Wednesday, October 05, 2011

First Capacity Management Meeting

Did anyone attend?  Could you fill us in on attendance, staff present, presentation, questions, impressions, etc.



Dorothy Neville said...

I am here. All school board members except Sherry are here (she's ill). Someone (the new facilities guy?) is reading the slides.

Story so far: it was *soooo* challenging to predict any school level enrollment projections with the NSAP!!!!!

Dorothy Neville said...

Oops. I thought you meant today's board thing on capacity, but you are refering to the community meetings. My bad.

Dorothy Neville said...

Harium: Why aren't the option schools on the map? Tracy: Since we control the capacity at those schools, there is, by definition, no capacity problems at those schools. Harium: Nuh Uh! Just ask the TC parents. Not including these undercounts the capacity problems. Michael just reminded Tracy that the board already ASKED for Option schools to be included in the details. (At the capacity worksession in the Spring.) No comment from Tracy, they are moving on.

Charlie Mas said...

Given the waitlists at option schools, I don't see how anyone can say that they don't have capacity problems.

From the Capacity Management policy H13.00:

"It is the policy of the Seattle School Board that annually the Superintendent shall evaluate and report to the School Board on current and projected enrollments at the school, middle school service area, and District-wide levels and on related issues. The purpose of such an annual evaluation and report is to monitor changes in enrollment, demographics and program demand including capital program development and/or program placement over time and to facilitate the periodic consideration of possible actions to ensure that school building and regional capacity are matched with enrollment and with demographic changes." (emphasis added)

Dorothy Neville said...

Dude, Tracy just did. With a straight face, too.

Jeesh, I hate how they simply read the slides. What a waste of time.

Dorothy Neville said...

Adding four more portables to TC. Harium complained that there are cafeteria and PCP issues already with the portables they already added. Are we solving our capacity problems on the backs of option schools? Tracy: We added portables to add an extra Kindergarten and now that first group has rolled up to first grade. These portables will simply allow those kids who are already there to remain. (WTH? That makes no sense, because if they kept the size of the school constant at this point, then there is no reason to add one more seat.) And her answer does not address the issue of cafeteria, gym, bathrooms at all.

LG said...

what is TC?

Dorothy Neville said...

Sorry bout that. Thornton Creek.

Po3 said...

"Dude, Tracy just did. With a straight face, too."

This comment made my day!

Thanks for the blow by blow. Does not seem like much has changed post-MGJ.

Remember: the person driving this train has the title that begins with Interim. She was trained well! (and in a very short time, I might add.)

TechyMom said...

so, by Tracy's logic, in the open choice plan, where they controlled the enrollment at each school, there were no capacity problems at all? In fact, under that system, capacity problems are impossible!

Anonymous said...

"In fact, under that system, capacity problems are impossible!"

Yes, I think that was the point of view -- as long as there was capacity anywhere in the system. Under that plan, the system was only over capacity if every single school was over capacity. No individual had a right to attend any given school, so as long as a spot could be found for them, there was no capacity issue.

Under the neighborhood scheme, a school can be over capacity because people can have the right to attend a particular school, and if there are more of those people than the school can hold, there's a capacity problem.


Anonymous said...

Meeting ___ of Seattle School Board Directors (SSBD)

SSDB #1 - " I think we need to consider thinking about reflecting on ...

SSBD #2 - " I concur that reflection is needed, and I do have another question ..."

District Employee (DE) #1 - "I'll have to ask DE #17 ..."

SSBD #3 - "I think we need to know about ..."

DE #1 "I'll have to look into that ..."

SSBD #1 "about the original idea, mumble mumble ... punt..."

DE #1 "the power point is now pink instead of green and it spins instead of rotates ..."


wv says dulast

Jan said...

No no. Harium and Michael -- don't let them just move on. This dysfunction will not stop until you stop it. At what point will the board (or the committee, as applicable) say -- in light of the fact that we do not have the data we need, this proposal will not go to the board. No proposal will go to the board. Please reschedule this for the next committee meeting, at which time we need the following additional information (X, Y, and Z -- which were requested earlier and yet inexplicably are not here) and also A and B, which this presentation does not include, and which we now realize we need to see. Best, frankly, if they were to just stop the slide show where it is -- making it obvious that it is a waste of everyone's time to even continue. But that might be too humiliating and not "seattle nice." So, ok. Let them get through slide 27. And then -- just say -- no. Not moving forward on this proposal. Staff, you don't get what you want.

And then, they can say individually whatever they think they need to to Dr. E privately afterwards. I guarantee -- If the Board said enough, we won't play by these rules any more -- they would win. But they never do it. THIS is why we need new board members.

