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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A New Neighborhood School for West Seattle

The District Staff has recommended to the Board a short-term capacity management plan for West Seattle that calls for a fleet of portables and a new option school located (at least at first) at Boren.

The community is calling for a new neighborhood school located in West Seattle, not an option school.

The staff says that they prefer an option school because they can see that they are going to have to change the attendance area boundaries, but they are going to do it next year, not this year, and they only want to do it once. All of these boundaries, they explain, are seriously interconnected.

That sounds pretty reasonable, until you remember that West Seattle is on a peninsula and is completely dis-connected from the rest of the District. The District can change the West Seattle attendance area boundaries this year and change the boundaries for the rest of the district next year. There won't be any problem caused by the inter-connectedness of the boundaries because they are not, in fact, interconnected.

The District can go ahead and house the new school, temporarily, at Boren while the long-term site is made ready. But let's go ahead and name the long-term site and draw boundaries for it without further delay.

Oh, and if you want to make it a STEM school, that's fine. The program in the building has nothing to do with whether it is a neighborhood school or an option school.

39 comments:

mirmac1 said...

And WTH does a STEM K-5 look like? Can SPS even do this well?

WS needs a neighborhood school for the Delridge community. And an emphasis on math and science education should occur in ALL WS schools.

dan dempsey said...

Wish I knew what k-5 STEM means.

At Cleveland that STEM label came with the District's (oh my gosh we are in such a big hurry) $800,000 NTN contract purchase for Project Based Learning in all classes.

So Problem Based Learning has an extremely low effect size of 0.15 .... Discovery/Inquiry math has been an ongoing disaster .... I have no idea what k-5 STEM means ... but looking at the District's math moves over the last decade ..... a math / science focus in Elementary school ... Oh Wow I have no idea what these folks may be thinking .... other than the latest fad .. we need that.
===========================
(Here is the word from David O.)

A 2005 paper evaluating the decline in Ed Research quality "Is Educational Intervention Research on the Decline?":

"In short, the 20-year decline in intervention and experimental research observed in the five journals investigated here may result in part from the relative ease (and apparent acceptability) of researchers making causal claims about outcomes based on non-experimental research."

These authors don't come out and say it but the 2008 NMAP report said that Ed Research doctoral students needed more training in experimental design methodology. I suspect that the decades long dirty little secret is that if you can get an Ed PhD without doing the hard work of rigorous experimental design then why work that hard? Dr. Cindy Moss of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools certainly didn't have to and she got a state STEM award in 2009. ( http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/News/Pages/CMSeducatortoreceivestateSTEMaward.aspx )

This nonsense has got to change and step one is that the state and school districts have to evaluate the research history, credibility and credentials of any person from the Ed Schools supplying them advice. Deriving political cover by taking advice from people such as Virginia Stimpson or others from the UW who have no experience with high quality quantitative research should be seen as a failure of due diligence related to responsible oversight.

==============
UW MEP results .... Wow imagine what these folks might do with a STEM focus for grades k-5.
================

I would much rather have a Core Knowledge focus --- something that has been proven to work ..... rather than SPS make it up as we go along.

grousefinder said...

Dan...perhaps this will help you understand a K-5 STEM school:


For the next two decades the best U.S. jobs will require a sound education in mathematics and science, starting at a very early age. If we do not prepare students for careers in what has become known as STEM fields then those jobs will need to be imported. You can find all the concrete reasons for STEM schools (beginning at a young age) in the STEM Education - Report to the President (Sept. 2010). Read it here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf

STEM at grades K-5 begins with a math curriculum that has a proven track record in developing adept math students who are calculus bound by high school. Singapore Math comes to mind in West Seattle. I believe that Cliff Mass has spoken eloquently on the topic of ill-prepared math students entering our universities.

In the area of science, a STEM focused school would work two parallel and interlinked tracks; build a knowledge base amongst students while developing skills in the scientific method. Knowledge building requires research reading and an expository writing focus (cause and effect in particular). At earlier grades (1-3) comparing and contrasting materials, and observations, provides the basis for expository writing. Remember, science is also about observing the world and writing is more than the personal narrative (i.e. Writer’s Workshop).

