Tuesday, May 29, 2012

McDonald School - Extra Funding for IAs?

 (I know this is going to make many angry.  I'm sure the McDonald parents will be quite angry and I even know some of them.  My intent it to explain and to report on budgeting in the district.  If the Board is making decisions to benefit one program at the expense of others, then that deserves discussion.)

Background:  When our district created John Stanford International School, there was big excitement.  This was to honor a fallen superintendent and it was a modern step forward for our district.   And, it was a huge success and a highly sought-after school.

But there were a couple of big issues and one secret.  The issues were the creation of more of these popular schools AND where do the elementary students go after K-5?  I guess when they started JSIS, that seemed far away.

But like all issues, the chickens came home to roost and there was a push for more schools and they were created.  And, they finally had Hamilton become the first feeder middle school.  That then put pressure on what high school would take these students (middle school is only three years, remember?).

So what's the secret?  The secret is that these schools cost more in order to have their program.  HR has to work hard to find the right teachers, schools have to work hard to find the right teachers (with some Chinese teachers coming from China and entering and exiting each year), the IAs cost extra money and there are start-up costs.  Except for the latter, these are on-going costs.

Now each school is somewhat different.  A previous thread explains this but in terms of costs, Beacon Hill and Concord fund IAs through federal funds because of their high level of native speakers.  My understanding is that JSIS and McDonald have to fund their own IAs.  But JSIS has been around a lot longer than McDonald and have a reserve to draw off of so that they don't have as big a fundraising challenge.

There was discussion around this subject (which I reported on earlier this year) at the C&I Committee.  Director Carr had asked Duggan Harmon about the need for IAs.  He told the Committee that McDonald did NOT have to have the IAs for the program and that they didn't need to fundraise as much as they may have believed they needed to for them.  The district, when they opened the program, did not promise to fund IAs. 

At the time, that seemed to satisfy Carr.  
A couple of months ago, I read the McDonald website and saw that they were still going ahead to try to raise the money ($300K just for IAs).  This is entirely generous and hard-working but, to my mind, misguided.  There is no way to sustain that kind of fundraising.  I don't think it is right to put that kind of pressure on any group of parents.   They need the funds by June 30th in order to hire the IAs for the fall.  They appear to have raised about $90k.

Here's what the website says about the need:

IAs not only reduce the student-teacher ratio -- but by adding a second native speaker in the classroom, they make it possible for kids to hear and have conversations in the target language.

We asked our teachers what they needed from us in order to help our kids succeed in math and science. Their answer was clear: we need to continue providing IAs for our classrooms.

Having language immersion at our neighborhood school is a world-class opportunity for our kids. Please speak with your family, and figure out how to give as generously as you can.

On the one hand, yes, it is probably cheaper to invest $2-4k to have your child in a foreign-language immersion public school than a private one.  BUT, it's a public school.  It runs how it runs on the funds available.  And, no family should feel badly if they do not have those kinds of dollars to donate.
Today: So a reader said that he/she had received an e-mail saying the Board was funding McDonald to the tune of an extra $125k.

I checked the website and basically, it explains how McDonald doesn't have the federal funds of some other schools and the reserves of JSIS.   The money they raise goes to the incoming kindergarten students and other new students  for IAs for those classes.

From the website:

So Here's The Amazing News:
This year only, the Seattle School Board will invest
to help McDonald parents fund 2.5 IAs!

School Board Director Sherry Carr acknowledged the unique burdens on our community, as a brand new school. Each year we grow by 75-100 students, which forces our enrolled parents to raise the money to fund a larger pool of Immersion Support staff the subsequent year. And this year we had our borders expanded by the Board, increasing next year's burden. The Board recognized these structural challenges specifically, and was moved to help us.

"This," writes Director Carr, "is a one-year arrangement."

But our structural challenges aren't going away. Are they?

What if we had gotten seed money when our program launched?
How would we have arranged things differently to be more strategic about our fund drives? To make things easier for our families?

Imagine if we could create a reserve fund that would restructure our annual fundraising.
Each year, our Immersion fund drive could be aimed at current, enrolled families – parents who have already seen the value of the immersion support staff in the classroom every day.
    Incoming Kindergarten families would not have a pay a thing till after they begin school, and the reserves would cover us in the interim.
  • Current families would be able to make simple monthly payments year-round, rather than having to write a big check every spring.
Having a financial reserve would truly change the nature of our fundraising.

This is an incredible opportunity.

McDonald International School is already making a name for itself. Now, thanks to the Board's investment, we have an opportunity to create the strategic reserve that will put our immersion program on solid financial footing, and help ensure our kids' success for years to come.

Fund drives are always challenging. But this year we have a rare opportunity to change the way we will do these things in the future. We have a chance to truly leave this school better than we found it.

We could use the Board's $125,000 opportunity to create this reserve fund, and transform the structure of our annual fundraising for years to come. 

They go on to say that they are having a phone-a-thon and hope for 100% family participation and an average of $1k per student.

I am more than a little dumbfounded.

