Saturday, October 08, 2011

From the "What the Heck" File on Capacity Management

I was sitting down to write a thread about different good news in our district that came to me from various sources including the district's SchoolBeat newsletter.  I'm still going to write that one.

But then I saw this via Kellie LaR. from the West Seattle blog about next year's  "plan" for capacity management.

Three School Board members – Steve Sundquist, Sherry Carr, and Peter Maier – were at the meeting, introduced toward the start; Sundquist said he wanted to be “in touch with the community’s reactions” to the proposal. 

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.

So here's the timetable:
  • 3 community meetings in a week's time from Oct. 4th- 10th
  • Plan "tweaking" from Oct. 20th-Nov. 1
  • Plan introduced to the Board on Nov.2
  • Board vote on plan on Nov. 16
There are any number of reasons for this lightening quick pace.  One, and always number one with a bullet for the district, they have to get this done.  And quickly.  Because, the district finds itself in a near-crisis...again.  

Did they not know this was coming at the end of the school yera, 2010-201r?  I'm pretty sure they had a good inkling.  So what was happening to prevent staff from doing some "what if" templates over the summer and getting this started the first week of school?  Nothing really except a stubborn belief that they know what they are doing.  

As far as capacity management at SPS, there is not evidence to support that belief.  The district wanders from patchwork to patchwork plan with no clear future vision.  They all seem so happy to have this problem because it looks good to the world that SPS has more students.  

It is a good thing in terms of bringing more of our city's children back into the fold.  Every student brings in dollars.  

But the district refused to listen to parents and communities who saw this coming years ago.  More advance planning could only have helped and yet this all has to get done quickly so they can figure out what to tell parents for enrollment.  What schools are reopening?  Where are the boundaries?  What happens to students who are now in another boundary?  What happens to their younger sibs?  How fast can they get these portables and how to pay for them?

These capital costs are bound to be huge; look at the costs for the reopened schools in the last two years.  Plus buying/leasing portables.  It's not like there is an endless fund of capital money.

And the scheduling for the 3 community meetings.   I don't know about the other two but at least 3-4 West Seattle elementaries were having their open houses that night.   Someone at the West Seattle blog asked if they checked the calendar.  I had to smile because if there is one master calendar at the district that shows major events at all the schools (open houses, curriculum nights - events all schools have), I'd be surprised.  Of course, no one checked.  

I know.  This is a problem that must be addressed soon.   But I honestly feel some sorrow that this is what our district does, year after year.  Move from one crisis to another.  No wonder we can't address ACADEMIC issues like program placement and instructional materials waivers.   The district's management always needs more attention than the academic instruction at least for parents and communities. 

I am grateful to being afforded the opportunity to sit down with Pegi McEvoy to talk about capacity management.   So I'll ask you -  what should I ask/tell her?


dan dempsey said...

Given the District's reticence to engage the community on far too many issues, this timetable has an added benefit. It severely limits responses from the public. It makes actual use of public responses in formulating decisions nearly impossible. ... Most folks would view this as a tremendous shortcoming but it seems to be the usual SPS plan.

We do not listen and we don't need to.-- the SPS.

This is complicated. Trust us.

Fiona @ SP said...

I believe there is more work going on than you are crediting here. The capacity consultants started at square one and re-worked all the data to make sure it was accurate. They have constantly been moving forward with assessments and possibilities, that we have been watching during board work sessions. They have come up with possible solutions along the way, that when challenged because they were unaware of, say, our aversion to portables, they made course corrections. I think the WORK is slow, not the "district" being slow.
For moving foward, there are more meetings than you list, including the Operations Committee meeting on Oct. 20th, and the Capacity Advisory Committee will have 2-3 meetings before the November vote, which includes community members.
Please remember that when you talk about the "district" as having known, almost none of these people were in their position prior to MGJ, and they have done good work. Is it enough? We'll find out soon, but it won't be for lack of them trying.
I know that the there will be a whole population that will think I'm too optimistic and naive, but I'd like to see us working on solutions rather than villifying individuals for working hard.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry you perceive my post as vilifying anyone.

I was not aware the district had capacity consultants or the money for them.

There is no public input allowed at any Board committee meeting. So sure you can go and listen.

The fact still remains tthat this is again a rushed process.

dan dempsey said...