In the area of technology and engineering, a recent study from Georgetown University says that people who design and build technology will be more employable than people who can merely use technology. It should also be noted that people who can repair and install technology, such as those in the service industry, are projected to be some of the most employable people in the country when this current generation of elementary students hits employment age. An early relationship with designing and building technology at K-5 establishes the foundations in children to continue such pursuits as they move through school.

A STEM school does not need to be filled with expensive technology and the latest off-the-shelf gizmos. It needs to be filled with teachers that are willing to get their hands dirty. Sometimes the best science comes from the least expected places. One only needs to use their imagination.

http://crosscut.com/2011/02/03/k-12/20601/How-a-school-custodian-helped-fire-up-one-science-program/

STEM is not a reformist (constructivist) plot. It is a response to our woeful lack of attention to middle-class jobs in the U.S.

mirmac1 said...

I believe the consensus at a number of WS neighborhood meetings is that math and science should be improved at ALL WS schools. Don't THOSE kids need to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow? Or are they all destined to be unemployed Philosophy majors?

grousefinder said...

mirmac1...the consensus at the neighborhood meetings is that WS schools are overcrowded. An option school is a response to that problem.

That the math and science curriculum across the District is woefully inadequate is another issue that the Curriculum Wonks will need to solve. That's a downtown issue, and a districtwide issue, not just a West Seattle issue.

The two problems do not call for the same solution.

Can we agree on that?

ws said...

I agree that West Seattle needs a new neighborhood school now and I say that knowing full well that my incoming K student will likely be impacted by the re-drawing of boundaries. Adding 25-30 portables in the region when there are already so many schools with portable farms is a horrible and stresses the schools way to much. What I don't know is whether a good job of redrawing the lines can happen now before enrollment opens. Ultimately that would be my deciding factor. Is there enough time to redraw in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

Charlie Mas said...

I believe that Queen Anne Elementary is regarded as a K-5 STEM school. I suppose that when District officials suggest a K-5 STEM school for West Seattle they mean one like Queen Anne.

If you visit Queen Anne Elementary you are likely to be struck more by the fact that it is a hybrid school than by the STEM focus. At a hybrid school students spend a part of the day getting individualized skill-building with computer-based instruction.

This individualized instruction provides a number of benefits. Each student is taught at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills. There is no "teaching to the middle" here. Advanced learners are free to go beyond grade level and those who are working below grade level get the instruction they need. It's all one-on-one so there's no hurt feelings. All students' learning is accelerated because their time is spent on the skills they need. Students can get a lot of practice on their skills.

Then, since the teachers are not burdened with the duty of teaching skills or proctoring while students build their skills with practice, the time with the teacher and classmates is focused on collaborative project-based work that exercises the higher level cognitive skills.

It's a very promising model. It does not, however, have to have a STEM focus.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I personally am not for a STEM school (although I disagree with the notion that it doesn't need to be a Option school -the district has set it up this way). I don't get setting up a whole new program that they have never done before. It will not be done well as it will be rushed (and for a STEM school you need it done well). I think Montessori would be a draw and the district knows how to do it.

The Board is to approve money towards reopening Fairmount Park and John Marshall so I think they are the likely places for next placements.

uxolo said...

STEM is trendy. It comes with reform ideas. No need to call a sound math and science curricula STEM.

Perhaps someone can tell us how much the Queen Anne school receives from donations. I hear it is significant.

Anonymous said...

STEM is a perfect is example of schooling and training versus "educating." I was ready for calculus 25 years ago in a run of the mill public high school, whilst banging away on an IBM mainframe, RadioShack TRS 80's, Commodores & Ataris. Along with countless hours in video arcades. It was the times. If everything they predicted back then came true, we'd live in a world 180 degrees opposite the one we inhabit.

