Thursday, December 06, 2012

BEX Work Session

I will say at the outset that there has to be something the Board can do to make Work Sessions work better.  Staff takes took much time explaining their lengthy presentations. President DeBell said at the beginning the Board should only ask clarifying questions during the presentation and leave big questions for the discussion at the end.

As usual, though,  they ran out of time as the staff couldn't get to thru the presentation in the time allotted.   9I know staff wants to explain but they waste time at the beginning going over what the Board already knows.  It's fine to have a longer written presentation but that doesn't mean going over every page during the presentation.)  There was also this document, Service Area Analysis.

The community meeting next week on BEX/Capacity Management on Tuesday the 11th was noted.  We were told there would be some way to listen to the meeting via computer but I'll have to get details on how that will work.

It was noted that Phil Brockman, Executive Director of K-12 Operations, is leading the work on program placement.

Kay Smith-Blum noted that slide 8 talked about the "equity and access framework" and that they had said they would have one last year and still don't.  She said she felt it was important to get done.  DeBell said they would talk about this at the end of the presentation and Pegi McEvoy said that they asked Brockman to do this work because it has to be integrated with T&L.

Tracy Libros in Enrollment went over a few student assignment issues.  She said this year's transition plan should be the last one.  I did finally get what was meant by this:

Spectrum 5th graders eligible will be assigned to Spectrum at middle school (can switch to gen ed).

They mean ANY student eligible (but not necessarily in a Spectrum program in elementary) will be automatically assigned to Spectrum in middle school (but can opt out).

They have no permanent site yet for K-5 STEM.

They appear to be ready to bring in a distance tiebreaker.  And, IMPORTANT TO NOTE because this is not what was said a couple of days ago when I wrote my thread about this last transition plan - What is approved for the transition plan WILL STAY IN EFFECT for the future.

My understanding from this Work Session is that there will be NO BOUNDARY CHANGES FOR 2013-2014 but yes, there WILL BE from 2014-2015 on as BEX IV building continues (if it passes).

Director Peaslee asked why distance wasn't used for high schools if BEX IV building is going to cause boundaries to be redrawn (as it is). 

Tracy said distance is primarily an elementary effect as middle and high schools have wider boundaries.

Peaslee pressed on and said there were concerns in Ballard over where the line would be drawn between Ballard High and Ingraham High.

Director Carr stepped in and said that there were the 10% high school set asides.  She talked on about how this was for integration and access, etc.

DeBell also said that a distance tiebreaker for high school would negate the 10% set asides.

This is near nonsense as there are NOT 10% set asides (it is based on the size of the freshman class) AND it has not been possible to have them in most cases for most high schools.

They effectively don't exist and so I don't understand this pretense that they are real.  It is entirely hit or miss for parents and students if that opportunity exists for the high school they want to access.

Of course, no one - staff or Board - said this.

They then moved on to the issue of ending grandfathered transportation for students using it to continue on at a school they had been enrolled at before the NSAP.

It is quite clear that staff want to extend it and I'm not sure the Board got full information.

The issue is this - there are schools that may receive more students because of it and they are worried about those outcomes vis a vis capacity management.

But wait, let's think this through.  It is just as likely that students leaving a school might relieve overcrowding stress as create it by moving to their attendance area school.   In fact, many students might have stayed at their original school because it was a more popular school so it would seem very possible that their exit might mean less crowding.

I recall that the number is about 1800 students district-wide.  I would guess that most parents won't want to pull their child from a school that he or she is already established at (even if they have to figure out their own transportation).  And, the movement might even relieve some crowding.

Director Patu asked about Orca being worried about 200 students who will lose their transportation so this question is already out there in the ether.

I can see this being a problem (as it was noted) at schools like Orca, TOPS, etc.  but  as Director Carr pointed out, part of the NSAP was to save transportation costs.  She also said if it were mostly older students (meaning 4/5th graders in elementary), the issue would be gone soon.

DeBell did say something kind of funny at this point "Some 4th and 5th graders might think it kind of cool to have a Metro pass."  Director Peaslee pointed out that many students in big cities ride public transportation to school but many also walk to their closest school via "walking school buses."

This moved the discussion to about Slide 12 where we are told that, yet again, "capacity verification" has been made and it did change.  Frankly, this is so much smoke and mirrors.  The district is desperate for room and it looks like they are going to take almost every available space in buildings.  It also notes:

Where lower program capacities have been established, many schools will need to continue to operate at previous (higher) capacities pending planned construction.

Lucy Morello noted that some secondary schools had "teacher buy-downs with fewer students." 

Slide 13 has Closed/Leased Facilities but did not name all of them.  Hughes and the Lake City property could likely be available but my read is the district doesn't want to make them available. 