Let me be clear. I'm a Peggi McEvoy fan. As to how this is currently playing out .. NOT a Fan.

I lay that deficiency on the Board and the Superintendent.

Going to a meeting in which the public can watch and not comment is NOT public engagement. I realize that because of time constraints public comments may not be feasible. ... But please do not think that such meetings classify as public engagement. YUP.. I do think you are nieve if you think public engagement will be given any real emphasis. Remember the record shows the likelihood of using public input to adjust possible pre-made decisions is near ZERO.

Given the Board's approvals of submitting applications for conditional certification of TfA corp members while ignoring the questions in testimony as to the compliance with the WAC.... we can be darn sure that community input is often neglected or outright repeatedly ignored.

Anonymous said...

During the Lincoln/Lowell/APP overcrowding move, there was a public meeting led my Peggi McEvoy. Parents were heard and allowed to comment, and a summary of their comments was made. I do believe the District considered parent (and student) feedback in their decision making.

That said, there was a lot of emotion and anger expressed and the meeting was not professionally run. Of course the proposal was to splinter off the 4th and 5th graders for some undetermined amount of time, so parents were rightly concerned.

a parent

dan dempsey said...

A parent,

The Lowell problem had been in the mix for a really long time and ignored by the District until panic time.

suep. said...

When I chatted with Harium at the beginning of summer during the Lowell overcrowding fiasco, he said that Seattle is one of the few urban districts in the nation experiencing such enrollment growth. I got the impression from him that the board and the district were wholly unprepared for it. It was not a reassuring message.

And yet, as Melissa pointed out, back in 2008-09, parents like Meg D. were showing the board Powerpoint presentations (with actual useful data in them) with demographic trends throughout the district which indicated the need to keep schools open, not close them.

Did the board pay any attention? No. (Only Mary Bass and Harium M-M voted NO on Goodloe-Johnson's idiotic "Capacity Management Plan.")

I noticed at the candidates' debate last week that the incumbents all said SPS' enrollment growth started "two years ago." You know -- right AFTER they voted to close schools. How convenient. And how inaccurate. This implies that they had no way of knowing then that schools shouldn't be closed. Rubbish. 1,750 people across the district signed the ESP Vision petition telling MGJ and the district not to close and split those schools. Hundreds of us marched in the snow from T.T. Minor Elementary to Nova at Mann (two schools slated for closure or moves), protesting the plan. Our march led the news that night. Many parents and community members told the board and MGJ that it would be devastating to their children to be evicted or split apart from their schools, their communities dissolved.

Did anyone listen?

The fact that the district announced it needed to REOPEN schools only 8 months after it voted to close schools that same year is damning evidence of the district's lack of attention to the reality on the ground and inexcusable lack of foresight.

It's hard not to conclude that the closures and splits of 2009 were all political and had little to nothing to do with true capacity needs and what was best for the district's kids.

At that same meeting this past summer (Lowell meeting at Lincoln), I also had the chance to chat with Peter Maier. I sat next to him for two hours. As we watched the meeting unfold, with all the complications and anguishes of the avoidable and predictable Lowell overcrowding mess expressed and discussed, I asked him, "Do you now regret having voted to close and split all those schools in 2009?"

His reply: "Some of them."

Later in the evening, when speakers talked about how the district should have seen the Lowell overcrowding coming, Maier told me the board had no idea it was coming, and only knew about it once people started showing up at school board meetings and testifying about it (in June).

Really? How can the school board be so clueless? Do we really want to reelect these people for 4 more years of this?

SolvayGirl said...

It sure would be nice if Board Members read this blog and a few others. They all might have a better idea of future problems, etc and at least a feel for what people who have various issues with the District think.

Anonymous said...


I think most of the board was caught off guard because the two people who saw the Lowell mess coming didn't speak up (I'm talking Tracy L. and Bob V.). The AL learning office knew there were an additional 100 students who tested into APP, and then there isn't anything built into the NSAP computer to put up a big red flag when a school is enrolled at 120%+.

Back to Melissa's question--when you speak with Pegi can you ask how they think middle school capacity isn't an issue right now when Hamilton is already overcrowded and is graduating their smallest class this year. And, of course more students are testing into APP as the AL office is sending out letters to everyone encouraging high MAP scorers to test into AL.