WV says nobifi. But ah, I say, you are wrong. I DO have a beefy. A really big one -- with the Board's unwillingness to demand good product from the District's staff.

kellie said...

As humorous as zb and techymom were being, they are actually spot on.

An oddity of a choice assignment program is that there really are no capacity issues in a choice plan. There are winners and losers but there aren't true capacity issues because capacity become self managed.

This is because individuals either win a seat at the school they want or they lose and this is an individual experience for the students and families. By and large, many of the folks that don't get what they want, opt out of the system by going private, out of district or simply moving.

In a choice plan, the last person in, gets the last seat. The last seat by definition is undesirable. Because if it was desirable, someone would have picked it earlier. It is just like the last person picked for dodgeball. Doesn't matter if they are great, they were last.

Under the old choice plan, families with high school students that moved to Seattle over the summer (as families tend to do) would most likely be assigned to Rainier Beach (because all the other schools were "full with a wait list').

So what do families do? They either don't move to Seattle and go to a suburb or they go private. Real Estate blogs were full of advise for families with children to avoid moving to Seattle at all costs because high school is too important to be left to a lottery.

The evidence of this can easily be seen now that we have a geographic plan. The overcrowding at Garfield this last year was not because of higher than anticipated 9th graders. It was because of higher than anticipated 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Garfield is one of the best public high schools in the nation and you can bet that folks moving to Seattle with high school students would be serious about Garfield.

Under the old plan, they were simply turned away.

kellie said...

So back to the issue of Tracy and capacity. I would love to see a chart with the capacity as defined by Tracy under the old plan and the new. If you used the historical functional numbers, there would be a whole lot more red on those graphs and it is not like there isn't a lot of red already!

It is just striking to see that families were turned away from Eckstein after about 1100 students, under the old plan. 1100 made for a very full experience at Eckstein - very full but functional. But somehow under the new plan, Eckstein became Hogworts and with a few hundred extra bodies in the building there is still some official capacity and it is not really that officially crowded.

I mean who is anyone kidding. Families and staff know what the real functional capacity of the building is. You know the number of students that can fit into the building where they actually learn and get to use the lunchroom and the gym and the library.

The constant shape shifting of that capacity number is what keeps everyone from really understanding how big the problem actually is.

Anonymous said...

No no. Harium and Michael -- don't let them just move on. This dysfunction will not stop until you stop it.

Fed Up NEaster says:

Harium has sat on his posterior for the last two years of his four year term. He could have insisted on moving forward with a middle school years ago. Did he? No. Protesting a month before the election is far too little and much too late.

Michael has not exactly been an advocate for another H.S. for his area either. He's not running for office. He might have time to make amends.

anonymous said...

It is just striking to see that families were turned away from Eckstein after about 1100 students, under the old plan.

According to a letter families recently received from the Kim Whittworth, the Eckstein principal, Eckstein expected over 1400 students this year. They had 1350 last year, and 1250 the year before. How much more can it grow? I hear JA has grown tremendously too, though I don't have those figures. Does anyone else know what enrollment looks like at JA this year? Especially a the MS.


anonymous said...

Where can I find the capacity numbers for each school


Melissa Westbrook said...

NE, wait for it. Someone is soon to chime in here how Eckstein had 2000 kids in the '70s (this is what I was told when my son was at Eckstein). Keep in mind the building was only 30 years old then. And, of course, a 2000 kid middle school is too much even for a well-run school.

As for "capacity" numbers, good luck. Go to the Facilities area at the website but there's "functional" capacity (and that number changes with the wind depending on what the district wants to see happen).

Anonymous said...

With a ouiji board (the answer to where you can find the capacity numbers)

- north Seattle mom

RosieReader said...

"By and large, many of the folks that don't get what they want, opt out of the system by going private, out of district or simply moving."

Just want to point out that this is a completely unsupported statement. And in a year when enrollment at all levels, including high school, increased quite a bit, this doesn't even pass the "straight face" test.

Of course some people when they don't get what they want. But to assume it's most people (by and large) is just hyperbole. We don't like it when folks on the other side use hyperbole. W We should avoid it here too. .

Anonymous said...

I know the schools do publish something called functional capacity but am not succeeding in finding it -- it's really hard to find things at the SPS site.

I think, though, that there's no simple numerical answer to the question of what the "capacity" of a school is. There are probably rooms in schools that have an official capacity (i.e. fire code restrictions). But the capacity of a school is a more flexible number than that, since it depends on what you want to provide at the school.

