't students all on Metro now?
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
"admitting new APP students for 9th grade for IB at Ingraham."

Is Ingraham adding an IB program this year for 9th and 10th grade? In the past 9th and 10th graders could only take honors classes in preparation for the IB classes that were offered in 11th and 12th grades. IB was only offered in Junior and senior years. Is that changing? Will IB be offered in all grades at Ingraham now? And if so is it available to all students or only to APP students?
SE Mom said…
Public School Mom:

Check out the new proposal to add an APP program next year at Ingraham: Go to the Advanced Learning page under Academics on the district website.
G said…
Only APP students will be able to take the IB curriculum in 10th and 11th grade. They are being accelerated, finishing the IB course in 11th grade, and promised college level classes and internships in 12th grade. I fear they will be given a bus pass to North Seattle CC when the time comes. Has SPS ever remembered to do what they said they were going to do 3 years ago?
Meg said…
The sudden reversal by district staff on giving non-APP 8th graders a chance to test into the Ingraham accelerated IB makes me really angry. In the meetings with community members, this was touted more than once - as it should have been (if they planned on it), because I think it's great. Kids should have the opportunity to enter an advanced learning program in high school.

At no point in the community meetings or presentations did any staff member say "but if the APP community shows enough interest, we won't let non-APP kids in." Bob went out of his way to point out that non-APP kids could still be accomodated, tested and admitted to the accelerated IB program. In the survey, there was no implication that if enough APP families were interested, non-APP kids wouldn't be admitted.

Last night? Bob pretty much said that since the survey showed there was enough interest from the APP program that they didn't really have to let non-APP kids in, and also, those kids wouldn't be nearly as prepared for a rigorous program (because a kid who joined APP in 8th grade would be SOOOOOOO much more prepared than a kid coming in at 9th, right?).

When is a promise a promise with the district? District staffers always seem somewhat surprised and indignant when the value of their word is questioned - but the district's reputation for honesty is in tatters for good reason.
Eric M said…
7:45 start times for high school is STOOPID and flies in the face of research.

This is terrible for teenagers and learning.

Why, why, why?
Eric, you know why? Because of inertia. "This is the way it's always been." "Kids better learn now to get up; we had to." "You'll ruin after school sports and activities with a later start."

One of my first activist actions was doing research on late starts. There's a pile of evidence for it (including lower teen driving accident rates) so imagine my relief when I found out Hale had it. After last night, I have to wonder if they can keep it.

You need masses of parents and a Board member (Kay?) to rise up and say no.

After the Open Choice promise (and actual statement in the NSAP using the word "will") was broken last night, there is NO promise that should be considered valid by this district.
seattle citizen said…
Everyone knows teenagers need more than eight hours sleep, typically....So they should all be in bed by 9:00, reading by they will be at school bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7:45. Parent/guardians, get those kids to bed!
StepJ said…
I don't know if Tom Bishop does not understand the new Transportation Plan or, if he explained it poorly.

The new Transportation Plan clearly says in many places that if a student lives within a schools walk zone that they are not eligible for transportation.

A walk zone (except for Safety Concerns, Special Education, or Medical Needs) is:

1 mile for Elementary
2 miles for Middle School

This would clearly preclude living across the street.

We would like to provide a clear and understandable explanation of the new plan to the families at our school. Why must it be presented it such a confusing and obfuscated manner?

anonymous said…
OK, I read through the APP IB/Ingraham proposal. Still have some questions.

Is the APP (IB) option going to run in conjunction with the regular (IB) program? In other words will interested, non APP, students still be able to opt in to the IB program, in 11th and 12th grade, without testing, as they can do currently?

If so, will the "regular" students be in the same IB classes as the APP students, just in different grades (APP students in 10th/11th grades and regular students in 11th/12th)?

Or is this APP (IB) program replacing the regular (IB) program? And now only APP students will be eligible?

Can someone clarify?
wsnorth said…
Does everyone in Seattle live within a mile of an elementary school? Cancel all yellow bus and let them walk or ride their bikes. We'd have less childhood obesity and a greener planet.

The advanced learner kids can calculate for themselves how much they are adding to climate change by taking a 1 hour bus ride each day. Let them figure out the cost and charge them. Free for FRL, of course.

Am I being sarcastic? A little. Check with me in 20 years when oil is $500 a barrel.
Josh Hayes said…
StepJ sez:

A walk zone (except for Safety Concerns, Special Education, or Medical Needs) is:

1 mile for Elementary
2 miles for Middle School

Not to throw a spanner in the works here, but what's the walk zone for a K-8 school? I've assumed that AS1 will largely lose its remaining paltry yellow bus service next year, but just want to make sure.
StepJ said…
Hey Josh,

Option Schools are a different animal for Transportation.