Personally I smell another Lowell crisis brewing.

L@L 5th grade parent

Anonymous said...

SueP is dead right about all the warnings and facts the district ignored. The biggest red flags were the exploding birth rates throughout the city, particularly in the NE, Central Area (around TT Minor), Queen Anne, and West Seattle. All of those areas had growing populations, which the City's data showed, but it didn't matter. The Board instead chose to accept as gospel the district's inaccurate numbers, while meanwhile having their heads in the sand as far as what was happening in their own neighborhoods. Notice all the extra kids in strollers, folks? In like huge numbers that haven't been seen in the city in decades? Would not listen. Could not listen. Didn't want to listen. Too beholden to corporate interests and Broad SI who said "closing schools increases efficiency and saves money," much like closing factories.

Jach Whalen's posts are essential reading to understand why otherwise intelligent people keep making bad decisions over and over, without ever losing faith that they will ultimately be proven right. At huge costs to their community, of course, which appear to be acceptable losses for them.

New Board. Now. Do not waste your vote on incumbents, please. WSDWG

Fiona @ SP said...

Melissa, I apologize, I have read too many comments on too many blogs and I refer to those in regards to villifing. I value your work on this blog.

There are Capacity Consultants, they are the ones that are written about in the Times last month, that you wrote about titled "Looking Hard at Facilities Issues Costs the District More Money". Doug Nicholls has been the presenter at the Cap. Meetings this week and next.

I'll just reiterate to Dan and others, this is not your kid's old district with regards to facilities, there is a chance for community input and change. There will be community members, along with staff, on the Cap. Adv. Committee, this is Pegi's work after the demographic task force. And even if we are not on the advisory committee, I am hoping we can attend and make suggestions offline.

I have found correspondence with individuals at the district regarding ideas and possible solutions successful, even if you can't have it face to face, back and forth, at a board meeting. Pegi is asking for all the feedback possible, at capacity@seattleschools.org and I believe they are looking at everything.

Perhaps you can ask Pegi what community ideas have caught their attention or even implemented.

Yes, it is rushed, but in the MGJ days we wouldn't have had this much warning or this much data. I am still not claiming victory, it may be a mess, but it's more than we had with the NSAP.

Maybe your next blog on capacity could be a call out for readers to come up with their best plan to help with capacity.

kellie said...

I hate to defend anyone in this mess. I have been following capacity stuff for almost a decade now because it was personal for my family. I started when I first learned that my daughter would not be able to attend our neighborhood elementary school, Bryant, because nobody on our block had gotten into Bryant in years. I had the good fortune to live in the last block of the reference area and the last block of the cluster. It had been going on long enough that my neighbors were resigned to the situation. However, it had not been going on long enough that anyone really cared.

So my perspective is a little unique and I don't blame the usual suspects. (Although, it would have been nice if folks downtown thought I was as credible as my neighbors :)

IMHO, the bottom line here is that it takes a long time to turn around a battleship. Battleships are big, unwieldy, and have a tremendous amount of momentum behind them.

So what are ship captain taught? -- it takes a long time to turn a battleship, so be very careful. Be very thoughtful. Realize that small course adjustments have profound changes that can't be easily undone.

This district is the same way. Once a decision in made, it takes a tremendous amount of time to change the course.

The fundamental issue is that the district tracks enrollment, NOT COHORT SIZE. Cohort size is the only indicator of trends. Enrollment numbers span 13 grades. A 13 year number does not indicate a trend because it takes at least 6-7 years of consistent change in direction before the aggregate number changes direction.

Cohort size did trend downwards for over ten years. That happened. After there were 10 years of downward enrollment, the conversations about closing schools started. The issue is that by this time, cohort size was already INCREASING. In other words, by the time any conversations about closing schools had started, the decline was complete and cohort size was consistently increasing.

Let me repeat that, over all four rounds of closures, the district was actually growing. But the momentum behind the drive to close schools was already set in motion.

Essentially, the ship started to turn about a decade ago. About three years ago, it was incontrovertible, that the direction had changed.

IMHO, the issue is that this plan is about damage control for elementary schools and completely ignores the fact that the battleship is in a different direction and we are going to have a decade of enrollment growth.

North end middle school is a disaster. It is only a matter of time before this hits high school.

dan dempsey said...