The laws might be different now, preventing the 2000 kids who attended Eckstein in the 60's & 70's when SPS served 100K children, but it remains true that the schools managed to serve that many children (using techniques we may oppose, like shifted schedules, big classrooms, portables, . . . .).

There might be some hard and fast limits (the laws about children with special needs, fire code restrictions) but these laws won't prevent the SPS from implementing shifted schedules, for example, if that's the lowest cost situation they can find.

To some extent, some of these issues boil down to money -- yes bad planning and political planning also contribute -- but in the end money plays a big big role.


whittier07 said...

Is there a place to see how many students are enrolled at each school?

Patrick said...

There is such a report issued monthly, and I've seen it before on the district's web site, but I'll be damned if I can find it again.

Meg said...

p223 enrollment reports are the monthly reports. I'm not seeing any info for 2011-12, although we should have that?

Functional capacity changes according to "use." It was a really dreadful capacity metric introduced right in the 2008-09 closure cycle. There are some aspects of it that make sense (programs in schools change its capacity), but mostly, it sucks.

The previous measure had been planning capacity.

Rosiereader - based on growth in neighboring districts and what appears to be at least a steady line in private school enrollment, if not slight growth, kellie's speculation seems to me to pass the straight-face test. I have not been great about compiling data about SPS students in other public districts, but anecdotally (based on calls I've made to other districts to find out how many SPS students are enrolled), there are a fair number.

kellie said...


I am not using hyperbole. I base my argument solely on reasoned and researched data, which is why I post pretty rarely and try to be as simple as possible in my presentation of some often complex dynamics.

I (and many other parents) researched capacity issues and enrollment patterns in depth when we attempted to convince both the city and the district that there was real growth in the north end of town, in the midst of closure madness. If you want to convince folks to open new schools, while the district is in the process of closing them, you need to rely on facts and not ancedotes.

During that process, the conversations with the registrars of surrounding districts were incredibly enlightening. While, I was aware that many folks in NE Seattle went to Shoreline for middle school because they were unable to access Eckstein, I was quite surprised to find that the largest SPS enrollment in Shoreline was at the high school level.

The Shoreline register confirmed that she plans around picking up new students every summer when families that are new Seattle find out they have been assigned to Rainier Beach. It was such a regular occurrence, it was in their planning model.

Choice systems have a natural cap on their capacity. This is simply because many families will do everything they can to get their students an eduction and will simply not accept the last choice seat. Therefore, the last seat is always empty.

I am not describing a situation in which a family has a hissy fit because they didn't get their first choice. I am describing a phenomenon where north seattle families that did not do their paperwork during open enrollment for whatever reason (new to district, unstable address, change in family circumstance), were regularly and consistently assigned to Aki for middle school and Rainier Beach for High School.

Regardless of the quality of education issue, the simple distance issue can be daunting and if a neighboring district has a much closer school with an equal or perceived to be better program, the last seat assignment will be refused.

The interesting part (at least interesting to a geek like me) is that ANY GROWTH in a choice model is representative of significant pressure on the system.

Every single capacity issue could have been predicted simply and easily by anyone that had a decent understanding of system dynamics.

But to me the tragic part is that all of the issues in special eduction should have been the warning sign that there was no capacity. Assigning a north seattle high schooler to Rainier Beach is one thing. Assigning an autistic Kindergartner to West Seattle because of lack of capacity should have gotten much more attention than it ever did.

kellie said...

As to the 2,000 students at Eckstein back in the day concern, that is a legitimate point.

But the point is that there were TWO shifts of 1,000 students each. 1,000 is a large but reasonable number for the building that fits the design. 1100 was always crowded but reflected the needs of the area.

1400 is just not reasonable and pretending that it is functional in anyway, only delays the problem. I would not be surprised if there are more conversations about split schedules. That conversation got started at Garfield last year and it is likely to continue as split schedules are cheaper than new buildings.

Dorothy Neville said...

Split schedules were not mentioned at the Ops worksession, which now that I think about it, seems weird that no one addressed this as an option to consider.

But the directors were strongly opposed to the "just add portables" mantra. Said all those portables add up in cost to a whole school (or more) and that we have a terrible history with calling portables temporary and then never getting rid of them. And Michael pointed out that the upgrading of existing buildings --- needed to bring an empty building on line -- costs money, but it is fixing up our assets! That's a good thing and helps reduce our maintenance backlog. Much better to spend the money there than buying or leasing portables.

But... the discussion seemed almost identical to one last spring, including the directors being irked at the lack of option school figures in the data. The longer they wait, the more crisis to deal with. There is a very short timeline they gave themselves to find a solution though. My cynical side says more portables will be the answer.

TechyMom said...