Slide 14 also mentions where capital funding can be found but there is no mention of federal dollars (which do exist but it would take work to get them).  The district does have a lobbyist; can't we send him to see Murray, Cantwell or any of our Congressional reps?

There is also the curious case of Slide 15 which tries to show how some transportation savings could occur AND the costs for opening new schools.  Director Carr tried valiantly to get to the heart of this issue but staff stuck to this idea that these costs were just staffing.

As this talk proceeded, Director Smith-Blum brought up a key issue - playground space.  Many elementaries already have portables and if you bring on more, you have less playground space.  She was especially worried for Stevens as she knows that school well.   President DeBell noted that these compromises needed to be vetted to communities to see what their responses are.

There are costs to opening a building that may or may not be covered by BEX funds.  It's things like moving costs (both for new furniture but also teacher items) as well as some technology costs.  It is worrying when these costs are not acknowledged out loud (or even questioned) by either staff or the Board.

They then went over slides specific to middle school service areas.   Staff says that portables will be needed in many places where grandfathered transportation would be sunsetting.  Again, I'm not sure how they can be so sure on this issue how many students would stay or go.

I was quite surprised to see the need for so many at Van Asselt at the AAA building as that is a K-5 elementary in a middle school building.  They must have quite a large boundary if they need more space.

One big issue for a couple of areas of the city (namely, Eckstein, Hamilton and West Seattle) - annexing some students off-site for a couple of years.  While I can see some downsides (and there are surely both to this idea), I think for a couple of years, it's just not the end of the world.  (That said, I'd get it in writing that it isn't a forever deal.)

So where would this be?

West Seattle
- West Seattle elementary would have its kindergarten classes at Boren (co-housing with K-5 STEM).  Again, some downsides but on the upside, perhaps opportunities for those kids to access some of the kindergarten STEM programming.  Also, Schmitz Park might have their kindergartens at K-5 STEM.  (I think it would be one school's or the other's, not both.)

- the other option would be to move the 5th graders at Schmitz Park to Madison Middle School

- Hamilton APP 6th graders (APP at Lincoln 5th graders) at Lincoln.  This actually doesn't seem all that odd to me precisely because of the closeness of the two schools and the APP program.  Again, it's one year and I would believe those students would have access to much of what Hamilton offers.  I would NOT support any roll-up of these students to John Marshall.

- Eckstein's entire 6th grade could be annexed to John Marshall.  This wasn't on the slides but I know it has been considered.   This may be unlikely as staff says "they don't need additional seats."  I heard from one parent there is a hallway in Eckstein called "suicide alley."  It sounds like it's getting pretty cozy over there.

Keep in mind, while these ideas would relieve the overcrowding, they add transportation costs.

FACMAC does NOT support this idea of annexing students.

Since these are such area-specific suggestions, I would hope that the district would have specific community meetings just for this discussion.

What was interesting were schools NOT on these lists.  JSIS, Eckstein, McDonald - aren't they all full or near full?  It was noted that Laurelhurst had been complaining about losing money over underenollment but had since taken in Special Ed and ELL programs.

I had to leave at this point so I did not hear the FACMAC response.

I continue to worry over how fast this is moving with so many uncertainties and moving parts.


December 11th - Community Meeting at JSCEE
December 19th - Work Session on BEX/Capacity
January 9th - Intro of Final Plan
January 23rd - Action on Final Plan
Feb. 13th - BEX IV/Operations levies vote


Anonymous said...

Is it safe to assume that every elementary that feeds into Eckstein will have boundary changes in 2014-2015?

Po3 said...

Well at least it has a name now:

Annexing Students

So you can be an APP Annex Student.

Lori said...

yes, or if they stay at Lincoln, they can be:


That will be fun to say!

But seriously, why would we think that keeping Lincoln kids on site for 6th grade would be a 1-year thing? The cohorts just under them are even larger. I suspect this is a slippery slope to having Lincoln serve APP 1-8 rather than than just 1-5 or 1-6 in the near future.

What about other logistics? Will school start for the Lincoln 6th graders at the same time as Hamilton so that they can indeed participate in activities over there?

Where will they eat lunch? There already isn't enough time to rotate the 1-5 students through lunch and some eat in the hallways.

How much teaching time might be lost each day when kids have to walk back and forth between buildings? Or do teachers walk to Lincoln to teach the APP kids?

Or am I just supposed to not worry about those things and trust it will all work out? Sorry for being skeptical but I'm already living through one hastily decided, capacity-driven program placement decision, so I know once we dive into the details, we'll find lots of issues.

Anonymous said...