We should stop the panic and nonsense about all the unfilled tech jobs in the future. Certainly technology will grow and we will need "skilled workers" for those jobs. Ed Reformers love that title, btw, but you can bet its not the future they envision for their kids. They use words like "future leaders, innovators," and "entrepeneurs" to describe their own.

Let's be real about this: A surplus of tech workers in the future will increase the labor supply and drive down wages, period. If you think big business looks forward to paying high wages in the future, think again. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg for off-shoring of jobs thus far.

FoxConn in China, which employs over 200k people and builds all Apple and HP machines now has nets around the perimeter of their manufacturing buildings to catch the workers jumping off them to end their lives. That's tech today. We've also seen a mass exodus white collar jobs overseas in the Legal and CPA fields, depressing wages here in the US for legal support, for example. Jobs that used to pay $70 per hour now pay $25, and the lines of workers applying are out the door.

We are getting seduced by the STEM panic without seeing the bigger picture. If we don't have bright minded policy makers in the future, no amount of STEM training will save us from ourselves. As a West Seattle tax paying public education supporter, I do not want to see STEM getting special, favorable treatment in my region, at the expense of other, greater needs at this time.

Future employers will feed their bottom line, meaning cheaper imported employees will always win out over domestics, unless the domestics are willing to take less. No leader of any public company will pay more for labor, just because it was Made in the USA. The bottom line is the bottom line.

Targeted, job sector training in our public schools, like STEM training will limit the capabilities of the working class in the long run, and by then it will be too late to correct.

I'm not saying STEM is bad. If people want it for their kids, I want it to be available to them in high quality. But I'm also saying STEM should not be prioritized for get preferential treatment becaue we are partial to the tech industry around here. For every potential benefit STEM focusing might confer, there is an offsetting cost or foreclosed opportunity as well.

It's not as simple as it seems, and I would take any "presidential report" with a grain of salt, given this president's Dept of Ed policies to date. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

To clarify a common misperception, QAE is NOT a STEM school or a Tech school.

QAE is a 21st Century learning school...

http://www.queenanneelementary.com/vision.html


Signed QAE Parent

zb said...

The desire to make a new WS school an option school is capacity driven, isn't it? They want to avoid redrawing boundaries and they want to use option schools as a method of dealing with excess (and potentially fluctuating excess, on a time and location basis) populations in a neighborhood system. This is my surmise.

I hate it when the issues I perceive as driving the decision making aren't laid out, because then we have side discussions about purported reasons for actions that aren't the real reasons. It's frustrating and annoying.

And, I think they want to make the option school a "STEM" school because they hope that it will draw enough interest (but doesn't raise whatever operational concerns prevent the formation of an option language school, another potentially popular option).

But, everyone is talking about completely different things.

zb said...

I personally am comfortable with using option schools as a part of a capacity management plan because I'm strongly committed to a neighborhood school plan with relatively stable borders. I'm actually quite disturbed that borders could be redrawn on 3 year time scale, which I consider far to frequent to reap the benefits of neighborhood centered schools. The caveat is that I do think that the borders were incorrectly drawn to overdraw boundaries to popular schools.

So, if the school district were straightforward about their plans and motivations, I'd support option schools used to manage load on neighborhood schools (if the school district makes a case that the load isn't a permanent change). But, I don't know what to do when I'm being told fake reasons for everything they're doing.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps someone can tell us how much the Queen Anne school receives from donations. I hear it is significant."

QAE PTSA has been raising funds but only a small portion goes to fund the 21st century learning vision.

The majority of dollars funds things that a smaller enrollment school does not get allocated from SPS. i.e. Art teacher

signed QAE Parent

dan dempsey said...

Grousefinder ---

Thanks for your comment. I always carefully read what you write .... you have a great rep with me.

I would love to see some data on what practices and materials specifically will be used in an SPS k-5 STEM school.

When a problem is reported not every change will be a solution.

STEM may be a response to our woeful lack of attention to middle-class jobs in the U.S. Specifically what is that STEM k-5 response?