Solvay Girl said:
"It sure would be nice if Board Members read this blog and a few others."

It would be nice if the Board responded to School Board testimony and letters as well.

For that to happen, try 4 new school directors.

anonymous said...

I think it has already hit HS. Hale has grown from 1050 students a couple of years ago to close to 1400 this year. Roosevelt remains over crowded, with what, 1650 or so enrolled? Same for Ballard - over enrolled. Ingram was the only school north of the ship canal that has had any excess capacity for many year - this year, however, they had a waitlist for 9th grade. There is zero wiggle room in any HS north of the ship canal, and it is only going to get worse, as overcrowded Eckstein (1400 students), overcrowded Hamilton, Whitman, Jane Addams, Salmon Bay, AS1, and Broadview Thompson graduates move up.


dan dempsey said...

Hey Solvay Girl,

Are you from this Solvay .... or affiliated with this Solvay.. or....
some other Solvay?

anonymous said...

Where can I get current enrollment numbers for each school?


SolvayGirl said...

Totally Off Topic, but...
Hey Dan...the first Solvay which was home to Solvay Process which later became Allied Chemical.

kellie said...

Yes NE, the cohort sizes started increasing with the 9th grade in the north end of town. It am not surprised that all north end high schools are full with wait lists at 9th grade.

I would also not be surprised if there was still enough slack in the system that most of those 9th graders even got the school they wanted (except Garfield, of course).

As the grades roll up over the next three years, choice seats will disappear from those schools as we see the "Garfield situation" repeat itself.

There are not enough portables to fix this at any of the grade levels. Some creative ideas and community driven solutions are the only way to fix this.

Anonymous said...

Very amusing to read that board members said they "didn't know" about the growing population--like Seattle is a dying town and they never expected it to get any bigger or any high density building yah dah yah dah. Very amusing indeed. Some think those vacant schools all over the city that are "too expensive to open" are waiting for charter schools to be approved and wah lah--now there's places to put students.

dan dempsey said...

reposted as anon failed to identify:

Very amusing to read that board members said they "didn't know" about the growing population--like Seattle is a dying town and they never expected it to get any bigger or any high density building yah dah yah dah. Very amusing indeed. Some think those vacant schools all over the city that are "too expensive to open" are waiting for charter schools to be approved and wah lah--now there's places to put students.

mirmac1 said...


Don Nicholls is NOT a capacity consultant. He is an architect brought on board to fix the Fred Stephens/Bill Martin fiasco. I like the guy. He knows contracting and project management. NOT capacity management!

Melissa Westbrook said...

That is a good point, Anonymous.

SPS previously had lots of empty buildings sitting around. Most charter law would allow a charter to be able to use a public school building that is empty(as opposed to having to pay to lease space somewhere).

Now, with the growth, there are fewer of them around.

SP said...

Melissa, the timeline crunch continues after the Nov. 2nd Board vote (we all now know the district's decision to open Boren as an elementary school is a done deal).

The decision left hanging is whether Boren will be an option school (what program will families buy into on such short notice & be willing to have their kids bussed out of their neighborhood- will it be less than 100 kids, mostly entering K's like some of the newly opened schools in the district and how will this help the capacity issues in both the north & south WS schools at all?), OR will it be a new neighborhood assigned school requiring boundary adjustments and new transition tiebreakers re: siblings, grandfathering, transportation etc. (impacting the old Cooper/Pigeon hill neighborhood once again, as well as the closeby WS Elementary/Gatewood/Sanislo boundaries and how will this lessen the overcrowding in the schools such as Schmitz Park, Lafayette in the north and Arbor Heights, Roxhill in the southend unless ALL their boundaries are redrawn as well???).

At the Madison capacity meeting, Chris Richardson said that the district sees that the biggest thing that they can do right now is to open Boren, and then through boundary adjustments and program changes, "we start siphoning kids into Boren". Will parents willingly let their kids be "siphoned"?

That huge issue must be settled by the end of Dec. at the latest, in order to give time for a board intro & action by the end of January before the Feb. registration starts up.

On top of that, the district is putting their heads under the sand and denying that there is a capacity issue at the high school level ("district-wide capacity will still be OK")- but what about huge overcrowding issues at Garfield, Sealth etc. as individual schools?

SP said...