I think it's good to remember that if they move 6th grade APP to Lincoln - it's not just the current 5th grade Lincoln cohort. The size of APP about doubles in middle school - so you'll have double that number coming from APP eligible kids who went to neighborhood schools. I just hope the District is using the right student population estimates when they are looking at how much space is available at Lincoln and how much space they will need to house 6th grade APP. I also hope that the 6th graders will get to go to Hamilton for band, orchestra and art.

APP Parent

Anonymous said...

that should read "... you'll have to double that number (of the current Lincoln 5th grade" to account for APP eligible kids coming from neighborhood schools."

APP Parent

Po3 said...

What bothers me about annexing students is it gives the district another tool to use to manage capacity. For 2013 6th APP students who will get the annex.

For 2014, who will it be? Will some 9th graders get annexed at a MS? Could some K students be annexed in some rented space.

Once the district gets this tool into their box they WILL use it.

So the notion that is this only for one year is bull.

Anonymous said...

We just left Lincoln to go to Hamilton. I, too, am skeptical about this being a one year thing. Melissa, can you explain? How could it just be one year? Is Hamilton going to grow somehow in that one year to make room for all the kids the year after that?

I have visions that this may be just like a year and a half ago when they tried to send the 4th and 5th graders from Lowell over to Lincoln. I wouldn't be surprised if they pull the current 6th and 7th APP kids from HIMS and put them in Lincoln.

Lori is correct, though, about the logistics of those kids at Lincoln. Lincoln was altered quite a bit after the district used it for Garfield and HIMS while they were being remodeled. The district then remodeled Lincoln to house two small elementary schools and the main meeting areas (ie the lunch room) were made very small. The lunchroom only holds 200. SNAPP is now over 500 kids and the 6th grade APP class next year would probably be about 200 (it's about 160 this year). You can't feed 800 kids during lunch time in that small of a space.

Current 5th grade families at Lincoln - I would not believe for a second that walking back and forth between the schools for band is an option. It already takes the kids a few minutes before and after class to deal with their instruments. Add walking back and forth between the schools, and you'd have like 20 minutes to practice.

You also have to deal with math and languages. Having 6th graders on another campus would make those difficult to deal with as well.

-Very skeptical

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, I don't know where anyone reading the district presentation or the staff presentation finds "a year" for annexing. My presumption - from what staff said - is if BEX IV passes, then in a couple of years, space will be available and it will go away.

The district needs the buildings they will use for annexing. It is no long-term solution and I do not believe they think that at all.

I wouldn't make a big sweeping statement like every elementary that feeds into Eckstein will have boundary changes but if Eckstein's population splits to go elsewhere when a new middle school comes on-line, yes, boundaries will change.

Lori said...

Melissa, people may be responding to what you wrote, "Hamilton APP 6th graders (APP at Lincoln 5th graders) at Lincoln. This actually doesn't seem all that odd to me precisely because of the closeness of the two schools and the APP program. Again, it's one year and I would believe those students would have access to much of what Hamilton offers."

I wasn't sure if you meant this plan is supposed to last 1 year (ie, Lincoln is a 1-6 building for 2013-2014 then reverts back to a 1-5) or if it is intended to include just 1 grade band from now until new schools are opened (ie, Lincoln becomes a 1-6 instead of 1-5 from 2013-2017).

Or, what seems most likely given what we're heading about the sizes of the current 3rd and 4th grade cohorts in the Hamilton feeder schools, is the 1-6 proposed model going to keep expanding until it's a 1-8 model?

I'd love to know precisely what was discussed at the meeting last nite on this issue.

John the Finn said...

It sure seems like special problems are created by having a group of "APP" kids kept separate from the other student populations.

There is no specific building for them.

There are issues about testing to get in (and the equity issues that come with testing).

In Finland (since that seems to be the model country of the moment) all students are taught in the same classrooms. They don't have pullout "gifted" programs.

Why doesn't the district just cease the APP program and have kids go to their geographic area school?

Surely, the teachers and parents of these kids can find enriching programs so whatever excess talents they have don't go to waste.

Do we really need APP?

Maureen said...

Was a reason ever stated for reinstating the distance tiebreaker for elementary and middle school?

I'm thinking they should extend grandfathered transportation for the Option schools. That is a nice clear rule and will keep a significant number of kids out of overcrowded neighborhood schools. An alternative would be to offer transportation out of crowded attendance areas to Option Schools. If neither of these happen, then some upper class Option School seats are likely to remain unfilled and that would be a waste.

DeBell did say something kind of funny at this point "Some 4th and 5th graders might think it kind of cool to have a Metro pass."