I am really leery of many of the plans that could be pushed on k-4. There is a big difference between learning Science and Science appreciation.. Much of what I believe might be attempted in k-4 might fall under being actively engaged in doing something rather than learning much of anything.

"An early relationship with designing and building technology at K-5 establishes the foundations in children to continue such pursuits as they move through school." So what is this continuing and how does it stack-up with eventual outcomes? It takes 13 years to go from K entry to Graduation. This is perhaps making a causal claim about an outcome based on non-experimental research. How much classroom time is spent in establishing these foundations and where does that time come from? The SPS has quite a reputation for ineffective use of instructional time .... Check out all day Everyday Math's record of futility ... especially with low income students..

There are instructional materials and practices that are have proven to be successful. Much of what is presented as an argument for k-5 STEM appears to be based "On what some would like to have work". Ed USA and the UW and OSPI and SPS have quite a record of failure when it comes to providing math education to students.

What PhD scientists and Nobel prize winners do as adults is likely not an appropriate daily diet for students in grades k-3.

I am skeptical of K-5 STEM and I would say for good reasons. ..... If my hope was to produce technical professionals, I would provide K-5 students with a strong program in each grade K-5 that focused on the development of academic skills and learning of academic content. .... Core Knowledge instructional design has produced remarkable gains in measurable student achievement, which is causal claim about an outcome based on experimental research. Among the outcomes: Dramatic gains in student achievement using Core Knowledge in grades k-2 in the NYC schools where the Core Knowledge program is used. SO what has STEM k-5 done?

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

Speaking of improving math at all WS elementary schools .... TRY THIS.

The district ditched Everyday Math for Math In Focus this year as it searched for a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade course that would better prepare students for the rigors of high school math.

Po3 said...

What about an arts and music focused school? I know, it's so yesterday. But I would enroll in a heartbeat!

Kate Martin said...

All of the test results say we should be adjusting curricula, texts + instructional practices at pretty much all of our schools in order to get better outcomes. I don't think that creating magnet STEM elementary schools responds to the problem. Nearly all 57 elementary schools need improvements to curricula, texts + instructional practices. How long are we expected to wait for those improvements to happen? Are we going to just keep coddling management and blaming teachers for the inaction of administration?

dan dempsey said...

All of the test results say we should be adjusting curricula, texts + instructional practices at pretty much all of our schools in order to get better outcomes. Agreed .....

Well yes but ..... ever since I watched those WASL reading and math scores skyrocket from 1998 to 2005 at grade 7, I've been increasingly skeptical of the tests and what the tests claim to be testing.

Since Writers Workshop is the current program being pushed .... look for MSP writing to align itself with what WW teaches. If scores are good it may not mean that students understand the basic conventions of writing but rather can put together the form of paragraph and essay that MSP is looking for. This could narrow achievement gaps by redefining writing achievement.

In a similar fashion as we look to investigating the definition of test achievement , what about math? ... Although the WA Math Standards were greatly improved with the 2008 Math Standards, how OSPI decides to test Algebra and Geometry on EoCs and what is emphasized on the OSPI Math MSPs may leave a lot to be desired.

Is what is important in school mathematics being taught and accurately tested so that achievement reports are of value? I would love to say yes .... but since the SBE math panel has not been meeting ... who knows.... I sure do not.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

Director Smith-Blum said that she would prefer a STEAM school instead of a STEM school.

STEAM: Science Technology Engineering Arts Math

We used to call that "school".

I don't know how much engineering they think they can build into a K-5 curriculum. The technology is more about using it than creating it.

I think they could find a market for almost any kind of school including Montessori, language immersion, whole child, or what-have-you.

Charlie Mas said...

I deleted a comment thinking it was un-signed. I've re-interpreted the last line of the comment as a signature and so I will re-post it:

Fall 2012 STEM at Boren.
Fall 2013 Neighborhood school at Fairmount Park.

Too many kids, need all the plans.

Anonymous said...