An important capacity shortfall "clarification" came out at the Madison meeting as well, concerning the "Estimated Capacity shortfall" slides for each area from 2012 thru 2016 (see West Seattle blog's video @ 50 minutes).

The actually shortfall (ie 750-850 students for the Denny service area) is considered a shortfall ONLY AFTER ALL schools in that area have been "optimized", so if there are any "under-utilized" schools in that zone, this shortfall assumes that those schools have been brought up to 95%or 100% utilization first.

So...if these are all K-5 or K-8assignment area schools, exactly how do the under-utilized schools reach 100%? If this doesn't happen, then in many service areas on these powerpoint slides, it will appear that there is no capacity shortfall even though several individual schools in that service area can be >140% "utilized"? Is this a serious flaw in their reporting?

Also, in the same video @ about 57 minutes is the chat about the "critical point" of overcrowding in West Seattle, and the discussion about opening another school in addition to Boren for the 2013-14 year, possibly Huges ("but that's not locked in") as "that's the one that gives the most bang for the district buck".
Apparently, the Hughes lease (from the May 2010 board meeting) includes some interesting details, such as only 15 month's notice to break the lease, but also that the district might be held responsible for many of Westside's improvement costs if the lease is broken less than 3 years.

Po3 said...

The lack of available building space to house charters is my biggest concern. I think the option schools are low picking fruit for charters.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It would really depend on the charter law. I haven't heard of one that could displace an existing school (unless the district was closing that school). I honestly think that could not happen.

However, we have seen how the Board has lined up for TFA without any real reason to do so. If they would do that for TFA, I wonder what they would do for the powers that be who want charters.

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote:
"However, we have seen how the Board has lined up for TFA without any real reason to do so."

Oh my we can go a lot further than that... Holly Ferguson and the Board have ignored the requirements for requesting conditional certification stated in WAC 181-79A-231. At this point in time I know that the PESB's executive director Jennifer Wallace has no interest in the implementation of this law as written. Perhaps the same is true for OSPI.

Given the Occupy Protests ... the coming SPS Board elections are incredibly important because the society no longer resembles a republic but rather an oligarchy.

In a republic every citizen is guaranteed the protection of the constitution and laws and the laws are applied equally to all.

In an oligarchy a select powerful few run the show. ... humm ... $500,000 in spending produces 4 directors who are unable to use relevant data to make intelligent decisions ... but worse they clearly ignored the questions asked in regard to compliance with WAC 181-79A-231 and did exactly what they wished to do.

In most elections these days the choice is between members of two tribes both equally bought by special interests.... In the coming SPS Board elections there actually is a choice between "A" the agents of the oligarchs that have ignored the law and "B" the folks that have not been funded by the oligarchs.

-- Dan D

Chris S. said...

Melissa, I know that in several cities charter schools were "co-housed" with public schools, often eventually crowding the public school out.

I wonder if 1st AME will turn around and sell to KIPP. Do I get the conspiracy theorist prize?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Chris. I had forgotten about that kind of situation.

WenD said...

@Kellie, just to add, as it's been said many times, that the drive to close in the face of population and cohort growth was and is political. The ultimate waste and cost of reopening these schools didn't matter. The board and the sup have - never - been held to account for waste, much less the missing millions. Which leads to...

@Chris: You get the prize. Those who foresee how they can use a school district to make money are the ones who benefit the most while the district keeps on losing money. These incumbents reached this point on the backs on previous incumbents who made the same mistakes.

dan dempsey said...

WenD said:
"The ultimate waste and cost of reopening these schools didn't matter. The board and the sup have - never - been held to account for waste, much less the missing millions. Which leads to..."

So speaking of never being held to account .... where will the failure of the Board, the District, OSPI, and PESB's Jennifer Wallace to implement WAC 181-79A-231 lead? .... Is anyone actually thinking that ignoring a WAC would have consequences?

dan dempsey said...

School closure update.... Appeals Court Division I will have a hearing on Nov 3, 2011 in regard to the closure of Seattle Schools. The District failed to provide the transcript of evidence in a timely fashion (( way way outside the 20 day requirement) ) to the appellants and never certified the transcript of evidence was correct.

Typical SPS behavior => legal violations ... followed by typical superior court action => ignore violations of the law RCW 28A 645.020.