I can't believe this! My daughter got a Metro pass in 6th and started using it on a regular basis in 7th (changing in the U District, not at 3rd and Pine). That was early enough. For my son (most 13 year old boys I would think) that would have been about two years too early. Some things are developmentally inappropriate. Even High School students are at risk (witness the muggings around GHS and let's remember Joe Robinson). The benefit there may, overall, outweigh the cost, but 4th graders?!

Re APP lunchroom space: Some schools (e.g., Greenlake) don't have lunch rooms at all. Ingraham's lunch room is also much too small for the population - kids grab lunch and eat in the halls or classrooms.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Maureen there was NOT a reason given for the distance tiebreaker (and one of those times when you want, as an audience member, to shout a question that the Board should be asking).

I would agree with giving the grandfathering of transportation to overcrowded schools but not blanket. It's too much money.

John, the district cannot even get ALOs right and have them in all the schools. APP kids are a federal recognized group and if SPS wants to keep them local, then they have to provide appropriate services.

The district has never shown, in real numbers and across the district, that they can differentiate instruction to serve these students. If that day comes, sure, then no APP. But that day is not here.

Sorry, I did mean one grade level (one year) and not a one-year length of annex.

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

John the Finn:
APP students are NOT counted anywhere in the district like they don't exist. But they do. So if they don't go into an APP school (of any kind), guess what? They have to go back to their neighbor school, right? But those schools are already overcrowded, so what is your suggestion then?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous (whom I am deleting for obvious reason), we were not even discussing Special Ed versus APP. Not at all. So let's not get off track.

The district needs to make up its mind about Special Ed AND gifted services because there are programming and space decisions to be made. Acting like they can move these kids around easily has never worked.

Anonymous said...

So is the suggestion, seriously, that incoming APP 6th graders who have NOT been at Lincoln will spend their first year at Hamilton "annexed" at Lincoln, more than likely losing access to the range of classes their non-APP peers will be entitled to down the street? Because realistically, I really doubt the district will find a way to make it right for these kids.

How about this instead? If Lincoln has room to spare, and Hamilton is in walking distance, why not annex part of Lincolm for a particular group of classes, rather than a group of kids? Put all the science classes there. Or art. Or language. Make the school day a few minutes longer to extend passing periods, then let most of the kids have the pleasure of spending some time in the annex each day. Helps promote physical activity, too.

Infuriated by the incompetence,

David said...

Getting back to the broader topic, what amazes me about this presentation is how little planning is going into it. The solution to overcrowding everywhere is bandaids. It's all adding portables, dozens of them. It's shuffling kids around for a year, hoping the next year, the next five years, have lower demand than projected.

There was no planning for the future before, which is what got into this mess, but there is also no planning for the future now. Every one of these presentations looks like the people behind them did no work until the night before the meeting, then crammed in an all-nighter. It's no way to run a district.

Po3 said...

"Do we really need APP?"

Yeah really we do. Just like we need a great spec ed program.

Different needs but equal needs.

What AL needs to do is increase the benchmarks for entrance. What spec ed needs to do is not mainstream as quickly as they seem to do.

Different problems but equal needs.

Anonymous said...

I had the same feeling and I can not explain the reason when I know that last year there was the FACMAC and other groups of volunteers who spent hours and hours every week on the planning for the future. They collected the "right" number of students and came up with solutions in every part of our city.
And what did they achieve? Does the district count on their reports? Do they listen to their suggestions?
No, but they come up again and again with some really crazy idea.
And there are still hundreds of students who doesn't have a "school of their own" next year.

joanna said...

Sharon Peaslee is an advocate for the distance tie breaker. She brought it up in all work sessions until staff found a way to include it. She said parents were asking for it to be included. Let say you live in Area B and want to attend the school for Area A. You have to apply and if an opening occurs and you live closer than all others who have applied your child will be admitted, but if someone lives 100 feet closer than you who also applied that child will get the open seat. I am not clear that this solves any overall problem and wonder how much staff time has to be devoted to checking the distances. I may be missing something here. I think what Sharon actually wanted to be considered is more or less going back to distance as a the top tie breaker. Perhaps I misunderstood her intent.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the "plan" they are working on now is the Transition Plan for next year, 2013-14. They are supposed to release this plan prior to open enrollment for 2013-14.

THEN, after open enrollment (and the levy vote), they will start work on the "interim capacity management plan," which is supposed to get us through until all the BEXIV projects come online...Including all three new middle schools (JA, WP, and Meany)opening in the same year. (2017).

From what I've heard, this interim planning stage won't wrap up until maybe December of next year, just in time for open enrollment for 2014-15. If that's the case, it could be a full year until we find out any details for 2014 and beyond.

-North End Mom

joanna said...

