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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

BEX IV Eckstein Meeting Review

A lot of talk, not a lot of substance is about how I would sum up the meeting.

There were about 130 people in attendance including Sherry Carr, Harium Martin-Morris, Michael DeBell, Mary McClaren, Sharon Peaslee, Lauren McGuire of the Seattle PTSA, FACMAC and Advanced Learning committee members.

A large (and cute) contingent of Bagley parents and students were there as well with signs and yellow shirts.  They didn't do anything loud but were quite visible with their yellow shirts.

You come in, sign in, take a question card if you want and fill out a survey of the BEX options.  They had a large and hard-to-decipher sheet with options on one side and a map on the other (and there was no key to the map). 

Here's the format for the meetings:
6:30-7:00 p.m. - introductions and slide presentation
7:00-7:20 pm - Q&A from written cards
7:20-7:40 pm - Questions at the Microphone
7:40-8:00 pm - individual time with staff

E-mail your comments and questions to capacity@seattleschools.org

I didn't like this format because:
  •  staff went past their time for the presentation, 
  • they gave people time in the middle of the meeting to write questions/fill out the survey (I think you should do the survey at the END of the meeting.)
  • I think the majority of the time should be for answering questions out-loud.  
I noticed that when the meeting went to individual time with staff that there were many people waiting in line.  I should have asked but I wonder if they all might have been happy with an out-loud question that everyone could have heard.

Highlights:
  • There will be a SEPA public meeting on April 11th at JSCEE, no time announced.
  • They are waiting for enrollment numbers from the end of April to update any plans.
  • Very funny - Operations Head Pegi McEvoy explaining how we were losing enrollment so we closed schools but then gained enrollment and reopened even more schools.  
  • The figures have changed for levy amounts:  
Low - from $523M to $528M
Medium - from $743-748M to $700M
High - $856M to $892M

Now, I can't say why but my gut says no way to $892M.  It is just an absurd figure.  I don't know why they don't just hit a sweet spot like $730-40M in the middle.

It was also disclosed what the difference in your tax bill would be.  For the low end, your BEX bill would go up $4 per year.  For the middle, it would be $109 more.  For the high end, $225.
  • BIG SOMETHING - Lucy Morello casually mentioned that they would have to re-boundary much of the NSAP because of BEX IV building.  Keep that in mind going forward. 
  • I had anticipated a more agitated crowd but people were fairly subdued.  Frankly, I think they were just trying to take it all in and it was a large amount of information presented.
Questions:
  • Any decision on APP elementary north?  No, but the AL committee is working on it (and indeed we are).  As well, we are aware there are capacity issues for Hamilton/Washington's APP 6-8.
  • World School - Pegi McEvoy said there was a meeting in January and the district was told World School wanted to stay at Meany.  But meanwhile they are putting in a middle school to join them.  I know World School had plans for expansion and it was a plan approved by the district.  It will not work in this scenario.  I suspect the middle school will push out World School in 3-5 years.  How the current scenario would work is that the district will fix up old Van Asselt for a year, then move World School there for 2 years and then reopen Meany with both World School and a middle school.  That's a lot of moving for World School but I guess the district thinks they are used to it by now.
  • If Thorton Creek is a K-8, will 6-8 roll up?  Yes.
  • Another funny moment was Lucy Morello, head of Capital Projects, explaining how many portables there are and that we are buying 25 more to be installed this summer.  The plan is for them to go away but that's a mighty big investment in portables to only use them for 5 years or so.
  • Questions about middle schools in BEX IV - The answer was a middle school at Olympic Hills and Wilson-Pacific.  
  • Why K-8s when comprehensives are more popular?  Want to keep options for families.
  • Disabilities and BEX IV - any school will fully comply with ADA
  • More options for discussion? Pegi McEvoy said sure, depending on the feedback they get and data that comes in.
  • What about Jane Addams; was built to be a middle school?  No, we think it should remain intact and continue its work.  (I tend to agree with Director Carr; I think it makes sense to move Jane Addams up to Olympic Hills and use Jane Addams as a middle school.)
  • Seismic work?  The answer was reinforcing the roof and diaphram, the sheer walls and reinforce masonry.  
  • A couple of Lowell kids got up and expressed their desire to be together and not be moved around.  It was nice to hear from students affected by these moves.
  • What about McGilvra and their crowding issues?  Maybe a new cafeteria
  • I got up and said that the district should take the $32M for a South Lake Union elementary off all scenarios as there was no capacity issue and many other schools with issues both of capacity and condition of building.  Pegi McEvoy said they are just thinking about it for later on like 2019.  (That is still in the range of this BEX so the answer should still be no.)
  • Multiple levies are coming, are you working with those government entities?  Yes, we are talking with the Mayor and Council.  (good luck with that)
  • Underutilized RBHS?  Pegi said they are starting an IB program there as well as more CTE offerings.
  • There was the issue of which elementaries are getting renovated.  The original list I saw had different schools under different options.  Confusing.  I'm not sure I understand why Rodgers is on one option and Bagley on another.
  • It was pointed out that there would be no new middle school capacity until 2017 and that is too long.  A Whittier parent pointed out that  Whitman was less than desirable as compared to Hamilton with its new buildings and multiple programs.   Lucy Morello said Whitman was probably getting some work via BTA but didn't have her list.  (So we are there to have a discussion about facilities and capital projects and yet no one had a list of BTA projects handy?)
  • Another parent with students at both View Ridge and Lowell spoke wistfully for the need for stability for children and not so much movement.
  • Another parent, this time from Bryant, spoke of the over-capacity experience his children were having.  He asked that the district consider another reference school for the NE.  He mentioned the light rail station that is coming and the development and growth it will bring (he's right).