The district has known - all along - the issues around foreign language immersion schools and their costs.  They knew this when they opened McDonald.  But they made no commitment to making sure McDonald had the same level of instruction - namely IAs - as the other schools.  It is the classic of kicking the can down the road.   The district either thought they would get by without them OR the parents would figure it out.   How's that working out, district?

And now Director Carr feels guilty and is magically going to find $125k for those IAs?   I plan on calling her tomorrow and hope that the McDonald PTA Board got it wrong.  Or misunderstood.  Or that Director Carr knows what pot of money that $125k is coming from.

I am also a little surprised that the McDonald PTA would look at the $125k as a way to create their own reserve fund.

I understand that the IAs make their program more viable.  But there are many schools who would like money to make their own programs viable.  Is no one at the school asking where the district will find this money?

I'm sure I'll hear an earful and perhaps I have something wrong.  But I have been following this discussion and trying to keep up.

I'll let you know what Carr says.


Floor Pie said...

I remember asking Director Carr for help when the K-2 special ed students at TOPS couldn't get one IA. She...um...wasn't quite as generous or helpful for the special ed K-2 kids as she apparently is with the language immersion kids. Or so it would appear.

Honestly, as a special ed parent it's so, so hard not to respond to this with anything but bitterness and a little nausea. But I'll try to hold off on that and wait to see what Director Carr has to say for herself.

Anonymous said...

A private donor? A foreign government?

public school where the expected contribution for an academic program is 1K is simply wrong. But, I guess there are lots of precedents. What is pay for K now? And that's required. And privately paid instruction during school hours on school property (ie the music lessons)?

This is creeping privatization by another name. The one time funds seem inequitable, but I've never been able to understand whether funding is equitable -- lots of money differences seem to creep into the programs at different schools. What makes this one time infusion particularly problematic is that it's premised on non-sustainable options.

Anonymous said...

that was me, zb.

SeattleSped said...

As long as the uber micromanagers on the board LOVE language immersion, that's what they'll miraculously find money. Or they'll encourage principals to use additional allocation to fund it.

Right Floor Pie, there are far better uses for 1 IA per classroom. Like bringing all kids to grade level in reading, science and math. THAT is our core mission. NOT providing a menu of nifty boutique options.

But Mr DeBell actually sees language immersion as an "intervention strategy"! At a recent board session they cherry-picked some numbers to show that kids learning math in Chinese (and not using EDM) scored better at Beacon Hill. (of course they pulled all the SpEd kids out. We don't count). So that must be our MTSS, our multi-tiered system of supports.

cascade said...

The board could create a straight-face way to allow extra funding for IAs at immersion schools: make them Option schools, which are allowed to 'break the onesize fits all' mold.

Make priority enrollment (geozone?) about the same size as the current boundaries for the assignment school.

Same solution for JSIS and Beacon Hill and the rest.

It's not hard. But it has been at least a decade that the district has, like a stubborn mule, refused to do the right thing. This is partly the fault of the board and mostly the fault of staff (enrollment) who insist it can't be done. Of course it can. They just don't want to put the time in to do it.

As Melissa says, now the chickens are coming home to roost. It ain't MacDonald's fault. It's the District's.

dj said...

I don't have a problem with some schools getting extra funding for special programming (although obviously there is a difference between special funding from the district and special funding that relies on parent contributions for a variety of reasons). I do have a problem with the fact that these special programs simply aren't available outside of a few neighborhoods. It's one thing to drop a lot of money on Cleveland STEM and open it to the city. It is another thing to drop a lot of money on language immersion and limit it geographically.

Anonymous said...

This is possibly Carr's worst move to date. Isn't she of Team "We Don't Micromanage?"

What a load of baloney. "Cascade" is right. The board should come up with a systemic solution or not step in at all. This dump of $125K doesn't pass any straight face test and makes my blood boil. Bet I'm not the only one.


Jet City mom said...

Muir was forced to end its mandarin program for the 2012-2013 school year. Wondering what efforts the board put in.

Anonymous said...

I think it is fundamentally wrong that language immersion schools are neighborhood schools rather than option schools. If you can afford to live in Wallingford/Greenlake - great - your kid can go to a language immersion school. If you can't afford to live there, then you are out of luck.


Anonymous said...

Muir dropped Mandarin this year? WHAT? Can someone give more detail?

The McDonald 'gift' is unacceptable in this funding environment. All of our neighborhood schools have heart-rending reasons to need those IA funds. Counselors. Special Education help. Math and reading specialists. Carr and co. were very wrong here.

And yes, all LI schools should be Option schools. Duh.


SeattleSped said...

"Now, thanks to the Board's investment, we have an opportunity to create the strategic reserve that will put our immersion program on solid financial footing, and help ensure our kids' success for years to come."

Yes, how is it Carr, chair of the Audit and Finance Committee, can select to "invest" in a school in her district. She must have been tired of getting an earful from slighted Wallingford parents who were mad their little Johnny had to watch all his friends walk to JSIS and he had to go to stinkin' MacDonald. Not Fair!