As a West Seattleite from the wrong side of the tracks, I say either:

Fall 2012 Pathfinder at Boren and neighborhood school back at Cooper

Fall 2013 repeat OR

Fall 2012 put in the 30 portables staff wants at WS elems anyway, whether Boren opens or not.

Fall 2013 implement a thoughtful long term solution in WS, and stop with the whiplash changes in boundaries every year.

another WS mom

Anonymous said...

I am from the delridge area in west Seattle that was hugely affected by the closure of Cooper. I have a child at Lafayette (our current neighborhood school) and a younger child who will be starting school in a couple of years. Can anyone explain to me what the process is for populating a new neighborhood school? The lousy grandfathering policy following the switch from choice to neighborhood caused a huge amount of pain for many families and I see myself in the line of fire for that with the opening of a new neighborhood school. It is extremely stressful and unfair that a community hit hard previously by closures continues to be shuffled around.

I also feel like the district is stuck between a rock and a hard place with reopening Boren. They have to do so next fall and if they don't open a STEM school there, startup capital funds will be lost for that concept school. I personally know people who would like to send their kids to this type of school and I would consider it if we are forced out of Lafayette at some point.

Delridge mom

mirmac1 said...

The alternative, that would preserve the option for startup capital costs in 2013, is to place Interagency there while a comprehensive, well thought-out plan is formulated for WS schools. Yes, we've been screwed royally. What I don't want to see is another half-hearted cobbled initiative doomed to fail, OR a diversion of math and science talent and focus from other schools.

If an option school is opened there then, by gawd, everyone in the immediate area shall have first dibs for entry. NOT like Cleveland STEM, NOT like Thornton Creek. Now THAT I can buy into.

Anonymous said...

Charile, I usually love your insight, but here I only wish the situation was as simple as it appears in your post. I'm a West Seattle parent who has been following this situation closely. The WS boundary lines may seem "completely dis-connected" from other parts of the district, but for the 14 WS schools with attendance areas, there IS a lot of interconnectedness. Precisely because of the peninsula boundaries are complicated here. Neighborhoods on the edges and don't have the option of leaping the water to find another adjacent school. Redrawing now would not prevent the need for major boundary changes in the near future. This problem cannot be solved by opening 1 new elementary school. Numerous schools in both the Madison and Denny service areas are facing a dire shortage of space and the numbers are growing.

WS has 6 elementary schools that need additional homeroom space for 2012-13 according to SPS Short Term Capacity Planning. This number ignores all the students in WS already in portables. In 2011 at least 3 WS elementary schools added more portables to deal with growing enrollment. It seems to be universally acknowledged by those involved with this that more than 1 additional school needs to be opened in the near future or existing schools need new wings or some other multifaceted solution. I've heard SPS officials and School Board Directors mention opening elementary schools at numerous locations: Fairmount Park, Hughes, Genesee Hill, the old Denny site and Boren. Which will be reopened, expanded, built, etc. depend on the BEX IV Levy. Any changes now can't take into account the location and sizes of new schools since they haven't been planned or funded.

Many of the same neighborhoods that were directly impacted by recent closures and unexpected boundary lines are the most likely to be affected by any current redraw and then again by the changes finalized with BEX IV. Most voices I've heard in the WS community acknowledge that the painful process of redrawing boundaries is necessary, but there is a strong desire to minimize the disruption and hurt by doing it a minimal number of times and with a thoughtful multi-year plan in place.

WS families have sold their homes and bought new homes in response to the first NSAP which they thought was only subject to slight adjustments in the next few years. Some are moving to ensure that their younger child can attend the same school with their older child where they were involved in the school community. Many more families do not have this option. Grandfathering existing students and siblings does not eliminate the pain of redraws. When busing is not grandfathered and school start times are after 9AM, many families must change schools. When sibling preference is meaningless because there is no space for anyone on the waiting list, when neighborhood schools offer special curriculum not available at other campuses but are not labeled option schools there is a lot of suffering with each redrawing of lines. When eldest or only children must enter a school that none of their neighbors attend because of redraws and grandfathering, they are left out of carpools, activities and friendships.