73 comments:

Benjamin Leis said...

The presenter (Pegi McEnvoy?) pretty much agreed to every need expressed in questions. I don't see how that could possibly add up. Given limited funds some hard decisions on priorities need to be made. This didn't leave me with any confidence about what decisions have been made or what's really on the table.

Ben

Benjamin Leis said...

Also re: Jane Addams. Olympic hills has a stated capacity of 342. You couldn't fit the existing student body in the building, let alone the 600+ expected next year.

Ben

Anonymous said...

Pegi has a way of verbally stroking everyone who questions or comments on what the district presents. It feels very touchy-feely and affirmational, sort of like a therapist.

But if you look at what she actually says when she is nodding and looking people in the eye, she is careful to only restate the sentiment without ever actually agreeing with it.

I personally find it a bit irritating and manipulative---'yes, we've all heard you, what a wonderful idea, thank you so much' yadda yadda. But no real harm, I guess.

-- front row

Anonymous said...

I am (thankfully) aging out of SPS - after 15 years (few more to go) I am astounded that there is still no predicability from year to year for so many students. That was the "big" sell of the assignment plan, which we now see will probably change.

So if you have a 1st grader and preschooler there is no way you can say where they will go to middle school or high school.

You know what - it was the same a over decade ago when my kids were that age.

As far as $244/year tax increase. They best take a long hard look at housing value in Seattle before they they ask people, whose houses have lost over $100K in value to increase their tax bill by $244/year.

SPS Parent

Jan said...

Two observations: first, good for the District for not doing the "divide everyone up by tables and report back" thing that seems to work so badly. Although time was short, it sounds like there was a genuine effort to spend what little time there was in an effective, nonmanipulative manner. No clue who gets the credit for that, but good job, whoever it is!

Second -- I think Pegi is being put in an impossible position. Since nothing is formal at this point, what would the purpose have been of being negative, or following individual suggestions up with a "yes, but we can't afford to do everything for everyone" comment. At that point, you feel like YOUR suggestion has just been deep-sixed. Nor, obviously, was she in any position to make any promises. I have nothing terribly for, or against, Pegi so this isn't meant by way of personal defense. I just don't know exactly what anyone in her position really COULD say. I am remembering all those times when I wished MGJ had a single empathetic bone in her body (or at least her face). Unless Ben is correct in thinking that some decisions HAVE been made -- and they just aren't telling -- it is hard for them to "soothe" a bunch of anxious parents, when we ALL know there are hard choices, and insufficient time and money to make them, coming. The roots of this go way back to the last school closures, when we spent a ton of time and money implementing bad, horrible decisions -- with the double damage of having failed to make the critical GOOD decisions that needed to be made.

MGJ is gone, and we all pay, and pay, and pay, for her abysmal management -- and Sherry Carr walks around Green Lake telling her friends what a great Supe MGJ was!

Anonymous said...

I would like some clarification on something. It it really true that APP is NOT counted in any district numbers for the north? I so, that's insane. I was looking at the Hamilton projections last night wondering why they are not bright red and in flames. Someone then told me that APP is not in the numbers. How can you possibly plan without all the information?

-in disbelief

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, the plan is for a new building at Olympic Hills and it may be a K-8.

Patrick said...

Jane Addams has a particularly good location for families with kids of widely separated ages. Now you can drop off preschool through 8th grade at JA and high school across the street.

JA will be full in 2-3 years, probably. There's no other existing sites available that are that big and not enough elementary school capacity to absorb its K-5 students. The District should start work on a middle school at Wilson-Pacific as soon as possible. (Should really have begun 1-2 years ago.)

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

SPS Parent: first (by way of disclaimer) -- I was a proponent of the old choice system (flawed and all) and disliked the NSAP. But the "stability/predictability" promise of the NSAP was always false (though I think at least some folks who pushed it believed it to be true). How can stability ever work in a system where you fill the schools to 100% (or more) -- and then the system grows, or stays stable but population shifts. The need to tinker with boundaries started immediately, and bigger shifts were predictable the FIRST time a new school was built (or a closed one reopened) -- unless ALL new growth was in option schools (which is just the old choice system, layered on top of neighborhood assignment).

Faulty assumptions from the very start. Bad district for not being astute enough to see this issue, disclose it, and incorporate it into their planning.

Bad us for letting them get away with the fallacy (though those who tried tended to get icy glares, accompanied by flat, unsupported statements of "this is not a problem." So much less culpability for us than for them). But all those parents out there who glowingly trilled over how happy they would be to get predictability, blah blah blah -- fed RIGHT into the fantasy that the District was spinning. (here is why the original -- I liked the old system -- disclaimer is important. I probably wouldn't be nearly so ticked off now if I had liked the NSAP in the first place.

Anonymous said...

in disbelief, I believe you are partially correct. Because APP is a "program" (like World School, etc.) and not a school, there is no discreet mention of the kids in the BEX planning docs. I believe the APP kids are "counted" in the capacity numbers for the neighborhood in which they live. For example, my Lowell APP kid is counted in the BEX/capacity data for BF Day because that's our neighborhood school. Even though he doesn't go there and likely never will.

Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong because I've been trying to get confirmation on this.

- Please Count My Kid

Anonymous said...