A&F has been talking about this $125K (hmmm, it WAS $110K) since January, but it only recently made it on the gap analysis worksheets as a "hit" to the gap. This was when prospective transportation changes were corrected and reduced savings. Suddenly our gap grew larger, and Harmon says "we may have to rethink plnned enhancements to special ed classrooms."

Yeah, that' fair.

Anonymous said...

If this $125K hits the Budget Gap, then it best be withdrawn. I know we are fighting over scraps and that is ultimately a state funding problem...but this gift is simply not OK. Certainly not if you've got Harmon saying he wants to take away *system* supports like SPED.
(Is that still a possibility?) And again, please someone tell me the details of the quiet drop of Mandarin from Muir. That too is wrong.


SeattleSped said...

P.S. They must have run it through C&I to make it look like a mutually-agreeable investment. Karen Kodama has been trotted out at numerous committee meetings amd board sessions/meetings to lay the ground work for this "investment", and more to come.

I would argue that Page 3 of this (yet another) presentation on international education should apply at EVERY school.

Anonymous said...

Is Karen Kodama still the SPS International Education Administrator? What is she telling her peers about how to develop these schools? Language immersion is the way most schools in the world educate children from kindergarten. If SPS is tying many of these schools to their ELL student base, where the money for all of them? Why aren't we using the big brains at LEV or A4E or hell, Gates (Redmond hosts an international work force) to get development on board with these schools instead of allowing the more affluent parents to fill in the gap? Sweat and checkbook should carry equal weight. When my oldest was in Waldorf the IAs were often parents. They worked cheap. There's also a volunteer force that can be tapped in Seattle. We have residents who speak 3 or more languages. They have kids. Development solves this problem if it's applied to the problems at hand instead of self aggrandizing. I'm not being negative. Bring the power of Gates into this. See what they're willing to do. Is A4E willing to do more than skim donations? In Vegas that still gets you a shallow grave.

I thought all the past pay to play schemes were officially discouraged so if Carr is kicking in to offset their larger boundary that's good, but what about the kids with the gusher of water in their classroom?

I'm a huge proponent of international schools and want to see them succeed. I wish my boys had access to them. They learned a second language at home but this is where I'd rather the money go than into Testing Inc. That and fix the damn pluming and give Arbor Heights a clean, safe, school. It's easy, folks, and I'm the most positive man in my hood.

Mr White

Floor Pie said...

Cascade is right. It's not McDonald's fault. These people are my neighbors and I want to make sure not to direct any of the bitterness at them.

The district, though. Somebody needed to be the "parent" here. The "kids" wanted a shiny new world-class language immersion program because the wealthier neighbors had one. Did the "parent" explain what sort of fundraising and sacrifice that was going to require? Did the "parent" take a serious look at the budget and long-term planning? Did the "parent" consider the fairness to the other "siblings" who basically don't even have a decent pair of shoes? Or did the "parent" just say YES?

What happened when special ed families pointed out that language immersion doesn't work for their children; that some of them had already transferred from JSIS to McDonald for that very reason? They were callously told to "Just go to BF Day." (A great school, OUR school, but in Wallingford east of Stone Way, that's the equivalent of telling someone to f-off.)

So, yeah, the district just handed over the car keys to the shiny new world-class program and now they're happily coming to bail them out when -- surprise -- they ran into some challenges.

When we couldn't get more than ONE HALF-TIME IA at TOPS for all of K-2 special ed, my son simply couldn't go to TOPS anymore. It happens to special ed families all the time. "Sorry, no services for you here" and we don't even get to choose our kid's next school. The district just puts them where the services are. And we DEAL with that disappointment, we suck it up, because we understand that we're part of a whole. Most of us don't complain to our board rep, and when we do, as I did, we don't get a 125K bailout for world-class *anything.*

To me, it feels so profoundly unfair that I can barely see straight. But I'm a special ed parent, so maybe I'm just bringing my bias to it. Somebody explain to me how it IS fair, and how the second world-class foreign language immersion program in one neighborhood is more entitled to the magic $125K than anyone else who might have benefitted from that funding. I'm very curious to hear that explanation.

Jet City mom said...


The program will no longer parents to offer home stays. Forcing them to cancel for the upcoming year.

Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am very sad to be writing to say that, after six interesting years, this will be the last year of the Mandarin language program at John Muir. In the beginning, our program was funded by a federal grant. That grant could not be renewed and no similar grants are available. There has never been any school district (or state) funding available for this type of program. For the last three years we have been fortunate to have two “Guest Teachers” made available by a collaboration between Seattle Schools, The College Board, and Hanban (Hanban is the executive body of the Chinese Language Council International, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of China.) This collaborative program allowed schools to use “room and board” provided by host families as part of the compensation package to the Chinese Guest Teachers. Several very generous John Muir community families offered to be host families so we could continue the program. We were recently advised that The College Board and Hanban will no longer allow the host family option. For the 2012-­‐2013 school year, all Chinese Guest Teachers will have to be paid the same teacher salary a teacher in Seattle would earn. This is far more money than John Muir School and PTA working together would be able to raise. The only remaining Chinese Language and Culture program in an elementary school will be at Beacon Hill International School – the immersion program is a special, limited program within Beacon Hill School.

dw said...