Sharon Peaslee is an advocate for the distance tie breaker. She brought it up in all work sessions until staff found a way to include it. She said parents were asking for it to be included. Let say you live in Area B and want to attend the school for Area A. You have to apply, and if an opening occurs, and if you live closer than all others who have applied your child will be admitted, but if someone lives 100 feet closer than you and also applied that person's child will get the open seat. I am not clear that this solves any overall problem and wonder how much staff time has to be devoted to checking the distances. I may be missing something here. I believe that Sharon actually wanted to consider more or less going back to distance as a the top tie breaker. Perhaps I misunderstood her intent.

NESeattleMom said...

I think annexing a whole department would be better than annexing APP. Hamilton and Lincoln are very close. The south wing is being used for something other than APP right now. That wing is obviously closer to Hamilton. Lincoln is so big that getting from one corner of the property to the front door and up the stairs takes at least five minutes. The Hamilton Orchestra and Choir concert tonight was fantastic. The Cadet orchestra and the Concert orchestra have grown so much since last year. There are 600 music students at Hamilton this year. When I attended Lincoln High School, we walked to Interlake School (Wallingford Center) for English since Lincoln was overcrowded. If someone suggests 4th & 5th graders riding Metro solo, I think they don't have kids....

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I think Sharon was asking about it for high school; she didn't reference elementary or middle school at the WS.

But honestly, staff isn't going to make a change based on one Board member. I'll ask what this is about.

I think the idea of all of one type of class from Hamilton to Lincoln is good in theory but won't work.

One, teachers contract. Hamilton teachers will probably not like changing buildings and it may even be in their contract that they work in one building.

Two, not science because you have to have labs. Lincoln might but I doubt if they are up-to-date. So that leaves maybe LA or art.

I agree - this is more fair than moving just APP kids over.

Anonymous said...

I heard FACMAC fell apart so maybe that's why the profile has been lowered? Two coalitions within the group not agreeing with each other and no strong staff leadership?

Sounds a lot like the APP group that suffered the same fate. What's the point of having these groups if they don't have staff leadership and don't have public conclusions?

In any case I have looked for something official from FACMAC as I have interest in the issue and also I have a friend on the committee. But there's nothing to be found, that I can see, on the district website.

Wondering Mom in the Northeast

NESeattleMom said...

When Hamilton was at Lincoln they did have science labs. Roosevelt was at Lincoln earlier.

Anonymous said...

NE Seattle Mom-

There are science labs at Lincoln but they are in the "new" part of the school where the L@L kids are. Those kids are already using the labs for much of the day.

The classrooms at Lincoln are not very large, so doing science in the classrooms for the elementary kids would not be possible for much of the curriculum.

It is obvious to me that the district is planning to pull APP from HIMS - why would they consider this stupid move otherwise? They should just pull the bandaid off and do it. Tell APP what the long-term plan is and quit fiddling around the edges. They wouldn't want this uncertainty for their kids, so why are they doing it to mine?

-APP parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can only say that Charlie and I have said for a very long time that maybe it would be better to have APP on its own (either K-5 or K-8) in a central location.

It's always this fussing and arguing over it in a building and the constant movement of the program. It was doing well at Lowell and then things changed.

The district is going to have to man up and make a REAL decision someday.

Anonymous said...

@APP parent

You wrote:
"The classrooms at Lincoln are not very large, so doing science in the classrooms for the elementary kids would not be possible for much of the curriculum."

So, what type of curriculum is used for elementary APP science? Do they need actual science labs to do this curriculum? Or is it the same curriculum that comes in kits and is used by every other elementary school in SPS?

My kid's elementary school doesn't have a science lab, and while it would certainly be nice to have one, they seem to be able to do the SPS curriculum plus additional science activities (depending upon the teacher).

Please tell us more about APP elementary science. Thanks!

-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

The elementary APP science is simply the district science kits, just in a different order. Some of the middle school units are done in elementary, so students then take Physical Science in 7th grade and Biology in 8th.

The science rooms are being used at Lincoln because they're there. When APP was at Lowell, science was done in the classrooms and hallways, with classrooms that were smaller than some of those at Lincoln. Should the crazy rollup of 6th graders come to fruition, I would think the 6th graders would get priority on the labs.

parent too

Move On said...

My child qualaifies for APP and is doing just fine in general ed classes at the elementary schol level. Differentiated learning and walk to math make it ok.

There are honors and advanced classes offered at the high school level.

I don't think there needs to be a different school for APP.

Kids performing 6 years above their peers is a differenty story.

John The Finn said...

Move On,

I think that your APP-eligible child is probably better off not being segregated with other very similar children.

I think one of the great issues in our society right now is the self segregation that is occurring. Liberals only associate with liberals. Conservatives only associate with conservatives. Smart with smart etc.

