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Sunday, September 09, 2012

BEX IV - the Battle To Come

Next week is the first of the BEX IV community meetings (Thursday, the 20th at Whitman at 6:30 p.m.).  It now looks like a real battle brewing and the Board will certainly have a decision to make.

For your consideration:

- the Downtown Seattle Association has made the unfortunate decision to continue to pressure the Board/City Council for a downtown school.  To their credit, they took a meeting with me and I outlined why, at this juncture, it was bad timing.  I also gently put forth that if one of the South Lake Union businesses would donate a couple of floors, the district could roll out a K-8 or K-5 one year at a time and, by the time BEX V came, then they would get a real building.  (I mean it's just plain funny to ask for money for a building when there is NO land to build on.)

They also apparently do not understand the severe and pressing needs elsewhere in the city despite my efforts to explain the overcrowding elsewhere AND the number of rundown schools. 

They also say this:

A public school in Downtown could potentially serve not only families who live Downtown, but also Seattle residents who work Downtown.

That's all well and good but if we are building a school downtown, it's for downtown kids, not for the convenience of those who work there.  That would be a great idea if we had the luxury of land, money and time but we do not.  

- the Superintendent told KING-5 that he thought BEX IV should come in around $600M.  That's far lower than earlier estimates and that means a lot of pulling back on projects.



- The district is promising to move World School in 2017 to TT Minor.  They will fix up TT Minor according to the architect's specs for World School and that takes more money than World School has been allotted.   Guess where that extra money would have to come from?  Yes, BEX IV.   Is the district seriously going to not fulfill its promises to World School for the umpteenth time?  But again, moving money to this project will change the number of projects that can be done.

- the threat of charters.  So if 1240 passes in November, a clever charter might start its planning to take over a school (say South Shore) via the "trigger petition" and voila! gets their "share" of BEX IV dollars if it passes in Feb. 2013.  Now would South Shore as a new building need that money? Probably not but they would be entitled to it. 

Only conversions could get their hands on BEX IV dollars but I suspect that could be several tries to take over different schools.  Any levy enacted - even after the conversion - that charter school gets their share of dollars, operational or capital. 

Could parents tell the Board - come out against charters, each and every one of you or we won't vote in BEX IV?  Maybe.  It certainly would be a difficult position for the Board but it would get each of them on record.  (Interestingly, Sherry Carr is one of the hosts of a LEV PAC event coming up and we all know LEV is one of the 1240 supporters.) 

What do you want to tell the Superintendent and the Board about BEX IV?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heard that the 650 seat building to be added to Thorton Creek/Decature property (it is lots and lots of acres) has been axed in favor of throwing wings on a few buildings. Also, heard the Jane Addams building that is a middle school building that was slated to become a middle school building is going to instead remain as a home for their current k-8 option program. Heard they are going to "upsize" and "smush together the new 650 seat k-5 elementary school and the new 1,250 seat 6-8 middle school into one-ish tpe building, sharing the core gym(s), etc.

Does SPS do market research, do they believe that parents will want to send their 6 year olds into a mega school of 2,000 mostly populated by older middle schoolers?

The only " fat" in the $735 million dollar initial BEX plan was the downtown school, and yet it's still not cut from the list?

At least the "mushroom" k-8s are gone.

-signed make this make sense

Anonymous said...

Paying Attention in the NE Says:

Carr is on record as against charters as is Martin-Morris. At the televised Stranger debate last fall. They flip flop at their peril. Of course Sundquist was against them until he turned up at the 34th LD pushing them. Another reason I'm glad he is gone. If there is even a hint that our board members welcome charters, then BEX IV is a nonstarter. Why provide room for them to come into Seattle?

But then, if Downtown insists on a downtown school on Bex IV, that is a nonstarter too. I know a whole school ahem Jane Addams that is already about to be homeless and screwed by the district over the unbuildability of Cedar Park, who will no doubt turn the NE against BEX if Downtown is on it and they are not.

Anonymous said...

What is the Jane Addams issue exactly?

-JA parent

Anonymous said...

Yup, it seems like there will be no relief for over-crowding in the north end. Only damage control in places where it is impossible to ignore the carnage or it is illegal to place more portables. I have to wonder how many more portables can be placed at Eckstein.

- north seattle parent

flibbertigibbet said...

The Jane Addams issue is that the district - under BEX IV - wants to turn the JA building into a comprehensive middle school to alleviate pressure on Eckstein (overcrowding in the NE being a huge problem). This leaves Jane Addams K-8 homeless, as the proposed site (in the plans circulated in the spring) was Cedar Park, and the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board just voted to give that building landmark status, which makes it hard to build a new building to house Jane Addams (not enough room to do so).

flibbertigibbet said...

-signed make this make sense:

where/when did you hear the Jane Addams building rumour?

Disagree with you on "mushroom" K-8s, actually, but at the end of the day, the way the district works, they end up pitting parents at different schools against each other when really we should all be working to hold them accountable and to improve things for all of us.

Eric M said...