Matt said: I think it is fundamentally wrong that language immersion schools are neighborhood schools rather than option schools. If you can afford to live in Wallingford/Greenlake - great - your kid can go to a language immersion school. If you can't afford to live there, then you are out of luck.

Agreed, and it's equally bad that families who do not want language immersion for their kids are assigned to the school because they happen to live within particular areas of the city. Sure, you can opt out, but then you are part of a minority program in the building, with all the resultant negatives that come with that. Plus, the kids are taking up seats that could be used by others who actively want the program!

I'm very happy they are expanding a popular program, but it's terrible design that it comes via living within a particular boundary, rather than a desire for the program.

mind the gap said...

If you are questioning Carr on this one, shouldn't you also question Patu on the Graham Hill preschool dollars?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mind the Gap, I was not aware that the district ended up funding that.

Interesting that you ask because that was precisely the issue for Carr at that C&I meeting.

Graham Hill wanted to keep their preschool and needed money from the district to do so (there was some confusion over the PTA not being told about the funding issues).

Carr was saying that she couldn't very well fund a pre-school that technically did not have SPS students and then tell McDonald, which does have SPS students, that there was no extra funding for their program.

I will contact Patu as I had not heard this funding had come thru.

Lori said...

from the McDonald letter: "And this year we had our borders expanded by the Board, increasing next year's burden."

Is this correct? I didn't know that any schools had had boundary changes so far under the NSAP. So who got drawn in? More JSIS-area families? Someone else?

mind the gap said...

I could be wrong, but did think that GH got their $70K approved. Patu was certainly pushing for it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lori, yes the boundaries did change as JSIS is bursting at the seams. I do not know the specifics of the changes

Floor Pie said...

McDonald is also getting the families who were rezoned to BF Day but don't want to go there. We will have 2 kindergartens next year, down from 3. I think McDonald will have something like 5.

Jet City mom said...

Graham Hill did keep their preschool for this past year, i cant tell if decisions have been made for next year.
Dear Graham Hill Elementary community,
Over the last several months there has been much discussion around funding the Montessori preschool program at Graham Hill. We value the early learning opportunity this preschool provides the Graham Hill community. However, this program is no longer fully funded by tuition, and instead requires district resources. We will not have an answer on funding this program until the School Board goes through the 2012-13 budget process.
At the start of the 2011-12 school year, we made the decision to use approximately $70,000 in district resources to ensure the Montessori services continued for another year. Given the likelihood of continued on-going budget reductions, this was a one-year commitment and that any continued use of district funds would need to be part of the district’s larger budget development process in the spring of 2012.
Over the last several months, a number of options have been explored to allow the preschool program to continue. The first option is to set a significantly higher tuition for Graham Hill full-day kindergarteners, which would offset the preschool cost and allow the preschool program to remain in operation. In February, the School Board’s Audit & Finance committee -- the entity responsible with reviewing student fees – determined that this would be inequitable and did not support this option.
Another option is to continue to financially support this preschool with district funds. After consulting with both legal staff and members of the State Auditor’s office, it was determined that continued district funding of the program would be legal, and not a gift of public funds....

Jet City mom said...

Considering the skimming of IDEA monies into schools general funds rather than being directed toward programs explicitly designed for SPED students, anytime i hear someone say schools need more money, i think about how the distric spends what they have now.

kellie said...

The boundaries for JSIS were shrunk considerably. The areas that were drawn out of JSIS were drawn into BF Day and McDonald.

BF Day is a large building and likely can handle the extra area for a few years. However, the new boundaries, just recreated the JSIS issue for McDonald. McDonald is a small building and it will be over-full quickly.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of Mandarin, a couple years ago I went to an event for the Washington State China Relations Council. There was a lot of talk at the event about some new Seattle-China partnership whose goal was to make Mandarin available throughout SPS. I take it that is going nowhere?


Anonymous said...

Graham Hill's preschool is kaputt for 2012–13. Parents with 3-yr-olds were left to find new programs for the year (on pretty short notice). The 4-yr-olds will become kinders in the new K–1 multi-age classrooms (utilizing the two pre-school K teachers).

They had to keep the 2011–12 program going since the District did not alert them to the problem until mid-year. Graham Hill used to raise funds amongst themselves for the preschool funding, but staff and families not in the Montessori protested, so they had to stop. That cut out a lot of scholarships, etc. It's been a financial mess for years primarily of the District's making.

Solvay Girl

Margie said...

Just a clarifier. JSIS does not use any sort of "reserve" fund. Each year they fundraise for the next year's IA's, and if we fall short fo the goal, we make do with fewer IA's.

A big difference for McDonald is that they are growing so fast that this year's smaller parent pool has to fundraise for next year's larger size school.

Several years back when JSIS was the only language immersion school, the district tried to get several other schools to become language immersion but they all refused because the district would not fund IA's.

mind the gap said...

Ah, I am corrected on the GH situation then. So they are not getting the $70K next year.

RosieReader said...