If you raise a child in an environment that says "you are different and unique" and should only be with other children like you. Won't that carry over into adulthood?

Also, isn't there some merit to learning how to work in a less than optimal environment?

We mainstream special ed children. Maybe we should mainstream the APP kids.

Why do with think the special ed kids are more capable of being mainstreamed than the APP kids?

Anonymous said...

"We mainstream special ed children. Maybe we should mainstream the APP kids. "

Ah, but then the mystique of the APP program would be lost. After all, I have heard PERSONALLY from several sets of parents that the only thing keeping them and their children in SPS is the segregation of APP from the "rest of the kids". Not so much for learning mind you...


Meg said...

1. FACMAC is meeting next week. There isn't usually total agreement (it's a big group), but it does still meet. FACMAC's next meeting is next week.

2. Yes, APP is necessary. All kids deserve a chance to learn at school. Until the district is able to do that for all kids at their local school, we will have a need for specialized programs. While it's wonderful that some people have APP-qualified kids who are well-served in their local schools, we should all keep in mind that is not the case for the majority of APP-qualified kids, which is why APP has such a high opt-in rate.

4. The district is facing growing enrollment and an inadequate building inventory, particularly in the north end. West Seattle is also bursting, but there is better inventory there. There is not enough money to solve even all of the urgent problems. Annexes and portables are far from ideal, but what should the district do instead? I don't mean that snarkily: take a look at enrollment, capacity and money. What do you think is viable?

Anonymous said...

John the Finn-

Why stop with dismantling APP? What are we teaching kids who are on the varsity sports teams? Aren't those kids learning they are "better" than other kids? I know kids who are on select soccer teams. My kid isn't. Maybe we should get rid of those, too. What about those kids in more advanced bands or orchestras? Again, those kids and their parents are elitists.

Why are so many adults upset about differences between people? Virtually everyone on the planet is better at art than I am, so maybe no one in the world should be allowed to paint.

-happy we aren't all the same and I can man up enought to admit it

Anonymous said...

If students were to go from Hamilton to Lincoln for some of their classes, what would be the district's liability should something bad happen in transit (hit by car, mugged, etc.)? I don't think the district would go for this option if their liability risks increase.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about the Magnolia Elementary building? Can it be reopened to help with some of this overcrowding in the north end?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Can we please stick to the topic of capacity?

Right now, this program exists. All the talk in the world is not changing that for the foreseeable future. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. (If you want, we can have a whole thread on gifted programming and you can have at it.)

But this thread is about BEX/Capacity. We do not have capacity issues because of gifted programming. All those kids have to go somewhere and that's the issue.

Tami said...

"Spectrum 5th graders eligible will be assigned to Spectrum at middle school (can switch to gen ed).

They mean ANY student eligible (but not necessarily in a Spectrum program in elementary) will be automatically assigned to Spectrum in middle school (but can opt out)."

I'm curious; does this mean that all students assigned to Spectrum at a given middle school will be assigned to Spectrum LA/SS? I know that in the past (at least in Hamilton and Eckstein), Spectrum qualified students (both within and from outside the assignment area) have not been assigned to Spectrum LA/SS because the number of spaces was smaller than the number of qualified students.

John the Finn said...


I'm ok with that.

However, I think a better solution would be that, if you are going to keep APP, the students should have to test back in every year.

Just because you were an athlete last year on the varsity team doesn't mean you get to be on the team again this year. You need to earn your spot.

Even more important, just because you didn't make the team last year, doesn't mean you can't make it next year. Practice and work hard and maybe you can.

So, ok, keep APP but have each year be open and kids can try out for the slots on a yearly basis.

I bet the APP kids (unlike athletes) would be too fragile for that.

John the Finn said...


I think talk about APP and athletics are capacity related.

There needs to be space for these.

Or does there?

that is the point of the comments. They are not intended to be off topic.

Set an exit plan said...

John the Finn,

I have a kid at Lincoln in APP and I don't disagree with your idea, but additional testing isn't the answer. Kids at Lincoln are taking an ADDITIONAL set of tests this year. It's insane! Let teachers have a say. They know more than test scores.

There are lots of kids who get in based on District or Private testing that struggle to keep up which slows down the pace for the majority of kids.

I agree there should be an exit plan. Parents who should don't exit their kids once they are in the program, not that I've seen anyway.

apparent said...

John the Finn, you wrote:

"Even more important, just because you didn't make the team last year, doesn't mean you can't make it next year. Practice and work hard and maybe you can.

So, ok, keep APP but have each year be open and kids can try out for the slots on a yearly basis."

Isn't that how it works now? If you practice and work hard and test in you are automatically offered an open slot, even if you were not offered one last year . . .

suep. said...