As I said in the other thread, that top tax rate is not going to cut it. No. Way. Not coming at the end of all those other ballot items queued up and not with the fact that the district screwed up so very very very badly and cost us money by closing and reopening schools. People definitely remember. So we need to start planning for what a middle tier "ask" looks like. Painful.

The district can't wait until 2016 for more middle school. That appears to be why Jane Addams at Jane Addams is at risk now. Inconvenience the families there, or accommodate more families with middle school space. It is a bad choice. Finding funds to start building a middle school at Wilson Pacific NOW would solve that situation. Can funds be juggled?

Finally, I personally hold Sherry Carr and Harium Martin Morris responsible for this debacle. They have done nothing NOTHING to advocate for getting off the pot and resolving the middle school situation in the NE during their PREVIOUS term. We were pleading for movement on middle school capacity more than 4 years ago. They never made it a priority. They don't appear to have much of a fire lit this term either. This crisis didn't have to be a crisis. But it is, thanks to their utter failure to lead and insist on solutions YESTERDAY.

This is another case where the 4 non-incumbents last fall were talking sense. I remember Martin and Beutow being particularly attuned to the problem middle school situation in the NE. But they lost to the incumbents who have just, in essence, shrugged and have presented zero solutions. It is infuriating.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

Count my kid-

If your thinking is correct, that would mess up capacity guesses all over the north. There are probably 800-1000 APP kids miscounted on these documents. That is a huge number when we are having a major crisis with capacity.

Counting APP students by address does nothing to best guess capacity projections. My child will not be going to our regional middle school.

-in disbelief

Benjamin Leis said...

@Melissa. At least in the presentation given last night Olympic Hills was slated for a brand new middle school (capacity 1000) built adjacent to the current building under options 2 & 3. I don't see any rebuild of the current building listed.

Ben

JA John said...

Re: Olympic Hills, my understanding is that they propose to put up a new MS building next to Olympic Hills Elementary, which has a lot of land. Olympic Hills would stay as is.

I'm still not sure how Jane Addams figured into Olympic Hills, but we're off the table for now.

I see the logic of using the Jane Addams building for a middle school, but they should have thought of that BEFORE putting a successful option school there. That train left the station 3 years ago. It sounds like nothing has been done since then. Sorry, you created a really good school. You'll just have to accept it and move on.

But you'd better believe we're keeping our ear to the ground.

Anonymous said...

Jan, I agree with the you on some levels. I liked that under the old plan once a school was full it was full and you were assigned to your next choice. I liked that siblings got priority. On many levels it worked. But for families with no assigned a high school, it did not work, the NSAP has been great. With the exception on the GHS issue last year the NSAP has worked pretty well for high school.
For elementary and MS - not so much. Wonder if there should be some sort of hybrid system, every student has an assigned HS. But for elem and MS you have to list 2-3 choices so that once a school is full it is full. I also think they need to look again at transportation - since they haven't been able to save any money with all the restrictions, open it back up again and let students from all over the city go to option schools like Salmon Bay and TOPS. I would have considered both of those schools for MS, except they took away the bus so I ended up at very overcrowded MS.

SPS Parent.

Anonymous said...

Jan, I agree with the you on some levels. I liked that under the old plan once a school was full it was full and you were assigned to your next choice. I liked that siblings got priority. On many levels it worked. But for families with no assigned a high school, it did not work, the NSAP has been great. With the exception on the GHS issue last year the NSAP has worked pretty well for high school.
For elementary and MS - not so much. Wonder if there should be some sort of hybrid system, every student has an assigned HS. But for elem and MS you have to list 2-3 choices so that once a school is full it is full. I also think they need to look again at transportation - since they haven't been able to save any money with all the restrictions, open it back up again and let students from all over the city go to option schools like Salmon Bay and TOPS. I would have considered both of those schools for MS, except they took away the bus so I ended up at very overcrowded MS.

SPS Parent.

Anonymous said...

In Disbelief,

Yes, that is actually what happened re: Hamilton. It is an exact repeat of what happened at Lowell last year. The numbers at Hamilton show it as at a perfect capacity - it does not count the APP students there. My kid is counted as in the Eckstein service area, even though he is at Hamilton. Next year will be tight, but wait til you see what happens when the current 4th grade at L@Lincoln hits Hamilton - another 300-325 APP students rolling in to a school that already doesn't count their 7th and 8th grade APP peers. It's ridiculous, and we are watching it happen all over again. The district has learned nothing. And where is Bob Vaughan's voice?

-hearing crickets

Anonymous said...

Based on the plans, the earliest a new building will be in place is 2016. Today's 4th and 5th graders will be in high school before a new middle school is completed.

Several people commented on how their school was full now and how portables didn't help with overcrowded lunch rooms and other shared facilities. One school has Kindergarten classes of 30.

Looking at the numbers, how are portables going to get us through the next few years?

elementary parent

Eric B said...

On the new middle schools issue, it was not well presented at the meeting, but the new Wilson-Pacific site would open in a temporary location in a year or two, and move into its building when the building is ready. The school would be "open", just not in its final location, just like Viewlands, McDonald, etc. in the latest round of openings.

I'm not sure it was presented as explicitly as it was last night, but District staff have said for at least a year that the north end boundaries would be completely re-worked when a new middle school opened. That was talked about in the short term capacity management sessions last fall, and part of why they didn't want to change boundaries then.