It's so frustrating. Every "special" program needs funding for something extra. And yet when there aren't special grants or federal funds, in most cases the District shrugs its shoulders and leaves it to the parents to fill in the gaps. Add IB to the list of examples you cite. They add a third IB school (becuase the program is, actually, a great one), but they offer no money to fund the program costs or the curricular needs or the administrative coordination beyond special initial start up grants.

It's crazy. Then again, much in school funding is crazy these days, at least in Washington State.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but WooHoo!

Judge rules two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes is unconstitutional


fund our schools!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Margie,that's interesting about JSIS and a reserve. McDonald seems to think it is true.

I wrote to the Directors and asked them to clarify what is happening.

Anonymous said...

Language immersion schools like JSIS and McDonald should be option schools. They just don't fit into the neighborhood school paradigm because affluent families move into the boundary area and swamp enrollment. JSIS administration and PTSA learned this lesson over the past 3 years. In response they cut the JSIS boundary area roughly in half, sending most of the excluded families to BF Day, which has no language immersion.

JSIS has gone from 4 kindergarten classes to 2 for next fall, with an apparent long term enrollment goal for the school at ~300, about 1/3 less than current enrollment. This is what happens to "neighborhood" schools with special programs: they stop serving most of their neighborhood.

Special programs like language immersion need to self-fund most or all of the additional costs. This model is great for both the district and parents, because a little extra funds targeted at a local school can create some wonderful programs.

Self funding appears to be the goal at JSIS. It's a great school but it isn't cheap by public school standards. Full day kindergarten is mandatory and costs ~$2500 per school year. The annual fund drive at JSIS asks families to donate *at least* ~$500 per student. (And of course there are all the other, customary fund drives throughout the year.)

Fundraising at JSIS is always for the next year, so in the spring families donate (to the annual fund) for the following fall. (Graduating 5th grade families fund the incoming K families.)

I think this is where McDonald has gotten into a bind: the current language immersion student base isn't large enough to fund number of incoming kindergarten classes because the school is growing so quickly. If that is the case, then I think it is right for the district to add funds as part of start-up costs, provided the school understands they are for start-up and the program must be self (funding and) sustaining in the long term.

Anonymous said...

No funds for McDonald or any other language immersion schools until the district bites the bullet and makes them option schools.

Tough love necessary to fix a perpetual problem that staff and board absolutely refuse to deal with. And yes I'm looking at YOU board veterans Carr, DeBell, Martin-Morris. Shame on you for punting the ball for years when you have known the answer. Direct the staff (superintendent plus Libros in enrollment,) to fix a festering, community-dividing, resource-sucking, problem. With BEX coming up, the time for resolution is once and for all. Option schools = special programs like language immersion. It is the only equitable solution. Do it. Then redraw the draw areas.

After THAT you can go back and give McDonald $$ if the budget allows.


Anonymous said...

The board was right to provide a little one-time support to McDonald. As others mentioned, immersion teaching is hard and teachers need support until they gain the experience needed. And, the school is new, small and growing, so current families have to bear the fundraising burden for a large group of incoming families who don't yet understand the need. The board said it was one-time support, and this is appropriate, to help the school build a fundraising effort that is sustainable. And, the board acknowledged the additional burden caused by reducing the JSIS boundaries and guaranteeing those families a spot at McDonald, which increased the incoming numbers. In this case the board was thoughtful in their decision.
--SPS parent

Anonymous said...

No sorry SPS parent, I don't think they were thoughtful. Well meaning perhaps, but not thoughtful. Thoughtful is fixing systemic problems.

This case as usual is lurching from one fire to the next. The system as a whole never gets better. Fix the systemic problem.


Anonymous said...

These programs require more staff than a non-immersion program.

So: You have to choose. You can either have this program, or you can NOT have it. What you cannot do is HAVE the program but let it FAIL.

The Board has 2 options: get rid of immersion, or fund it. They made the responsible choice by helping McDonald get on its feet. They're not doing the classic move of starting a program and then not giving it what it needs to be successful.

Long term, these schools should be option schools. It's not fair having them as neighborhood schools. THAT is what we should be talking about.

But till that happens, the people saying, "let McDonald pay the price" are not thinking things through.

Seattle Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree we need a systemic fix here.

I would agree with funding the IAs for a year (or the district backfilling McDonald's fundraising).

But I do not support McDonald looking at this as some sort of reserve for their program and that is what they have said at their website.

Anonymous said...

To Melissa's comment, McDonald will not keep any of the funds from the District for future years. The goal is to raise the goal amount, and then keep going, if possible, to create a "reserve" or extra pot that we can then use to help with the challenge of needing to pay for the support for fall's K classes, by July 1, when the families of those kids don't yet understand the need. Then we hope they'll repay the pot in the fall, once they're in and understand the need.
So, essentially we're asking parents to give at the level they may have given prior to the news, to help us create a better fundraising model for future years. We definitely won't be saving any of the board's one-time commitment for future years. Yes, it's a challenge to communicate this.
--Parent in McDonald

Anonymous said...

I understand the one time cash infusion to get the program on it's feet. I don't agree with it, but I understand the motivation and reasons.