AS1: For Elementary, K-5, no transportation within the walk zone, but transportation inclusive of the whole Eckstein MS service area -- so no 1.25 mile limit.

For MS I believe it is an ORCA pass outside of the 2 mile walk zone but please read the proposal to double check me.

The Transition Plan/Transportation did not list Yellow Bus transport beyond their MS zone for any Option school -- seems that multi-zone transport for Option Schools is proposed to be phased out.

Only exception is grandfathered transportation.

If you had grandfathered transportation last year you still have one more year left.
Anonymous said…
Josh, I think option/Alts retain their grandfathered transportation next year. At least that is how I read it. Of course I read English , not Board-ish. So who knows what it really says.

Anonymous said…
My understanding of the APP/IB proposal is that APP 9th graders would have contained prep classes in grade 9 and enter the IB in grade 10, and complete it in grade 11. They would have IB classes with students in grades 11/12 while they were in grades 10/11. In grade 12, they might be able to take a college course taught at the school, and more IB courses.

I thought the reason that SPS backed out of extending the IB accelerated program to new-to-APP 9th graders was because there was some concern that a 9th grader who qualified for APP could reasonably ask for an assignment to Garfield. SPS doesn't want to make the pool of students who can expect automatic assignment to Garfield any bigger.

SP said…
re: the end of HS Choice seats & "assuring availability of Open Choice seats".
(with NO discussion from the Board)-

from Enrollment page FAQ's (still up from last year)-

Will some students in a high school attendance area be denied seats due to the availability of Open Choice seats?

No. High school attendance area boundaries are drawn to accommodate both the students projected to attend from within an area and a certain percentage of students from outside the attendance area.

What happens if there are more students within a high school attendance area than the capacity of the school—will the District eliminate the Open Choice seats?

No. Our demographic model is designed to predict enrollment through 2015, including making 10 percent of the seats available as Open Choice seats. We do not anticipate this being a problem in the foreseeable future.

Why don’t high schools have feeder patterns?

The locations of middle school and high school buildings in Seattle make feeder patterns impractical. But even if the middle and high school buildings were located in alignment with each other, high school students often have many different academic and extracurricular interests. As a result, some students may want to attend a program at a school outside their attendance area; the opportunity to participate in a particular academy offered at a school is a good example. Also, since most high school students get a bus pass to take Metro transportation, any student can get to any high school.

Open Choice seats enable students to apply to a high school with a program that interests them. The seats identified as Open Choice seats are built into an attendance area. In other words, the attendance area boundary does not fill the school, assuring availability of Open Choice seats.
StepJ said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
StepJ said…

We live within a mile of our neighborhood school. But due to capacity issues our oldest could not gain entrance.

Two years later our 'walkable' school is even more crowded than two years ago, but still the guaranteed school for our youngest.
As the school of the older kids is also super crowded, youngest likely won't get in.

We'll all walk to the school of the youngest, put the older on the bus (as we won't be able to have four people all be at two separate schools all at the same time) and voila.

Me -- won't be participating in school assemblies, helping out with classroom parties, PTA, parent/teacher conferences, curriculum nights, that all occur on the same day and time.

I know...wah, wah, wah -- but isn't this the same sort of elementary schizophrenia that West Seattle is now starting to experience?

Kudos to all of the planners who made data based decisions, engaged parents and the community, and put students (in all areas of the city) first and foremost.
joanna said…
151 = total number of students in area 4
Rufus X said…
Seattle Parent: thank you for the reminder about why the 10% open choice seat plan was a good idea. It's a shame it is essentially gone for half of the high schools, and as you noted, with no discussion from the board save Ms. Patu's question of Ms. Libros.

Some Garfield numbers (assuming the #'s the district supplied are actually true):

Number of Garfield students beyond capacity 2010-11: ~150

Number of those overenrolled students who are living within the boundaries & the district "didn't expect": ~100

Number of APP Students at Garfield: ~450 (possibly more?)