Finally, you can't have it both ways on portables. A few months ago, people were screaming about kids being stacked deep in classrooms and how we needed more capacity right now. So they're adding portables until the new buildings come on line. There's no other way to increase capacity at a school in the short term, no matter what we might like to do. You also can't have both a "no portables" platform and a "lowest cost" platform. Replacing portables with fixed building capacity will take a lot of money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What the BEX sheets that I got at last week's Work Session say is a Wilson-Pacific population in John Marshall and that looks like BEFORE W-P is built. So you could have a new population in John Marshall by 2014.

Please keep in mind; I go to a lot of meetings that offer other information. So yes, there was discussion at one meeting of Olympic Hills being a K-8. I'm not saying it will happen but yes, it is out there.

Floor Pie said...

I was delighted to hear about Lincoln, but the lack of concern over Hamilton's capacity issues is very troubling. I just sent them an e-mail and I'll be encouraging other parents at our elementary school to do the same.

Anonymous said...

So might we see the following schools in their temporary locations:

Wilson-Pacific Elementary APP at Lincoln and
Wilson-Pacific Middle School at John Marshall?

Or vice versa?

-That's what I'm hearing

Benjamin Leis said...

Re Olympic Hills:

I assume someone must have decided they needed more capacity and rather than replacing a building and gaining only say 600+ seats, they chose to build side by side and gain 1000.

But it brings up a valid point, with the building choices still shifting, every second guess we make can be invalidated by the next set of options that the staff puts forward.

Also once buildings are full then shifting a program is only of benefit if it makes it more central and easier to get the students to the building assuming they're being bused from a wide area, is a better use of a specialized facility or adjusts a capacity imbalance for neighborhood reference areas.

Given that JA draws from the North East already and with 2 middle schools potentially opening around it I don't see any of those reasons as being compelling yet. That actually differs from my original thinking where I thought the JA building by itself could plug the middle school deficit and the district could have chosen to build several new elementary schools to move the K-5 students to.

Ben

Floor Pie said...

I was delighted to hear about Lincoln, but the lack of concern over Hamilton's capacity issues is very troubling. I just sent them an e-mail and I'll be encouraging other parents at our elementary school to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I meant that the current 4th graders would be going to a school that already had 300-325 APP kids in 7-8 grades. They will probably be another 180 or so, if we see the same bump up in 6th grade we saw this year.
- crickets

Anonymous said...

5th grade this year at Lincoln is 3 full 5th grades. If 100% more APP students enter Hamilton at 6th grade (the APP 6th grade at Hamilton is 50% kids new to APP) in the fall, that's 6 classes of 6th graders. Next year at Lincoln they are planning for FIVE 5th grades. Where are all these kids going to go in a finite amount of space? Not counting APP kids at APP schools is unbelievable.

-in disbelief

Anonymous said...

I will suggest a private school option in the North End. Pacific Crest has a middle school located off Leary Way on Bright Street (where Ballard and Fremont meet). Our two sons went there some years ago and they loved it. Small classes, caring staff and a creative learning environment. It used to be less expensive than other private schools. I am not sure how it stacks up now. The lower grades are Montessori but the middle school also serves students who are non Montessori trained. The kids do independent work and they are very self motivated.

My neighborhood is Queen Anne and the old assignment plan was a nightmare for us. No one knew what high school they would get. Our sons went to Center School and Ballard H. S. and those schools worked well except for the math. They really need to change the math curriculum in SPS.
S parent

Anonymous said...

S. Parent. My guess is that it is too late to consider private school for next year. Most private schools ask for all recommendations from teachers and paperwork to be in by January 15th.
People can't hope to begin this process now. Only those who already applied would have a chance to do this.

Former Lowell teacher

Anonymous said...

S Parent,

Thank you for the recommendation.

We will be looking to go private for MS in four years as very obviously SPS refuses to plan.

Appreciate knowing about any good options to investigate.

The enrollment surge started in what 2006, 2007? Even if taken by surprise the first year, the second and every successive year of increased enrollment was a big clue!!

How many thousands of parents wrote letters, held rally’s, formed coalitions, obtained press coverage, testified at board meetings many, many years ago?

An actual cerebral response from SPS (if it happens) will not be the half-life of the system (6 or 7 years) which is what HMM has latched onto with his borrowed but not attributed quip of “It takes time to turn a battleship.”

SPS will miss an entire education cycle of K-12 for children in pretty much every area of the city in terms of overcrowding. I don’t believe they actually care.

Are there a known number of students that will finance the positions at JSCEE? Is that the target number and beyond that enrollment is discouraged?

-Facing reality and angry

StepJ said...

Hey Bagley --

Admire your moxy and community!!

Anonymous said...

I teach at one of the many overcrowded NE schools. Many NE teachers are talking about how the culture of their school is changing. People are in crisis management mode because of the overcrowding. Lunch rooms can't fit the kids, bathrooms are beyond ridiculous, parents don't feel the same sense of community, etc.

The overcrowding of students has significant negative effects on academics as well as social-emotional well being. This is something that the district is not addressing at all. Teachers are stressed because the students and teachers are stressed. Everyone is trying their best but this is a bad situation that is just going to get worse.

I think the part that is so ridiculous is that the parent group and the staff are not directly in the process. Schools are told of different options that are on the table but the district has not talked to these schools directly. Everyone is in crisis management. Attention is put on enrollment issues and nothing else. When will we bring education back on the table and ask what are the most educationally sound decisions we can make.

Wishing for the best for all of us,
Teacher

Anonymous said...

At the meeting last night, in response to the APP location question, Peg McEvoy said that they were waiting to hear from APP whether we wanted to stay together or go East/West or whatever. When the crowd shouted 'together", she instructed us to look on the matrix and find where the capacity showed availability of 600. There was only one option that showed that capacity, and that was Wilson Pacific.
NE Seattle Mom

Steve said...