Extended schedules can work really well. I went to a large high school that had classes scheduled from 7:00-3:15 with sports after. You were required to have a 2nd period (at 9), but could fill out your schedule as you saw fit otherwise. Some people doubled up to graduate early or for credit recovery. Some people had a double lunch period, or left early. The most popular classes where scheudled in the core part of the day, with things like AP Calculus and 6th year Spanish in the 7:00 period. There were also early mornign extra-curricular activities.

I would change this by making the homeroom period later (10 or 11) and offering classes from 3-5, with after-school sports scheduled alongside other classes.

Note that this is different than a split schedule, where some part of the school is scheduled from 7-12 and another part from 12-5. It allows students to pick their own schedules, and make appropriate trade-offs for their own needs, including the need to sleep in the morning.

Patrick said...

Techymom, my high school had seven periods and most students only had six classes. I'm not sure it would help with the crowded cafeteria, bathrooms, or hallways though. A split schedule would, but would severely limit after school activities and prevent students from socializing who happened to be in different schedules.

Portables only virtue is that they can be ready fast. Of course when the district doesn't exercise any better options, portables are the only option they have left.

I read that Jane Addams held something like 2200 students in the early 1950s, using a split schedule.

Dorothy Neville said...

OH, of course the reason split schedules did not appear on anyone's mind is that the whole discussion was K5. They are ignoring the problems with high school, it seems.

Kathy said...

Yes, high schools weren't discussed. Good point about split schedules.

There was mention of opening Fairmont. I understand the district let a permit expire on that building. Therefore, instead of $2M to reopen that school..the district would have to spent $10M. So much for oversight.

Dorothy Neville said...

Can I take a minority opinion on something. Yes, there is the extra expense of getting mothballed buildings up to new code but NEW CODE! Safer for kids and teachers.

Yes, it is an added expense, but it is an expense we should be making anyway, shouldn't we? So not completely a bad thing. Shuttering schools while ignoring the detailed capacity issues presented by Kellie and others was alarmingly bad judgment, but getting buildings up to current code is not the worst thing that could happen.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay so agitate for Obama's workplan for infrastructure. There's money in there for fixing up schools.

It can't all come from BEX IV and borrowing off BTA III (which I suspect will happen).

mirmac1 said...

ZZZzzzz...must hear same weasely arguments and hyperbole again and a...zzzz.

These folks have infinite reasons to explain why and how it is impossible to do a professional, respectable job.

The WS blog paints a picture of the disgust WS residents have with the whiplash, rumor, and inaction WS families must go through. If we took care of our family matters like the School Board and staff perform their duties, we would vote ourselves out and give ourselves pink slips.

Tracy @ WSB said...

Well, we didn't paint the picture, but commenters certainly have a lot to say, since we followed up on the Boren-and-maybe-Hughes idea. Also for anyone interested, we did attend tonight's capacity management meeting in West Seattle and videotaped it in its entirety. If you have ever watched WSB video, you know it's not network quality, but at least, well, we have it for posterity. I will be uploading it shortly and will hopefully have it on the site within a few hours; notes will be added too.

Charlie Mas said...

If we don't want to use Fairmount Park because it would cost too much to fix up, then when will we ever use Fairmount Park? Won't the cost to fix it up just keep rising?

And if we are never going to use Fairmount Park, then why keep it?

ArchStanton said...

And if we are never going to use Fairmount Park, then why keep it?

Why indeed, especially when we can sell it at a loss?

/went to FP back in the day

mirmac1 said...

Yes, thank you Tracy@WSB. It is the comments that display the utter frustration of families in WS. Sundquist, are you listening? At least when its politically expedient and doesn't displease your masters?

anonymous said...

Where can I find current enrollment numbers for each school? Anybody know?


Patrick said...

If we don't want to use Fairmount Park because it would cost too much to fix up, then when will we ever use Fairmount Park? Won't the cost to fix it up just keep rising?

And if we are never going to use Fairmount Park, then why keep it?

Maybe at some point in the future it will be needed badly enough to be worth fixing up. If leased, the costs to fix it up shouldn't rise.

Even if we're to sell it, it would be a good idea to lease it for a while and sell it in a better economic climate when we should be able to get more for it.

kellie said...

Thank you Tracy at WSB for reporting in general and for reporting this timeline for decisions.

Their vote on the first year of “capacity management” is scheduled for next month; a timetable shown during the meeting included plan tweaking from October 20th-November 1st, and then a plan to be introduced to the board on November 2nd, with a vote two weeks later. Then in December, design work would begin for anything necessary to reopen schools that the board signs off on reopening.

If any of the schools scheduled for changes have any input, you are going to need to mobilize input quickly.