Asking families to pay $1000 toward staff is not sustainable in the long run. Sure it's cheaper than private school, and maybe even private language classes, but as a long time PTA fundraiser, modeling on those kinds of expectations is risky business. Putting yourself in the position to HAVE to raise those funds so the program will be successful is a heavy burden on the fundraising team, PTSA board and on families. (not to mention against PTSA best/suggested practices...)

Agree 100% that these need to be option schools, not neighborhood schools.

I have to say though - I don't have a child in a Special Education program, but if I did I'd be beyond frustrated with this cash infusion when SPED needs go unmet at many (most?) schools districtwide. Language immersion - while a wonderful program for children and families - is an option. SPED accomodations are federal law. Not a choice. Mandated. To see these programs underfunded while an optional program gets 2.5 IAs - I have a real problem with that.


Maureen said...

I agree that immersion schools should be Option schools (and always have so was really annoyed when Carr pushed for two adjacent schools to be immersion programs.)

But, they aren't and it would be stupid to create them and then let them fail. So, if the issue is that McDonald is being asked to grow too quickly to pay for next year's IAs, the District should LOAN them $125,000 at a 5% rate and they should pay it back over the next ten years as their enrollment grows. This could be done more cleanly by cutting McDonald's discretionary fund allocation by about $13,000 a year starting next year. Their PTSA can make up that gap.

SeattleSped said...

Right. I hear DeBell bemoan Special Education "soaking" the "savings"(?!) made in Basic Ed, but he is strangely silent about LI schools draining $$ and resources from non-LI schools.

SeattleSped said...

Maureen, that is a smart, practical solution.

Yes, our Board micro-managers need to think more in terms of sustainable programs that meet the core mission. I would argue that teaching math in Mandarin does not fit that model, but teaching children with disabilities so that they are ready for college and career, YES.

Anonymous said...

Floor pie wrote: "When we couldn't get more than ONE HALF-TIME IA at TOPS for all of K-2 special ed, my son simply couldn't go to TOPS anymore. It happens to special ed families all the time."

It happens over and over to special ed families. It is illegal to undercut IEPs by not giving the supports and services to implement them. What is the District's response to this? To force IEP teams to artificially cut down IEP needs, misstate actual needs, threaten families with a more restrictive placement, etc. All these things happen all the time. And then the Board turns around and gifts IAs???

Furious parent

SeattleSped said...

BTW, all other furious parents should attend the Board Work Session on SpEd today at 4pm-5:30, JSCEE. Of course the Board has already had its session on International Education weeks ago...

Anonymous said...

I am a McDonald parent struggling to pay for our IAs this year. I've read this blog over the past few years, but I am still a little surprised that there are a handful of people here today who are so, so angry that the board stepped forward with this one-time grant to help our elementary school through a very tough year.

This is what we look to leaders for: identify areas where they can make an impact, and take action. It's a one-time thing to help a new school through a very rough and un-funded transition into a program that was assigned to us. Not something we cooked up for ourselves.

But more important: Let's all keep our eyes on the big picture, which is that every program in the state is underfunded. Let's not turn this blog into a place where we pit one program, or one neighborhood against another.

The board made a smart move, giving one-time help where it was very badly needed to help a new program get solidly on its feet. Brave and well done.

McDonald Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

McDonald parent, I don't think it's anger as much as frustration. The district has got to be clear about what they spend scarce dollars on and why.

Your PTA is NOT making it sound like the grant is just for this year's use. I pulled the language right off the website. Maybe I just don't understand what they are saying. But it seems that they would like to keep the money even if they raise enough to fund the IAs on their own.

No one is saying the school doesn't need this money. But there is a big picture beyond your school that needs to be considered and my role tends to look at that big picture.

Why would the Board wait until so late to make this decision? This was not what I heard months ago at the C&I meeting so what changed? Is it about the numbers at Mc Donald coming in?

I'm not arguing the need but we have a right to question what the money is truly being used for.

I would not support the use as a reserve for future years.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, people here at McDonald do not have the impression that our PTA is somehow going to repurpose school board money. How would that even be possible?

Among people here, it is well understood that the announcement of the SPS board's support came midway through our regular annual fund drive.

And with the SPS announcement, rather than lower our fund drive goal, the PTA decided to keep trying to meet its original fund drive goal.

If we somehow meet that original goal (not likely if you ask me), then we could use the additional funds we raised (PTA funds) to improve our program's future fund drives.

Obviously the PTA can't somehow repurpose SPS money. All that is happening is they are trying to continue our own fund drive with the original dollar goal, even after getting the good news that our IAs are going to be partially supported this year, due to the one-time expansion of our school and borders, and the burden that has created on a small group of families.

McDonald Parent

Floor Pie said...

Why are you surprised, McDonald Parent? Did you expect us all to say "Yay! Inequity! Our favorite!"

Maybe if the board were just as eager to step up for the truly needy students in this district, we wouldn't feel so frustrated. But they don't. In fact, just came from a meeting at which Director DeBell expressed an interest in cutting special ed services to save money.

SeattleSped said...