Has anyone found any more definitive information about the proposed new school in the South Lake Union area? Last night Pegi mentioned interest (or a request) from the Downtown Business Association, and some projections that there will be low-income housing moving into the area at some point that will generate demand. The fact that our district repeatedly fails to plan for existing demand but suddenly wants to get ahead of the game (building before demand) on South Lake Union seems really fishy to me.

Anonymous said...

You're right to smell 3 day old fish. Low income housing in SLU. Ha! That gets thrown in in every major development to appease us mad dogs. If you actually look at where most low income housings are located, it's not in Belltown and Ballard (they may not believe it). Nor will it be in SLU. Look to Northgate, South of downtown, CD, and part of W. Seattle for LIH.

-fishmonger

Anonymous said...

Low income housing in south lake union will not be enough to generate demand. That is a canard plain and simple. Those kids could go to Lowell, TOPS, Queen Anne, etc. just like the kids in Belltown.

Yesler is a different story. But Vulcan and DSA don't have their sticky fingers in that project yet.

Absolutely NO to SLU school until existing needs are met.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

Re: the SLU School - that area is currently covered by the John Hay assignment area so all the new kids and families moving in go there. Hay is bursting at the seams - 30 new kids just since January and approaching 540 kids in a school designed for 450. Either they redraw that assignment area or something has to give.

Queen Anne Option is small # of classrooms, can only hold 325 or so at current building capacity and they will be close to full by next year. There is some $$ in Options 2 and 3 to add capacity to Queen Anne so that will help somewhat. But as an Option school, might not be a fit for all families.

signed - South Lake Union might make sense for future planning

Anonymous said...

BEX problem is a perfect illustration of what has gone wrong with SPS. What we have is a board whose 4 year term outlasts all our recent Superintendents' terms. In the last 5-6 years, we have had school boards that have never been willing to take on major leadership role or any real governance preferring to defer to the ever changing Super persona. What is worse, the top admin staff downtown has had so many new faces and arranging of titles and postitons, that you have no one overseeing long term projects, much less have a plan to oversee. (and don't get me started on C & I)

It is is piss-poor governance and management by crisis. It is because of willful tunnel vision, short term planning and distractions of poorly thoughtout pet projects (SE initiative, TFAs, MAP, ALO, dismantling of spectrum, Creative school project, etc.) that the school board and the no where to be found lame duck Superintendent allowed to drive decision making. Where is the accountability and ovesight in cost control over Garfield?

Do you think all the brunch and meetings are going to solve capacity and BEX issues? NO! Gates, LEV, A4E are not going to infuse money to build and fix up schools. They will support levies paid for by us taxpayers, but will make sure their issues are FIRST priority in front of the Board and the Superintendent. Where our kids find a seat to learn is secondary to all their issues. So I do point finger at Director HMM, Carr, DeBell for this.

-fed up

Melissa Westbrook said...

I appreciate that there are private school options. However, consider where you are writing - we're a public education blog.

As for South Lake Union, of course it's a good idea....for the future and NOT for this BEX.

One thing to remember folks - you are voting for a pot of money.

Now,yes, the district does put forth a list of projects and it certainly would behoove them to follow that list but really, it's a pot of money.

After you vote it in, they do control it.

Anonymous said...

SLU is a luxury right now (better to negotiate w/ Vulcan to build that one on their dime- will be cheaper too if you don't go through SPS). You still have shuttered Magnolia school. McClure is not filled to capacity. Still have room in Mag/QA cluster. Priority of dollars need to go to N, NE and parts of W. Seattle today where they are in portables and out in hallway.

mag mom

Anonymous said...

Yes, not every family living in North Seattle can afford private school as an option. Even with scholarships it is still not an option for many families. "Low-income" housing is often some units available for rent for families who meet a certain income level. I saw some for rent by the Greyhound station for $1500 for a 2-br. apt. The developer gets some tax credits. Can a low-income family really afford that? So, what kind of "low-income" housing are they talking about?
NESeattle Mom

Anonymous said...

Why would we build a new school in SLU when we can add space to Queen Anne Elementary (yes, it is an option school) and upgrade the Magnolia School as options?

Would one of these be cheaper that building a brand new school in SLU? Does SPS even have the land for a school in SLU?

I find the fact that the SLU school came up as a priority in all those slides very odd.

--FedMomof2

Melissa Westbrook said...

FedMom, it's all politics. Paul Allen got a trolley/streetcar because he wanted one. Amazon and Vulcan are powerful companies.

No, SPS does not have any land. Even if we were given land, I wouldn't do it. Give SPS a couple of floors in one of their new buildings for a school and I'm sure SPS would provide the infrastructure.

MagMom is right; support the existing schools and families that are right now in over-crowded or poor-condition buildings.

Anonymous said...

the SLU school proposal is a curiosity. Piqued my interest. Doesn't the district still own acreage around Seattle Center (Memorial stadium)? What ever happend with Memorial stadium swap? Very expensive and desirable real estate there.

-curious

Anonymous said...

Would add my curiosity is piqued, because I hope this SLU thing isn't going to be another funky, back room, bad SPS decison making, good for developers, like the QA HS sale.

-curious

Lori said...

Curious, I was about to ask that very question. I thought the district owned that land at Seattle Center/Memorial Stadium too. That's an obvious option for a SLU school.