--John the Finn,

You appear to have some irrational and personal bitterness towards gifted kids and/or the district's gifted program.

What you don't appear to have is much knowledge or understanding of either.

If you and your kids are happy with your education choices, that is fantastic. I daresay that's what all SPS parents/guardians are seeking. But why are you spending so much energy and venom attacking other people's kids and choices?

This reflects poorly on you and undermines any point you may be trying to make.

Jan said...

CCA -- take a look at Seattle Academy. Those kids (6th through 12th) are all over a several block area of Capitol Hill every day, and it seems to work. Also, the Northwest School kids walk several blocks to lunch every day (across Seneca -- without looking when they cross the street -- ask me how I know!) The streets and distances involved between HIMS and Lincoln are far less congested, I think, than either of these schools deal with.

I really like the idea of moving an entire department. Seems much more fair, and if all the kids are walking between the buildings, it means that not just one group of kids is being "walled off" from the other offerings at HIMS. Frankly, I would vote for math, as it is also the one department that has classes that should probably be available to some of the 4th and 5th grade APP kids already at Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

"I really like the idea of moving an entire department."

Yeah, that is a great idea. I know HIMS does a LA/SS block, why can't that subject i.e department move to Lincoln. Maybe for 6th graders you have an adult walk them to and from.

Great idea, keeps the school together.

HIMS Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again (and last chance), we are not going to have a debate about gifted programming.

I hope that is now clear.

Catherine said...


The Magnolia Elementary Building lost it's occupancy certificate decades ago. It would have to undergo earthquake, environmental, and ADA retrofits. It was a beautiful building in it's day (I went there) and a shame that probably because of the district's lack of facilities foresight and strategic property management, left in district hands, it's highly likely it would be torn down long before it would be rehabilitated.

Charlie Mas said...

Any talk about whether or not APP should continue is not, in fact, related to capacity because even if the program were dissolved, the District would still have to find seats for those students.

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Anonymous said...

Here is one old WASL results from Lowell. Yes. Most students did pass. A few failed. And a signficant number passed with 3, meeting standard but not exceeding it. (How is that top 1% that can only be served somewhere special?) That was back when the program had higher entrance requirements and was much smaller than it is now. Now the number of average passers is likely to be larger since the class is larger - but you can't really disaggregate based on program status.

-Only the facts

Anonymous said...

With the NSAP, it's not so easy to just move sped students. Sped students are entitled under IDEA to a placement in the same schools they would attend if they weren't disabled if appropriate aids and services can be added. So, when there was no guaranteed assignment seats for anybody, it was OK to ship out the sped and move it for capcity reason. But now it's a different story. If other students get a guaranteed assignment - they've got to do the same thing for sped students. No more sped shuffle. And, the district is caving on these almost every time now days, especially at the secondary level. One other point, it isn't really a small number.


Anonymous said...

@ speddie,

Really? They are still moving around sped for capacity reasons. The dev preschool that used to be at VR is at Jane Addams. The now JA dev preschool will be moved somewhere else because it is not going to be moved with JA because there won't be room in the new building.

Pinehurst has two dev preschools. I don't know where they were shuffled from or where they would go when they do something to Pinehurst so that JA can take their building.

So you are essentially making my point. By small number I mean that often times, it is just a classroom or two so they seem "portable" especially as compared to APP.

The capacity issue is ... guess what ... that there is not enough of it. It is not that Sped takes too much or APP is too big. Those are distractions. As entertaining as they might be, gen ed parents should pay a little more attention because 2017 is a long way away and there isn't enough Sped APP shuffle to make it work.

- lake city mom

NESeattleMom said...

Only the facts--I am not much of a statistics person but, if the WASL score you are showing for Lowell is after the North-South split, it is not only APP there, it also includes several general ed classrooms from a closed-down school whose students were sent there to Lowell. Most chose to go elsewhere. Also included is the low incidence special ed. Not sure how many of them took the test. So if you are quoting facts, please be sure you are quoting real facts. If it is Lowell, is it the whole city, or just the north half after the north-south split. If it is just the north half of APP it also includes gen ed.

NESeattleMom said...

Only the facts: From what I have heard this year, Lowell School still includes Lowell, which is now only gen ed/ALO and low incidence special ed, and APP @ Lincoln. The test scores are all mixed together. So if you are looking at current years you may have a hard time separating the two buildings with the their several cohorts.

John the Fake said...
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Anonymous said...