Who on the board, exactly, is pushing this white elephant SLU school?

It seems to be such an obvious raiding of SPS coffers to help real estate developers sell their SLU condos.

Surely we have more pressing needs in the buildings we already have. Last time I checked, we had > 500 million $ in deferred maintenance around the district.

word said...

I don't understand how the argument can be used that a downtown school will assist those who work downtown. We have begged the SPS for YEARS to let our daughter go to school near where we BOTH work. This plea was ignored as we were told by the SPS that the school placement was based on the location of our house. And that this is their policy and no other, moer practical, accommodations are possible. For 4 years now we have been wasting hours and hours of driving time driving back and forth across town to accommodate after school activities etc. Why would parents who work downtown get to send their kids out of their quadrant while those who work in North Seattle cannot. This obviously practical idea is in violation of existing "policies". The idea that a downtown school will benefit people who work down town in addition to those who live there is actually a blatant lie as the school placement policy is based on the residence and the SPS has made it very clear to us that work location is irrelevant to school placement.

Carmaig de Forest said...

Don't have time to get into it now, but please contact the PTSA or, if you're able, we have a table out Wed. morning 8-8:30 at school (+ coffee) to answer questions. Thanks, Carmaig

Eric B said...

FYI, I'd be somewhat wary of rumors until the BEX community meetings. Even for the people involved, there have been a lot of changes through the planning process. Also, just because Downtown Seattle Association wants a school doesn't mean that they're going to get one, even if (somewhat unlikely, IMHO) they are willing to pony up land and a building.

Maureen said...

word, SLU school would have to be an Option school for downtown workers to have a chance of getting in under the current assignment rules. Presumably, it would have a big Geographic Zone if it is being built to benefit the condo owners and a small one if it is to benefit the office workers. (I'm guessing the school you want to access is a neighborhood school?)

Anonymous said...

Everything I have read on this thread was confirmed at board director meetings this week. The push to get BEX under $600M means that there is only enough money for damage control. That is not how they are describing it of course. They are describing it as being cautious about over building.

Essentially, areas with some building inventory will get that inventory reopened and areas without any inventory will get portables and "wings." The failure of the district to do basic demographic is now laughable.

Oddly enough, I would be completely behind a downtown school, if that same logic was applied in the parts of town that also do not have schools.

- north seattle parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nothing I printed was a rumor.

The Downtown Association is going to push on for a school. I didn't say they are going to get it but they will be pushing BOTH the Board and City Council (and the Mayor for that matter).

The charter initiative would influence future levies.

The Superintendent DID go on KING-5 and say $600M.

And the district did say that TT Minor would be revamped for the World School.


JA Dad said...

I suppose we'll know on Wednesday, but I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this Jane Addams rumor. Are they talking about essentially building a new middle school AND a new K-5 AND leaving JA K-8 in the current building? Sounds ambitious, but that's a big site, and maybe it could work.

That does sum up the current NE problem: They need a new middle school, they need a new K-5, and they still have to put the ~600 Jane Addams kids somewhere.

If they fail to keep Jane Addams K-8 going it would look pretty bad. In 3 years that program has overcome a rocky start to become an excellent, desirable school. The district should really keep an eye on their success stories.

And Eric B is right, plans can still change any time. They can even change after the levy is passed. I'll bet they will.

JA Dad said...

PS - And by "rocky start" I mean the total ineptitude of Seattle Public Schools, trying to close it after they assigned students, but before it was opened. The staff and faculty at Jane Addams K-8 have always been excellent.

Anonymous said...

A new 1250-seat middle school (at Wilson-Pacific?)? Is this code for 1500 seats (with portables)? Did I miss something, or were the ed specs for a comprehensive middle school changed recently? I thought the target middle school size was 1000 seats?

Just a few years ago, north end kids were booted out of Eckstein and bussed to Hamilton when Eckstein was just under 1100, because it was the "optimal capacity for their academic structure." What has changed, academically speaking, since then? What about safety? Just because they've pushed Eckstein to 1400 and nobody has been trampled to death yet doesn't make it right.

This is nuts!

-North of 95th

Eric B said...

Melissa- I was commenting more towards the comments, where a couple of people used the "I heard"/rumor words. I don't know any better than anyone else what's on tap.

On the JA front, I can definitely see the benefit of leaving a successful school in its building. However, I can't help but notice that a new middle school is substantially more expensive than a new/renovated K-8 and that JA is in a building intended to be a comprehensive middle school. If moving JA means that we can get another elementary or two done where we need them, then it seems like an awfully good idea IF the school can be moved as a block.

Anyone know why Banda ratcheted the price down to $600M? Is it lack (or perceived lack) of public support for the bigger number, lack of internal capacity to manage the projects, or something else?

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Could you please walk me through--when you have a chance-how conversion schools get access to BEX monies.

From the blog article:

"the threat of charters. So if 1240 passes in November, a clever charter might start its planning to take over a school (say South Shore) via the "trigger petition" and voila! gets their "share" of BEX IV dollars if it passes in Feb. 2013. Now would South Shore as a new building need that money? Probably not but they would be entitled to it."