Meg said...

this sounds like nitpicking, and maybe it is, but I find it incredibly irritating that not even the September enrollment data is up on the district website. They have to file the reports - so why isn't the data available?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Agreed - Anon at 9:58 p.m.

This year our family was torn between supporting our local school and joining the PTA. Joining the PTA does provide some support to our school, but then a good portion goes to the regional and state PTA as well.

The extended PTA groups do seem to have different goals that take support away from local schools/parents/teachers.

As a compromise, only one parent joined the PTA this year instead of both.

I do not believe the majority of parents understand that the majority of the dues they pay do not stay with their school.

- Not this year

suep. said...

Re-posting for Anonymous @ 10/9/11 9:58 PM so comment doesn't get deleted, with an addition:

Anonymous said...

Double Thumbs Down for Charters

In NYC there are many examples of neighborhood schools being ousted in favor of charters that take over the building. Easy to research online. Easy to find outraged neighborhoods when charters take over. Especially as they are usually all lottery which means most living right near the school no longer have access. Charters tear down geographic communities in favor of their own mission. I'm not buying it. We don't have enough facilities here in the first place.

I've also read that WA PTA is supporting this. I think charter-ites sneakily maneuvered to woo certain ed reform pta-ers to get it into the platform. I think worse of the PTA for going for it. I doubt the average PTA parent understands what the state group is lobbying for.

10/9/11 9:58 PM

Here's more info on the PTA leadership's sneaky political agenda:

Whoa! Where did that come from Washington State PTA!? Charter schools?! Part 1

Whoa! Where did that come from Washington State PTA!? Charter schools?! Part 2

suep. said...

My recent letter to the Seattle and Washington State PTA leadership:

Who asked for charters?

Dear Heidi, Ramona et al,

I just read your latest message about the upcoming PTA session and survey.

Can you please tell me why the PTA is proposing charter schools?

Who among us PTA members have asked for them?

Washington State voters have rejected charter schools three times in the last 15 years. Why does the PTA leadership believe Seattle or Washington should consider them yet again?

Charter schools have an extremely mixed record. Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has acknowledged this fact. In fact, according to the 2009 report by CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes) at Stanford University (funded, by the way, by charter supporters such as the Walton/WalMart, and Dell families), 83 percent of charter schools perform no better -- or perform worse -- than traditional public schools.

So why is the PTA proposing to bring to our state a very questionable, controversial and discredited concept? And where was the public discussion of this before you put it on the agenda?

Does the fact that the Gates Foundation, which strongly supports charter schools, gave the national PTA $2 million in 2009 have anything to do with Seattle and state PTA leadership embracing a key component of the Gates ed reform agenda?

Charter schools not only don't necessarily help kids more than traditional schools, they have been known to cherrypick which students they accept, do not tend to serve children with special needs, have high attrition rates (even Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children's Zone kicked out an entire class of kids), tend to be overly focused on teaching to the test, can be highly regimented and punitive, and have been found to be re-segregating our nation's schools (the largest charter franchises like the multimillion-dollar KIPP, Inc., largely target low-income children of color). Though publicly funded, they do not have the same oversight that traditional public schools have.

Charters are also known for hiring non-union teachers. The current ed reform favorite charter franchise, KIPP, Inc., likes to staff its schools with short-term Teach for America, Inc. recruits, who have only 5 weeks of training, zero student teacher experience, and are only required to stay in the profession for 2 years. Such lack of experience and churn in teaching staff is not good for kids, especially the most struggling children.

(The CEO of KIPP, Inc., Richard Barth, is married to the CEO of Teach for America, Inc. Wendy Kopp.) TFA recently set up shop in Seattle. (What is the PTA's position on TFA, by the way? And why hasn't the PTA spoken up about TFA and the de-professionalizing of the teaching profession? Surely that must be a concern we all share.)

For more information, please see:

The Pillars of “Education Reform” are Toppling

Whoa! Where did that come from Washington State PTA!? Charter schools?! Part 1

Whoa! Where did that come from Washington State PTA!? Charter schools?! Part 2

Also, is the PTA saying that our city and state's existing schools and teachers and community lack ingenuity, innovation or commitment to our district's children? If so, I disagree. What we lack is funding, and honest leadership in SPS.

I -- and many others -- do not believe in privatizing public education. Charters are a big step in that direction. A huge misstep.