That said, I'm 100% opposed to building a brand new school there when so many other needs are unmet. I'm particularly irritated that a new SLU school is a priority in all 3 of the levy scenarios, while adding elementary capacity in my neighborhood, which has been overcrowded for more than 5 years now, is only funded in option 3. I don't see how they justify continuing overcapacity for current families while building something new for potential families who may or may not come to live in housing complexes that aren't even built yet.

Anonymous said...

Well if I was a property developer and salivating at SLU/Denny Regrade potential, I would look at property swap or a build an "SLU school" for the district for a lovely piece of turf. And if I was really smart property mover/shaker, I would make sure SLU school gets on every BEX slides and take priority. Oh wait, that has been done.

-curious

Anonymous said...

One of the speakers at the BEX meeting (identified himself as a Quinalt tribe member IIRC) had a couple of good points, among them a question about why we don't use the 'impact fee' model for financing school construction, in which school construction capital comes in part from development activities which are already on the hook for utility upgrades, easements, etc. That seems especially relevant to SLU. I don't especially care if there's a new school down there, but I do care who pays for it. It shouldn't be a priority for the district to spend money in a high-property-value area when there's no demonstrated demand.

Then he said we should use the NCLB law to close 'bad schools'. I don't recall applause at that.

-- front row

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lori and Curious, yes, the district does own 9 acres at Seattle Center - Memorial Stadium, the parking lot and a bit of land around it.

What I last heard is that the district would swap land with the City (like 4 acres including the parking lot) for the new Seattle Center design. The district would get a parking lot across the street (I think at Mercer). The district cannot use it as a parking lot and I believe the idea was for a high school (or something other school).

That's great as long as we don't get rid of Memorial stadium but also way off.

This wanting an elementary school is something different. When the City guys went to the BEX Oversight Committee meeting, they were very specific about the school being in the South Lake Union area.

Benjamin Leis said...

I agree that this seems fishy and premature for the area's current population. The immediately adjacent attendance areas CapitolHill/CD are the ones expected to grow the least and could easily absorb the overflow if QA is full.

I'm also not sure how the district can talk about planning for future expansion with a straight face while they're so currently over capacity and the condition of so many facilities is so substandard.

That all being said, one thing going for it is the location. Assuming that the land is really donated then a school in the core is a great location for an option school. You can bus in from multiple parts of the city in a reasonable amount of time and its what most of the option programs are asking for. I also can't imagine we'd build a new school and leave it empty given the overall enrollment situation.

Long term if demographics shift this may be extremely valuable. We're better off with a few magnet school locations that are reasonably central that can be employed to house a capacity bulge.

Ben

Anonymous said...

I agree this is a public school blog. In case you are wondering, anyone who thinks private school is an option needs a reality check - all Seattle private schools are cutthroat competitive to get into and are accepting 10-20% of applicants.

All the more reason that we need the school board to step up and make sure that our kids have someplace to get an education (not just a building to warehouse them until the demographic boom of 2007 passes us by...)

mirmac1 said...

Okay, I urge all of you and your friends to write the school board and say HELL NO to SLUSH (get it, South Lake Union school house AND Slush fund, not bad eh?)

These things have a way of worming their way to the top and into our pocketbooks. I am SICK of it. I'm sure they'll dress it up as a STEM K-5 (but still have no clue how to do one). WA STEM will wave money at it, Bezos will emerge out of his gopherhole and proclaim that it's a must-have or he's leaving town (oh yeah, he'll want a tax cut to go with that). Lisa McFarlane and Alliance goons will harrumph about how they singlehandedly delivered BEX' I, II, and III, and they'll "pull their support!". Suddenly, it'll appear as a FACMAC recommendation, even though nobody can remember who brought it up and when they voted on it. I tell you, this is yet another scam. Meanwhile decrepit Arbor Heights gets to wait until 2017, that is if the rodents don't take over before then.

Anonymous said...

Ben: I don't think it's correct that the Cap Hill/CD attendance areas are expected to grow the least. In fact, I think the opposite is true. But with that said, Lowell and Madrona are currently under capacity and TT Minor could be brought back on line. Some of that capacity will be needed for the immediate neighborhood, but maybe there would be some left over for SLU.

Watching the high-income condos go up on Cap Hill

Benjamin Leis said...

Re: Capitol Hill/CD expected growth.

According to the graphs at the presentation:

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/school%20board/11-12%20agendas/032812agenda/20120328_Presentation_BEXIV.pdf

The Washington MS area K-5 growth was relatively small and the Mercer MS area growth K-5 was actually negative.

The MS situation was somewhat different but that really needs to be projected out another 5 years to be applicable to the population we're talking about.

Ben

Jan said...

Ben: I am not a proponent of SLUSH, for all of the aptly articulated reasons above (too much other CURRENT needs in other parts of the city), but I am wondering about your reliance on the graphs.

Remember -- the graphs and data presented during the adoption of the NSAP had everyone happily fitting in everywhere until at least 2015, when nothing could have been further from the truth. Is this the same bad brew of sketchy numbers, or do we have better people doing the projections these days, and better data as the starting point. If it is the same bad stuff, what good does it do to cite it in a debate among ourselves -- since it so clearly cannot be trusted?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the link to BEXIV info has been posted, so here it is:
bit.ly/SPSBEX

The link to the presentation does not have the map and option spreadsheet. That is found in a separate link to the right (The 3 options).

It looks like North-end kids will be attending middle school at an interim site (John Marshall (opening in 2013), or Lincoln, until a middle school is built at Olympic Hills (opening 2017?). The Olympic Hills site is big, but not that big. It seems too small to house the existing elementary school and a 1000-seat middle school (with athletic fields??).