Number of Garfield students admitted through open choice seats 2010-11: 31
Sabine Mecking said…
I don't understand the sudden changes in the transportation plan. The final new student assignment plan (, clearly states on page 15:
"School bus transportation is provided for elementary students to their attendance area school and to any other K-5 or K-8 attendance area or option school located in the service area." This is in the final plan, not the transition plan. Is the reduction of transportation to a 1.25 miles radius of each attendance area school already breaking with that plan? That seems not ok with me. Or are kids outside of the 1.25 mile zone supposed to walk to their closest/attendance area school first and then get transported to a different attendance area school (if that is where the child goes) as one poster here suggests? What if they don't live in the walk zone for the closest school? Two buses? And what about the JSIS and Macdonald kids who opt out of language immersion and get assigned to BF Day? I am sure some of those will be >1.25 miles away. The new transportation plan sounds like a logistical nightmare that will need a lot exceptions, probably won't save any money, and seems in contradiction of with the text of the NSAP document in the first place.
Olliesdad said…

The evicted Cooper kids are now shunned to Layfayette. Can't wait to see them all schlepping up Admiral Drive with their backpacks...

Point is, most of the Cooper kids don't live 1.25 miles away from ANY elementary school...
hschinske said…
Tami wrote: My understanding of the APP/IB proposal is that APP 9th graders would have contained prep classes in grade 9 and enter the IB in grade 10, and complete it in grade 11. They would have IB classes with students in grades 11/12 while they were in grades 10/11.

Originally the proposal was to have completely self-contained IB classes for the APP-qualified students, on the model of the program at Interlake. Has that changed? I hope it has, because I think it's an incredibly bad idea to set up a two-tiered IB program. (And I said so at one meeting, on the discussAPP blog, and on the survey.)

I'm not surprised they backed off on letting students in after 8th grade once they realized that meant yet another way people might try to get into Garfield. It's always capacity management driving everything else around here.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
I thought the reason that SPS backed out of extending the IB accelerated program to new-to-APP 9th graders was because there was some concern that a 9th grader who qualified for APP could reasonably ask for an assignment to Garfield.

Tami, where did you hear that?

I talked to Bob Vaughan about this before the presetation Wed and he said it was because they didn't think newly identified kids would have had the right coursework to start with the APP kids in 9th grade. That contradicts letting in kids from outside the District or private who say they were in gifted prgrams as well of course.

He said that next year they would have requirements that kids take the SAT Bio subject exam for instance to show they can do the course work. I hope they require the APP kids to take the tests as well, so we can make sure they are prepared enough to keep up with the private school kids who get in. (According to Vaughan: APP kids are supposed to all have taken: Algebra and Geometry, HS level Physical Science and Biology, and AP level history from Neolithic to 1000 CE)
Anonymous said…
oops, that last anonymous was me, my google login doesn't work here anymore. maureen
Anonymous said…
I wonder how the bus issue will impact kids who attend before/after child care clubs at a non-school building (for example Small Faces on Crown Hill). These kids rely on the yellow bus to get to Northwest Schools, and some are definitely more than 1.3 miles away (West Woodland for example).
Anonymous said…
I have to second Seattle Mom's questions. What happens to kids who live over 1.25 miles from their reference school? There are definitely areas where this is the case. My kids are at TOPS, which IS in walking distance for us, but our reference school (Montlake) is around 1.7 miles away (we are at the far end of the referenec area). I guess in our case the neighborhood kids attending Montlake would walk to TOPS & catch a bus there? That doesn't really seem to change much, as it is still over 1.25 miles away from Montlake, and basically all would be do is consolidate the bus stops. I'm sure there are places where there are NO schools within 1.25 miles, although I haven't scrutinized the map to verify this.

Any word on South-end bussing for TOPS? If they can consolidate north-end bussing with Lowell, that helps, but there are actually more kids living south who are looking at losing their bussing.

Mom of Four
Anonymous said…
Mom of Four, it's my understanding that kids inside an attendance area but outside of 1.25 miles would be inside the 'attendance area school transportation zone' so would get regular stop busing (not have to walk to the nearest school). Right now, Tom Bishop is proposing that south end kids going to TOPS would walk to a community stop (maybe just at Aki Kurose and Mercer? It's not clear to me) and get buses to TOPS. But there is no commitment to do that past next year, so please write to the Board about that if you think grandfathering should be extended until the current 1st graders get to middle school (2015).

wsnorth said…
I don't know if it is "elementary schizophrenia" or advanced schizophrenia, but we will all be paying for years for the trashing of West Seattle schools.

What the district did to Cooper and West Seattle is terrible. We live within a half mile of two wonderful (and overcrowded) elemetaries, yet where is our "assigned" school? .9999 miles down a steep hill via a dangerous street!

If they would have designed NSAP with transportation in mind we could ditch almost all Yellow busses and all breath easier.
Spruiter said…
Can we have a separate thread on the new transportation plan?

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