I urge the PTA to strike charters from it agenda and stop speaking for us parents without consulting us.

Anonymous said...

To take it back down to a more personal level.

Our school PTA, our regional PTA, our state PTA did not advocate for us the parents.

Many in the PTA leadership at our school are there because of receiving a mandatory assignment from the old assignment plan.

There was no public support of us newly out of boundary families under the NSAP. There was no public support from Seattle PTA. There was no public support from the state PTA.

No public support for parents. Parents that have been supporting their local schools with volunteer time and financial gifts.

Why is the P now absent from PTA, Parent Teacher Association?

-Not this year

Tracy @ WSB said...

Whatever the tweaked plan results to be, it apparently will be made public on November 1st. I've just been rooting around the district website looking for nested info and found a supe-to-board section that, while at least one week behind, did include the schedule plus this wrt Capacity Management: "A media briefing will be held on November 1st from 11:00 a.m. –Noon in the Board Room. Notice will be distributed via a Media Advisory." (Helpful for me to know, so I'm marking my calendar now! Which reminds me of one side note on the issue of how the WS meeting got crossscheduled with myriad open houses ... Tom Redman said he scheduled the meetings IN AUGUST. So it wasn't so much that he should have known, but the dates he set should have been available to the schools before setting theirs... or at least out there in the public somewhere. We did not even get two full weeks advance notice, in terms of a media/calendar advisory.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for the update, Tracy. It does beg the question that if the meetings were scheduled in August, the notice came so late.

I don't know when principals set the dates for their Open Houses but if the district had told them about these meetings early on, they probably would have picked a different date.

Anonymous said...

The real problem here is that the district merged two distinct concepts - capacity management and return to local schools assignment. It would have been much wiser to separte these 2 issues by a few years. (Anybody who thought there was ever going to be "choice" was both deluded and naive.) Several audits, the CACIEE, (or whatever it was called) called for a reduction in busing as a district expense. And yes, busing has been reduced and assignment certainty attained. Merging the concepts of "choice" schools and capacity management seems a wise way to go. We have to use the option schools to both provide alternatives and reduce overcrowding. My guess is that will be the plan when it is unveiled.

I, for one, support charters, in some limited capacity in SPS to serve that role too. I'd like to see the teacher's union weakened or at least challenged. At curriculum night we were told that the union had "protected" the teachers from a requirement to use the SRC. That is, they don't have to post results on the SRC, post assignments, or use it at all. It's just fine to leave parents in the dark. Teachers don't have to communicate at all as a union requirement. Here we have a great tool - that the union thinks is just too much work for their members. Any teacher with even a modicum of organization, would have no problem using this. Yet the union again protects incompetence. How lame.

Arguements against accountability are specious - there's no accountability in SPS schools, how could anbody complain about lack of oversight somewhere else? Secondly, it's all about choice. If you don't like them, don't attend. And lastly, lots and lots of SPS programs cherry-pick too. No problem with posters with their own cherry-picking programs, why cry about that in somebody else's private program.


mirmac1 said...

No Chris, 1st AME couldn't do that without passing along the convenant regarding use by orgs for community benefit.

Anonymous said...

Sue P. wrote:
"Charter schools not only don't necessarily help kids more than traditional schools, they have been known to cherrypick which students they accept, do not tend to serve children with special needs, have high attrition rates (even Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children's Zone kicked out an entire class of kids), tend to be overly focused on teaching to the test, can be highly regimented and punitive, and have been found to be re-segregating our nation's schools (the largest charter franchises like the multimillion-dollar KIPP, Inc., largely target low-income children of color). Though publicly funded, they do not have the same oversight that traditional public schools have."

Perhaps the answer as to why there are parents and even some in the PTA looking at charters rests in your posting. Our district is doing many of the things you accuse charters of: standardized testing, re-segregation (NSAP and the missing 10% set aside seats), lack of accountability, etc. As to hiring teachers that don't belong to unions, I don't know if non unionized teachers are worse or better teachers than unionized ones.

This isn't a pro-charter stance. But I believe there are lots of frustrated folks like me who after many years of quietly supporting our schools, teachers, and administrators by writing checks, volunteering, going to community meetings, voting for ed levies, and doing all the stuff we've been told to do, we find ourselves not necessarily better off in our struggle to find a quality education our kids need. (You can find it, but it requires living at the right address, a little luck -with the lottery, the time to figure out how to navigate the system and a good crystal ball.)

fed up

Anonymous said...