Also, it doesn't seem like they have planned enough elementary capacity in the Lake City area. The John Rogers rebuild only appears on the most expensive levy option. There's lots of new, familiy-oriented development up here. I doubt it is on their radar.

North End Mom

mirmac1 said...

So the SLUSH idea is just supposed to be "the start of the conversation" in Pegi McElvoy's soothing words. Unnamed city planners and the Downtown Seattle Association brought this up and, as she put it, "it would irresponsible to not plan for growing enrollment in the area."

I say it IS irresponsible to encumber millions of $$$ under any of the 3 schemes, for an ill-defined, unquantifiable need, when there are (crumbling) concrete needs NOW!

If you attend any other BEXIV meetings, put that down in your survey comments.

Anonymous said...

SPS is going to regret putting SLU school in BEX slides after this. They may go silent for awhile, but it isn't going away. The fact that they even presented SLU school for $32 millions reflects the whole problem of BEX and SPS planning. SPS can and do respond quickly to BEX needs given the right connection even if the priority is not there. Unfortunately for the less connected, we will continue to have kids learning in portables, crappy buildings and classes taking up closets and hallways for many years to come.

I have great concern for the levy because I no longer have the confidence that this district can manage that kind of money given. They have demonstrated consitently this failure ( look at how much they spent on Garfield & JSCEE, poor planning of school closures and management of district owned properties, and failure to develope long term planning for BEX and capacity management).

This is why people are boiling mad all over this city. The district and board don't get it and looks like with SLU school proposal will never get it.

fed up

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

Before I delete Anonymous' remarks, I'll answer a few points:
- "Additionally, I think all of the animosity directed toward development in Seattle sometimes fails to recognize important positives" - there is not ONE person here who has said they are against development. That's a straw man argument. We do not want money directed to any new elementary downtown on a "maybe" when we have so many existing schools suffering.

- again, you are using some charged language in calling people "evil capitalists" - no one said that. Also, were you at the BEX Oversight Ctm meeting? Because yes, the indication was that it came from several large businesses , what ou call "mutually beneficial enterprise".

- The trolley? Really? You bring up the trolley as a good example?

- Right now, with this district and this time and place, I care about EXISTING schools and neighborhoods. I have said before this is a good idea for LATER and makes sense LATER but honestly, this is an indefensible use of the levy money.

ms red said...

I think it is important to recognize a few points about SLUE. It is slated for the back of the levy meaning all other priorities will be met before the project is completed in 2019. Additionally, I think all of the animosity directed toward development in Seattle sometimes fails to recognize important positives. My impression of the development in SLU is not that it is driven by some nefarious cabal of evil capitalists out to gorge at the public trough but rather a mutually beneficial enterprise that is helping position Seattle for success as a 21st century city.
Cities that will succeed in the decades ahead are cities that capitalize on engaging in multiple areas of commerce and also attract valuable human capital. These are ideas that have been presented by Richard Florida at University of Toronto and Edward Glaeser at Harvard. I can say from personal discussions with Mayor Greg Nickels that these concepts were at the very core of the effort to develop South Lake Union as a bio-tech hub and subsequently as an expanded technology center. It is not enough to simply build business parks however. As Florida argues, when cities are competing for the brightest individuals who can provide the greatest added value to the economy there is a great deal more than simple wages that go into the calculation. Cities that provide entertainment, culture, climate, quality schools, transportation, and more have a distinct advantage. The trolley is part of building a neighborhood that presents a lifestyle. I think the SLUE is part of a much larger project in this city that is paving the way for a successful future that provides an attractive urban environment supported by multiple industries that in turn provide a strong economy. If we want the great schools Seattle deserves we need a strong, diverse economy. I think we should be excited about the opportunity to help create a wholly unique new neighborhood that the SLUE is a part of.

ms red said...

My comments about the Seattle response to development are a reflection of a general attitude I’ve observed after spending my life observing the growth of Seattle. They were not specific to this forum; however, comments such as:
Vulcan and DSA don't have their sticky fingers in that project yet.
Paul Allen got a trolley/streetcar because he wanted one.
HELL NO to SLUSH (get it, South Lake Union school house AND Slush fund, not bad eh?)
Bezos will emerge out of his gopherhole and proclaim that it's a must-have or he's leaving town (oh yeah, he'll want a tax cut to go with that).
are consistent with a certain viewpoint. As for now vs later I think of 2019 as later. If you think that’s too soon then you missed the point of everything I was saying. The city is a dynamic process and schools are part of it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ms. Red, I cannot speak for others but obviously many believe the SLU school is being pushed by powerful people. There is evidence that these people have pushed to get what they want in the past. You can't blame us for having some suspicion.

But you seem to miss my point; the city can change and flex and be dynamic. But we are talking about the here and now and existing schools.

There are other options if that area (and its businesses) believe they need a school but asking the school district to build them one (on imaginary land because the district has none in that area) is not fair at this point in time.

I'm sure if a couple of floors in one of the shiny new buildings got leased to the district, the district would be happy to create the infrastructure for a new school.

ms red said...