An option school and/or neighborhood school located at Boren would certainly attract more students if its permanent location (including any boundary lines) was known. However, the options appear to be redraw now with no definite information about which of multiple campuses will be opening soon, and then again next year, or wait until next year and redraw them with a thoughtful plan of other boundary changes that will be rolled out as the projects in the BEX IV Levy are completed (subject to adjustments, but presented in good faith). I, like many others in the thick of it, prefer the later. -Fiver

Charlie Mas said...

Fiver, I hear you loud and clear.

I believe that the optimal solution would be for the District to commit to opening at least two additional attendance area elementary schools in West Seattle: one north of Juneau (I'm thinking of Fairmount Park) and one south of Juneau (I'm thinking of the Denny site). There may be a need for an additional option school as well, perhaps at the E C Hughes site, perhaps elsewhere.

The District can commit to the creation of these two or three schools now, determine attendance areas for them, and apply those attendance areas for the upcoming school year (fall 2012). Until the Fairmount Park and Denny buildings are ready, the schools can both meet at the Boren building. Then, when their buildings are ready for occupancy, the schools can relocated to their permanent sites.

I don't see any reason that the attendance areas and the schools cannot be created now. It could save costs by reducing the need for portables, although there will be some transportation costs - assuming the students are not already on buses headed elsewhere.

There will, of course, be disruption, but the disruption will be no less next year.

The District's suggestion that they cannot re-arranged the attendance areas in West Seattle at a different time from when they re-arrange the attendance areas in other parts of town is simply false.

I'm sorry that I was unclear.

mirmac1 said...

Email from Marty McLaren:

Thank you to all the West Seattle (and other) people who have joined the dialogue about short term solutions for overcrowding in our elementary schools.

Decision to move forward with the STEM option proposal
Friday I made the decision not to go forward with my amendment to the current proposal: Thus, the Seattle School Board will vote next Wednesday, January 18th, on whether to open an elementary STEM option program at the Boren site, and in addition to add portables as needed in the Denny and Madison service areas for the 2012-13 school year.

Because many of you felt that there had not been adequate community discussion about the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program recommendation, I had prepared an amendment which would have delayed placing a STEM program at Boren for a year, until 2013-14. I invited interested people to comment on this blog about their vision for West Seattle schools and the STEM option, and also invited people to attend one of three meetings (the final meeting of this series takes place this morning at 11 AM at the Delridge Library). However, after listening carefully, discussing the various angles, and looking at all the factors, when the Friday deadline came to post the amendment, I chose not to do it.

Deciding factors -- concerns about going forward
As you know, this was a complex and difficult decision. Many West Seattle people have correctly pointed out that placing a STEM program at Boren does not begin to adequately address overcrowding in our elementary schools. It's clear that we need a comprehensive mid- and long-range master plan for providing more neighborhood schools, and many people believe strongly that it's premature to commit to a STEM option program before a feeder pattern for the program is determined and before the master plan is in place. However, there is simply not enough time to formulate such a plan before open enrollment begins on February 27th.

I share this concern about hasty action, and despite my enthusiasm for STEM, I had been fully prepared to carry my amendment forward and to ask other Directors to support me in delaying the Boren STEM program. However, on Thursday I learned details that I'd not previously understood about what monies would pay for the program, and what would happen to those monies if we delayed it for a year.

cont.

mirmac1 said...

cont.


More factors -- either/or opportunity
Basically, this is a one-time opportunity; it's urgent for the district to place a program at Boren in order to maintain the building's Occupancy status. Otherwise, re-opening the building when needed as an interim site will cost about five times more money. The Capital Budget funds which happen to be available for opening and refurbishing the building include startup costs for the first year of the program. These startup costs are available to whatever program is put in place, for the first year only, and would pay for equipment, books, etc. This creates a perfect opportunity to open a STEM program, which requires a sizable investment in technology. While other programs, such as Interagency, could be placed at Boren, the STEM program is the only one which would give some benefit to West Seattle and yet, as an option program, would not entail boundary commitments which would prematurely shape a master plan.