A couple of questions and observations. Let me adjust my tin foil hat first...

Has the restrictive covenant been recorded? It should be Exhibit B of the PSA. The on-line version of the PSA at the KC Assessor does not include the covenant.

Who is to say that a Kipp facility would not pass the "community benefit" smell test? Additionally, not having seen the actual covenant, and regardless of what it actually may say, who would enforce the covenant? I am somewhat skeptical that SPS would enforce it...


Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that KIPP wants "in" to Seattle? I haven't heard that. People have to want to the schools in order for them to survive. If AME and KIPP were to make a deal, why would anybody want to block that? They'd only do it if people were ready and willing to sign up.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"And lastly, lots and lots of SPS programs cherry-pick too."

It is unclear what you are referencing. Could you expand on that?

In terms of the teachers not using the Source, you're right. They should. But keep in mind, the district AND the Board agreed to the contract. Not just the union. If something that matters so much to parents isn't at the forefront of what they negotiate with the union about, then maybe we need to make that clear next time.

Anonymous said...

I've stumbled on this blog by accident, but have discovered it to be full of data, insights and research info. It is the Shanker Blog (endowed by American Federation of Teachers). There are 2 great threads by Matt DiCarlo about Charter and the "Education Reform" discussion.


http://shankerblog.org/?p=3652 (this one is interesting for the data geek. Expanding charter schools in Ohio based on performance vs. overall student growth and how data can be used poorly in policy making.


Fed up

mirmac1 said...

Thirty year convenant, right here

Anonymous said...

and have been found to be re-segregating our nation's schools

I find it interesting that it's always the APP parents, like this one, that complain about "resegregation" for other people. They live in the most segregated program of all, by choice - and like it. But somehow, they complain about it everywhere else. It's ok for them, but not for anyone else. Guess that's the big bummer about smartness.


hschinske said...

They live in the most segregated program of all, by choice - and like it.

Sorry, no -- that's not the case. In my experience, the vast majority of APP parents are angry that the program is not serving a more representative population. It's not their fault. But when even speaking out against racial injustices is taken as further evidence of one's hypocrisy ... well, it gets tiring.

Incidentally, by far the least diverse school my kids have attended is their neighborhood elementary school, Whittier. One of their teachers there accidentally spelled the name with one T on a newsletter, and I have to say I thought it was pretty dang funny.

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...


Interesting about Whittier and Whitier.

Speaking of White Er... Try these thoughts from The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The NSAP justification was to make every school a quality school.... it might be argued that there was no mechanism in place to do that.

It may be that given the absence of open choice seats and transportation, the NSAP is increasing economic and racial disparity...... Increasingly separate and increasingly unequal schools could be an NSAP result... RIP Thurgood Marshall ......
1954 Brown vs Board of Education ...

Marshall had seen segregation his entire life. His mother taught kindergarten in all-black schools, where she earned far less by law than white teachers. After college, Marshall wanted to attend law school at the University of Maryland but the school did not accept blacks. Two years after graduating from the law school at historically black Howard University, Marshall, with help from Howard Law School dean and mentor Charles Hamilton Houston, won a lawsuit forcing the University of Maryland to integrate its law school.

Houston had brought Marshall into the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and their work set the stage for what was to become the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., case. In addition to Topeka, Brown was accompanied by similar cases from around the country: South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

When the case went to the Supreme Court, Marshall argued that school segregation was a violation of individual rights under the 14th Amendment. He also asserted that the only justification for continuing to have separate schools was to keep people who were slaves "as near that stage as possible."

Few Open Choice seats are now available under the NSAP (clear that a promise is violated).... and Director Betty Patu voted against NSAP and said .... the SPS needs to create the quality schools before the NSAP goes into effect..... NOW no one even talks about the every school a quality school basis for the NSAP.

Sure looks as if "whitier" is happening,

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Guess that's the big bummer about smartness."

I perceive that as an unkind and disrespectful statement to make.

Anonymous said...

If one wanted to send a specific re this capacity management plan, does anyone have suggestions besides the capacity management team and the board?

want to alert them to a problem