I appreciate your point and I don’t think it is unreasonable. I would even fully agree if the SLUE was slated for the front end of the levy or if it represented an outsized percentage of the proposal. It is only my view that there is an important element of Seattle’s future taking shape in South Lake Union and schools are deeply integrated into the identity of a city. Absolutely the existing challenges are the first point of focus. It does little good to remodel your kitchen if the foundation is failing. With that understood I think there is a legitimate case to be made for adding a school there but I think it needs to be carefully considered rather than dismissed because we feel we have other things to do. We should be able to address the now and the future at the same time. One question I would ask in considering the project is why would powerful people be pushing for it? Going back to the trolley, why did powerful people want that? Obviously powerful people don’t ride it. Is it a failure? It’s difficult to say considering the idea behind it isn’t about moving a certain number of people; it’s about creating a neighborhood. Why do powerful people want a school? It can’t simply be the money for the project otherwise they would simply add other projects. As you say, there is no shortage of projects.
I recognize that my statement about attitudes toward growth sounded a bit specific. I meant them as more of a generalization. I appreciate all the work you do here.

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I hear you as well, so thank you.

But one other point that my readers will hear me endlessly point out:

The levy is a pot of money. Once voted in, the district can do as it pleases. Naturally they will probably do most of what is on the list but they don't have to.

They also don't have to follow any order listed. List order has happened in other BEXs.

ms red said...

I 100% agree with you about the pot of money. I have personally seen this on other levies not related to the District, even when it was claimed that the monies were dedicated to specific projects. I've also seen the order shuffled. I do think the SLUE will be very scrutinized because it is controversial. I was at Eckstein and did hear you speak against SLUE being in the levy. I lean toward disagreeing with you but I want clear and considered opposition of the type you presented.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Red, it's lovely to want to create a 21st neighborhood in SLU. We all think it's wonderful. My beef is whether it's the trolley or SLU school, Seatttle has many neighborhoods that can use the same resource and attention to enter the 21st century. These are neighborhoods that with some sprucing up, better policing, more economic developement and better public transportation conncector can make 21st Century Seattle bigger than the few blocks off Mercer rebuild. Take a look at S. Seattle and parts of W. Seattle. There is vibrancy there beneath the worned out veneer and established neighborhoods that are worth the 21st centrury investment. Wish that you can speak the same passion for such neighborhoods.

-Seattle girl

ms red said...

Seattle girl, I agree, there is a lot to do. My daughter goes to an old school that has several portables, inadequate infrastructure, and is located nowhere near downtown. I just don’t see this as an either/or proposition. If we just look at the “medium” proposal as an example the total portion of the levy that is dedicated to a SLUE is 4.7%. I understand that the District does not currently hold property appropriate for the project; however, this does not seem to be an extreme economic burden either. As the Times reported today, “Developers have approached the district about donating property”. Why wouldn’t they? The value added to property located near a new school would offset a large portion of the donated property’s value. I assume they would also realize significant tax relief in such a transaction. I don’t think those are good reasons to oppose a school.
I could write a whole ton about the importance of developing SLU but realistically in a $750 million levy I believe we can do a lot without pitting one project against others. I’m sure if your school is not in the levy it feels like the SLUE is part of the problem. No matter how big the levy somebody is going to miss out. I hope those who are unsatisfied can speak to their needs and be heard. I’ll be speaking for my daughter’s school.
I want to add that I think a vocal opposition is healthy and appropriate. The article in the Times today was, in my opinion, favorable to the idea but not simple boosterism. Ms. Westbrook’s views were included and it was not brushed aside that the project is controversial. That’s good. As Ms. Westbrook has pointed out, it’s a pot of money - and scrutiny is needed.

mirmac1 said...

ms red,

I am not prepared to allow the Roxhill families to be one of those to "miss out" because of this pork-loaded levy request.

We expect sound decision-making when bureaucrats seek to spend our thousands in real estate taxes.

As for the "even-ness" of coverage, I say rubbish. This dog of a "plan" wouldn't even be in the room, but for the politically-connected. They get enough of my taxes to enrich their ventures. My vote is NO.

Charlie Mas said...

I have no doubt that the creation of an elementary school in the South Lake Union neighborhood would support the growth and development of that neighborhood.

Supporting the growth and development of neighborhoods, however, is not a School District mission.

I also have no doubt that there could be some overcrowding at some elementary schools in the McClure service area, but the District's projections show that the elementary capacity shortfall in that area through 2021 is about 75 seats. That's not enough of a capacity shortfall to justify the creation of a whole new school. Especially when you pull the APP students out of that count.

It may be sufficient justification for some attendance area boundary changes, but not a new school.

The Washington service area has an expected elementary capacity shortfall of about 110 seats. Either the re-purposing of Lowell or the re-opening of T T Minor will create more than enough capacity to meet the need.

A new elementary school in South Lake Union is a solution looking for a problem.

Gregf said...

Is it true that the District is talking about reopening Lincoln as a high school? They made a huge mistake by not moving Hamilton there as planned for fifteen years. We could have realized increased capacity for the Hamilton program plus 12,000 sq ft of dedicated space for APP along with the combined classes with Hamilton. It is unfortunate that the Board bought the input from Facilities to pursue experimenting with how to build on a small as published in a professional journal. Very short-sighted (short sited?).

Has there been any talk of a high school at Interbay? Seems that the District at some point needs to address the missing high school for Queen Anne/Magnolia.

Long term, a high school for Queen Anne/Magnolia seems to be at least as important as the lacking middle school capacity for the north end, which the District ignored when remodeling Hamilton.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ms. Red, you and SLU developers get no tears from me. Not when I see what goes up at SLU and around this city. It's "ushering" a 21st century world without many of us. It's ushering a world where you can't be poor or even lower middle class because there is very little low income or even affordable housing that gets replaced once demolished. It's ushering a world where existing neighborhoods and schools are neglected and ignored. It's a very closed utopia.

-seattle girl