Thank you!

-FedMomof2

JADad said...

Yes, when I say "keep the Jane Addams K-8 program going" I mean in any adequate building. I think our community would be very happy with a move to the right new location.

Much less excited about JA K8 becoming absorbed into a 1,900 student K-8, if that's what the "mega school" thing means. That's the same as dissolving our program. Hopefully that's just a rumor.

Unknown said...

FedMom,

Sure, I can walk you through it.

Under I-1240 ANY existing school, failing or not, can be converted to a charter when two things happen:

1) a charter proposal is approved by one of the two authorizers (either the newly created Charter Commission or a local school board that has been vetted by the Board of education).

2) the approved charter can then circulate - with no public notice - a petition to EITHER parents OR teachers. If the charter gets the majority of signatures from either group, they take over the school, buiding and all. (Now I note that there is absolutely NO detail on the petition drive, checking of signatures, etc. so I think this a lawsuit waiting to happen but I didn't write this thing.)

Keep in mind - if an elementary has 18 teachers, just 10 people could sign a petition that flips an entire school community.

So then, that district school becomes a charter school. The existing students can stay but have to sign on to whatever the charter school's focus is. The remaining children get re-enrolled at some other district school(s).

So how does the conversion school get levy money? As a former existing school, it is now eligible for levy money passed while it was a district school. This is for both operations and capital (but 1240 is silent on how far back it would go - I would assume it is levies passed in the last couple of years).

What is painful is not just that they get money but that the district now has to take the levy money - divide it by the number of schools in the district including charters, - and then cut a check to the charter for their share.

Now this is NOT how districts spend operations and capital money but it will be if there are charters.

A new charter - one in its own building that was not a school - would only be eligible for levy dollars for levies passed AFTER the charter is created.

Anonymous said...

JADad,
It is my understanding that the "mega school" (650-seat elementary school and super-sized middle school complex)would be built on the Wilson Pacific property. The theory being that if they build the new W-P middle school really big, then they can get by without a comprehensive middle school in the Jane Addams building, leaving the K-8 program in place.

JR Mom

Anonymous said...

JR Mom - If that is the case, then what happens to the APP program at Wilson Pacific. Still there or scuttled? What have people heard?

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

@NE Parent

Sorry, I haven't heard any details about APP or anything else.

JR Mom

JADad said...

JR Mom - Thanks, that's more in line with things (rumors, I guess) that I've heard. I think my brain is still on the weekend, after rereading the initial comment.

That will be one big school complex. They're running out of alternatives, though.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day when Jane Addams was Summit and the board was trying to decide whether to "repurpose" Summit AND AS1 or just "repurpose" Summit, the deciding factor was that if they were "wrong," the could always add portables at both Jane Addams and Eckstein to make up the deficit. Remember, they only "repurposed" as the only solution to the capacity issue because it was the most fiscally responsible decision in a time of financial crisis.

Since the building of a physical middle school is so expensive relative to elementaries or K8's, I think the eventual options for JA are pretty clear. Jane Addams stays in the JA building as a K8 and they can begin to expect to see some of those portables as the middle school is expanded significantly in some way with portables.

The JA program is relocated either as K8 or a K5 so that the entire building can be repurposed.

Have doubts? Just talk to the Summit parents / teachers that used to be in the building as a K12.

- signed, history repeats itself.

word said...

Maureen -
Good point and very true. However, we were trying to get into an option school at the time but it was so popular that it was impossible.

You are correct though that, in theory, out of quadrant downtown workers can access an option school.

Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Really appreciate you walking me through that scenario. Thank you!

-FedMomof2

Lori said...

I think the promise (or maybe trial balloon) of allowing downtown workers' children to attend a new SLU school is a politically brilliant move.

Parents in currently over-crowded areas might be attracted to this option and vote for the levy and for the SLU school out of self interest.

And, given the skepticism over whether downtown demographics support a new school, an option achool might fill from Day 1, with a mix of "neighborhood" kids and the children of downtown workers.

The cynical part of me, of course, thinks that making it an option school is a tantalizing carrot that will be yanked from families once the details emerge. Enrollment and transportation decisions could make it difficult for the "average" person to have their child at the SLU school, but those details are unlikely to be known or broadly announced before the ground breaks.

It will be interesting to see how far this talk goes in the next few months.

Lori said...

an option achool? stupid typos. You know what I mean: option school!

Anonymous said...

The BEX work session presentation is posted.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/school%20board/12-13%20agendas/091212agenda/20120912_Presentation_BEXIV.pdf

north seattle parent

Anonymous said...

Melissa, Charlie

Assuming the downtown school comes off the list of Bex, and assuming (big assumption) that you would vote yes to Bex in Feb. 2013, would you still vote vote IF the charters pass in Nov 2012?

-torn

Anonymous said...

Oops, the above should read "would you still vote YES to Bex after charters pass?"

-torn