I can't tell how many times I have been told "SpEd parents should NOT complain and pit one group against another." That has made a beat-down, voiceless constituency even MORE reticent. Sorry. That doesn't cut it. That is like Allan Bakke telling racial minorities that white males are disadvantaged too!

When we have placed one of our number as President of the School board, then I might say things are more in balance. Until then, forget it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

McDonald parent, I don't know how it would be possible but read the PTA website. It seems clear that if they didn't need all the $125k, they would somehow bank it in reserve (their word, not mine).

Again, I get why the money is needed but I also know this is a late decision and one that I don't think was going to be announced or explained. We don't have the luxury of doing that - every dollar counts and if the Board/district thinks this is the right thing, then it should show up somewhere, clearly, in the budget.

Eileen said...

Furious said, "It is illegal to undercut IEPs by not giving the supports and services to implement them. What is the District's response to this? To force IEP teams to artificially cut down IEP needs?"

Minimize, minimize, minimize and then exit kids ASAP.

mirmac1 said...

As far as I can tell, it shows up here and "Language Immersion Program Support" for the first time, fortuitously enlarging a gap when anticipated transportation "savings" are reduced. The increased gap made the pressure to DO SOMETHING all the more important. Like cut SpEd programs at schools like Salmon Bay or somesuch.

Floor Pie said...

Honestly, how can somebody read all this and then wonder why some of us are angry? You'd be angry too if it were your kid, and there but for the grace of God, etc.

Anonymous said...

To Furious Parent:

It's even worse. It is the law that if a student can be successful in accesing General Education with appropriate supports and services, that student must get those supports and services. Yet, even some staff in the Special Education Department treat this as something to be ashamed of. Uh oh, your student wants THAT MUCH SUPPORT to be successful in General Education??? Off with her head!

This is the mentality of the easy gifting to non-disabled students in language immersion programs of IA supports that are denied to SPED students who desperately need them: the subtext is that you kids with disabilities are RESPONSIBLE for your disabilities and so you can't expect or ask for help. It's your fault. You are faulty. And this is extends to families of students with special needs. Families of students with special needs are also treated like we should accept the SHAME message. Families of kids in immersion programs do not have to run any such gauntlet. No way. It's OBVIOUS that their children benefit from trained IAs. So the Board gifts them.

But for kids with disabilities? Never such an understanding. Always the District Double Standard.

-- Also a furious parent

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Keep in mind also the PTA is asking this of a mere 180 or so students/families. And keep in mind the $300,000 is for IA's only and doesn't include the regular PTA budget that covers school supplies, camp trips, grants to teachers, etc. These 180 families are being asked for an average of over $1700.00 each. (and they've raised only 25-30% / 90K and here we are in the last month of the school year).

"A big difference for McDonald is that they are growing so fast that this year's smaller parent pool has to fundraise for next year's larger size school."

Precise and correct.
AND please keep in mind THE SAME PROBLEM DOESNT MAGICALLY GO AWAY NEXT YEAR. McD right now has full enrollment only in K and 1st. That means there's potentially FOUR MORE YEARS of expanding, growing, and burdensome skyhigh fundraising ahead of us. Last year the fundraising goal was 120K, this year its over 300K, so it stands to reason, at that rate, 2013 fundraising needs could be 480K, 2014 could be 660K and 2015 would be 820K!!!(and every year after)

My two questions are:
1. what is JSIS spending on these precious language IAs, pre-grant-offset, and why is it such a lower number than McD?
2. working with what we have, why isn't the district setting up advisors and grant writers to help McD get up to the same speed of non-parent-provided funding as JSIS?

John Stanford has a PTA fundraising goal this year of slightly less than $300,000 yet they have full enrollment in all grades and hundreds more kids. Clearly McD is doing it wrong.

- Fed Up NorthSeattleParent

Anonymous said...

reposting as the author forgot to sign...

Sooooo, McDonald gets $125k for extra staffing in each classroom and Greenlake elementary is losing staff next year due to boundaries that have been to redrawn to near non-existence. Our school doesn't even have a lunch room. Carr came to our school last month and claimed she would try to find the $80k to build us one, puny compared to the millions being spent on McDonald. Apparently, that $ found another home. If anyone has ever been into our building, you know it has been ignored by the district for decades, maintained by a parent community that just won't quit. We've been stripped of our neighborhood draw, shifting a huge portion of our population to McDonald because it is 10 blocks away from Greenlake. It is still unclear to me why McDonald was reopened. It is clear, however, that McDonald becoming an immersion school was meant to appease parents that were angry they were suddenly outside JSIS. It really needs to be an option school. I have no bitter feelings towards McDonald or the families that attend, it's Carr's priorities that make me angry. She is not treating all of the schools in her district equally


Floor Pie said...

Yes, we should be clear that it's not the families we're frustrated with. It's not really their job to have a "big picture" sense of things, or to consider the needs of *all* SPS students. But Carr should have known better.

Charlie Mas said...

There are a number of things wrong about this story.