Holding to convictions vs. snatching the opportunity
To create positive change, good planning is essential; in my experience seizing opportunities is another vital ingredient for success. I've been urged to stick to my convictions and try to delay STEM at Boren until we have a master plan. However, it's important to remember that delaying STEM will not hasten this planning. It would certainly be ideal to wait for a comprehensive plan, but if we do, we won't have those startup funds, and investing in a STEM program at Boren in 2013 from our severely reduced operating monies would be extremely difficult. (The Operating Budget pays for day-to-day school costs; these funds are much more heavily encumbered than the Capital Budget funds available now.)

The opportunity: a model for strengthening math and science across the district?
Our very talented and innovative West Seattle Executive Director, Aurora Lora, has experience in opening a STEM school, and she is confident that we can offer an excellent STEM program in West Seattle in the fall. Visionary educators have expressed great enthusiasm for developing this STEM elementary program; in addition to offering a unique option, it could serve as an incubator and model for strengthening math and science across our West Seattle District. All of our elementary students could benefit greatly.

cont.

mirmac1 said...

cont.

What about capacity?
In fact, the new program will ease some overcrowding; probably relatively little the first year, but likely a good deal in the second year. In the meantime, basic comprehensive planning will have been completed and by the fall of 2013 we should be moving ahead with opening at least one, and hopefully two, neighborhood schools in an interim site.

Risks of moving forward with STEM?
Many people, including me, are concerned that Seattle School District history will repeat itself; the exciting new program will come, and nothing else -- that there may be no progress in addressing the clear needs and desires of the West Seattle community -- to address overcrowding and to offer strong math, science, and literacy programs (in addition to PE, arts, and enrichment) in ALL OF OUR SCHOOLS, across the district.

West Seattle Preferences
In the very rich and heartfelt sharing which has happened in the last couple of weeks, over the blog and in our meetings, people have shown widespread agreement about several things: Overcrowding must be addressed, and not only in elementary schools.
We want vibrant neighborhood schools throughout West Seattle.
We want strong math and science programs in all our schools.

Where are we now?
I feel that we've accomplished very important community work in this dialogue: We've come together from the north, south, east, and west of West Seattle to address problems that are facing our children in their schools -- overcrowding and, in many places, our desire for them to have greater success in math and science, for additional basic amenities, and for other enriching options.

As mentioned above, we share a belief that it is essential to have comprehensive planning to address capacity needs in a thoughtful way -- a way that also includes program planning, such as decisions on what kind of emphasis new schools will have, choices among other approaches such as Language Immersion, Montessori, etc., and needs of Special Education students, for example. There is a deadline: To prepare for the 2013 Capital Levy proposal, (BEX IV Building Excellence IV -- the fourth in a series over the last two decades), the planning must commence soon -- in the next months.

Work to be done; Seattle Public Schools leadership and commitment
There are many questions which I will attempt to answer in another post. For now, I want to say that I have also discussed these issues in depth with staff. We are fortunate now to have many remarkably smart and talented cabinet-level district leaders, people of great integrity with a profound commitment to moving all of our schools forward. Along with dedicated staff in each school, I am confident that district leaders are focused on working collaboratively with us in this planning process.

Most of you know full well of the dedication, caring, talent, and energy of our children's teachers as well as of the extended staff who support them. We continue to owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude for devoting their lives to our children and their education. Working together with them, as a large community and in smaller, school- and neighborhood-based groups, we must carry the momentum of our neighborhood conversations forward. We can commit ourselves to working together enthusiastically towards stable, supportive, challenging and enriching classrooms for all of our students, in schools filled with the joy of teaching and learning.

Questions for a later post:
Can we build capacity before BEX IV?
Financing greater capacity
Do people really want STEM?
Other questions?
Further meetings:
February and March community meetings will be posted shortly.

mirmac1 said...

I would say this is a whole heckuva lot more than I got from Steve Sundquist in 4 YEARS.

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andrea chiu said...


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