Let's start at the top:

Language Immersion programs should be Option programs equitably available to students in all parts of the district.
McDonald, particularly because it was a newly opened school, should have been opened as an option school. All of the language immersion programs, and the Montessori programs (while we're at it), should be converted to option programs. It would be appropriate for the Board to make this decision as a policy decision - it speaks directly to equitable access to programs and services - and leave it to the superintendent to figure out how to make it work. Let's remember that lots of middle school attendance areas have option schools, and they can all cope with it. The Hamilton service area can cope with it as well.

Moving down from there, the Board should not be micro-managing the budget to this extent. That is totally inappropriate.

Moving down from there. When the District commits to establishing a language immersion program, that commitment should come with funding. Since that funding for a special program comes from every family in the district, every family in the district should have the opportunity to enroll their child in the program (see the first point). This is not a decision that should have been made this year. This is a decision that should have been made when the language immersion program at McDonald was created.

Maureen said...

It sounds like the IAs are seen as necessary in immersion classrooms because the kids need at least two fluent people in the classroom in order to model the foreign language.

How about this as a solution? Make the immersion schools Option schools with a small physical geographic zone but a 'native speaker set aside' that encompasses the whole city. Give kids who are native speakers first shot at five(?) spots per classroom. From what I have read, kids learn language much better from peers than from teachers. The native speakers would benefit from being class leaders and from dual immersion (plus none of them would be assigned to the school - they would choose.)

The problem may be transportation (paying for it would negate the savings), so there might not be enough native speakers in Greenlake/Wallingford to make this work (another reason it was stupid to make McDonald an immersion school.)

mirmac1 said...

Maureen, not to rain on that parade but that sounds too much like a DeBell brainstorm. Frankly, the "native-speakers" are very likely ELL. They have two important responsibilities: learn subject matter and learn english, both well. Micro-managers would have these children bused around town (with their IAs) to "enhance" the language immersion experience in Wallingford or wherever. No. Spend the money on bus etc to improve the school where the ELL students are at now.

Maureen said...

Isn't there evidence that dual immersion is good for ELL students? I know someone who works in such a school in Portland and she believes in it. I agree it's wrong to bus the kids all over town just to benefit the JSIS/McDonald kids. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing at Beacon Hill (Chinese) or Concord (SPanish) though.

What about the UW grad students? Are there enough international students with kids to populate even one Wallingford K-5? Probably not in Spanish and Japanese I would guess--Mandarin, maybe. Another consequence of a poorly thought out plan.

Crisitunity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Floor Pie said...

Oops, accidentally posted as my husband.

I just think we ought to ask ELL families what they want for their kids' school experience. I'd guess that some might not want their kids to be token native speakers in a mostly white school. Or maybe they'd really appreciate the opportunity to attend JSIS/Stanford. But either way, they deserve to be asked and listened to.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"When the District commits to establishing a language immersion program, that commitment should come with funding."

You should add, "with funding because these schools, in order to fulfill their mission, cost the district more."

Anonymous said...

This example clearly illustrates the serious flaws in school funding, program placement, etc...

I've always been perplexed that the district would allow two language immersion programs to be placed adjacent (boundaries touching)to one another. It would seem to make more sense that these programs be spread out and offered in different regions in the city, not clustered. More emphasis should be on making language immersion available to more ELL students, not just non-native speaking communities who want something more. I'm sure the promise by the McDonald community to off-set the additional costs allowed them to proceed in getting this program granted. This reminds me of a bit of similar deals the district has brokered e.g. McGilvra parents buying portables with the guarantee class size would be reduced.

Language immersion programs should be "option" schools like other specialty schools and be able to be sustain themselves without asking for approx. $1,000 per/family to off-set these costs. In many districts across the country and some even in the PNW don't allow PTA or fundraising dollars to be used to pay for teacher headcount. I hope that Seattle will re-look at these policies in order to restore equity across the district.

~Public School Advocate

Carrie said...

To the McD parent who said it's not the parents who wanted this. That's untrue - 100+ lobbied for it. And if memory serves, the parents pushing for it knew the district wasn't going to cover the IA costs. I think the whole situation (neighborhood school) and now the one-time (we'll see about that) $125k is completely unfair. You do have the option of going to BF Day. It sounds like Green Lake might have some openings, too.

From Wallyhood Blog:

McDonald Elementary announced that, through direct appeal to parents, they met their fundraising goal of $100,000 to hire full-time language immersion assistants for the 2011-12 school year. The McDonald Elementary PTA followed the John Stanford International School direct appeal fundraising model since the District does not provide funding for an extra teacher for each of the language immersion classrooms.

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

Absolutely language immersion schools like JSIS and McDonald should be option schools.

We enrolled our son to Green Lake because we didn't want to go to JSIS. And now we are fighting to enclose our lunchroom. The kids eat outside in all temperatures. Carr told us there was no money to be had even for safety issues yet she found lots for McDonald.

SeattleSped said...

Yes, amazing how money is found when the need SCREAMS loud enough. Should not be necessary if the core mission and focus remains on the child.

Anonymous said...

Here we are in 2013.
What is the update to your original post, or your current thinking?

Anonymous said...


McDonald in boundary.

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