It drives me nuts to hear all this arguing about APP and Special Ed (of course they are needed) when kids in West Seattle are literally being stuffed into schools that simply were not meant to have anywhere the capacity they are at or they are in buildings that are literally falling apart. Not to mention the stress that families have to endure when their younger kids start school and they have no idea if the district will change boundaries on them. I am fed up. It is a mess. Let's focus on the real problem. Capacity and building condition are both a nightmare in West Seattle and I have little faith that the district knows what they are going to do to solve it. That is the real problem over here and it affects many more than just APP or special ed kids. In a lot of ways I think West Seattle would be better off in its own school district because I really don't think the district is listening.

Weary West Seattleite

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, WS this IS where the discussion belongs, not in arguing over the merits of any one program.

You'll note I deleted most of the APP discussion after my last warning (I left the ones that were just about APP scores).

Again, if you want a separate thread to hash out gifted program,ask for it. No highjacking a thread because you don't like a program.

Charlie is right; programming or not, every single kid needs a seat.

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David said...

I'd like to get back to the broader topic. Meg asked, "There is not enough money to solve even all of the urgent problems. Annexes and portables are far from ideal, but what should the district do instead?"

The problem is the lack of long-term planning. We got into this mess because the district closed a bunch of schools in 2009 and cut capacity. The goal was to reduce short-term costs with no attention to the long-term costs, despite many of us loudly pointing out those long-term costs at the time. We're now paying tens of millions to fix that decision.

I agree we're rather stuck now. We do have little choice but to deal with it.

But the point is that the process, people, and culture that made that 2009 decision still remain, and they aren't doing any better at long-term planning. We are going to continue to be forced into making last-minute, crisis decisions if we don't fix the process.

Our district administration is bloated compared to neighboring districts, an unusually high percentage of the budget, and clearly those bureaucracies are more part of the problem than part of the solution. If you're asking what I'd do, well, I'd look at whether we'd be better off if we fire half the district administration staff, push responsibility and power down to the principals instead, and use the cost savings (approximately $10-20M/year) to speedily reopen as many schools as possible.

Melissa Westbrook said...

David, actually they have brought the adminstrative staff way down (and in some places it hurts the work).

That said, they have a lot of teachers who coach and I think THAT'S where the cuts should come.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, where are those "extra teachers" located? And how do you think cutting those jobs would help with the capacity issues in the district?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, where are those "extra teachers" located? And how do you think cutting those jobs would help with the capacity issues in the district?

David said...

I agree that teaching coaches -- teachers who are not in front of kids in a classroom -- should be a target. Anything that is not a teacher in front of kids in a classroom should be a target for cuts.

However, let's get the numbers straight on central administration. They certainly do not indicate central administration staff is way down. In fact, central administration has only dropped by 5.6 employees in the last year, from 246.6 in 2010-11 to 241.0 (budgeted) in 2011-12. It's essentially flat, not at all "way down".

You can see that at the "Operating, ASB, Debt Fund & Capital Budgets" document, first link on the page at


Page 52 of that document has the staff count.

It is true that the percentage of budget is down from over 7% to a more reasonable 6%, in part because the overall budget has grown bigger, in part because more central administration somehow is on grants. But it is not true that central administration has had significant cuts.

Getting back to the broader point, Meg asked how we can deal with the capacity issues without portables and other short-term solutions. And I think the solution is speedily reopening closed schools, getting the funds to do so out of deep cuts elsewhere.

Honestly, I can't imagine the principals could do worse than central administration has. Let's shift the responsibility held (and mismanaged) by the central office down to the principals, cut central administration to the bone, and use the funds to reopen schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious, I don't know where all of them are but I know, from the budget, that they exist.

I was following David's train of thought about finding more money, faster, to get more done to help this capacity problem.

Of course, we just paid out $670K plus for BEX software which, while important, might not have been at the top of everyone's list.

Meg said...

David- I agree that opening more buildings faster is a good idea. I agree that district administration made decisions that worsened today's capacity situation, particularly with the incredibly disruptive and ill-conceived 2008-09 closures. I also agree that cutting central administration to the absolute barest minimum is a good idea.

Unfortunately, the construction expenses that come with opening schools come out of the capital budget. The bulk of staffing (some capital staff are paid out of the capital budget) is paid for out of the operating budget. Making central administration cuts won't get buildings open faster. The nature of levy money (for both operating and capital) is that we get bits of it at a time, rather than one big glob all at once.

Meg said...

billed to teaching but not teaching children (because they have teaching certificates):

-Special Education consulting teachers
-professional development coaches
-STAR mentors (teaching coaches for novice teachers)

I don't know if there are IDEA requirements for SpEd consulting teachers.

My understanding is that there are some minimum professional development expenses in the agreement with the teachers' union, and that the STAR mentors are also a part of the CBA. I don't know if SPS is spending above the minimum or not.

Can anyone illuminate further?

Anonymous said...

Sped consulting teachers? No, there's no requirement for these. But all IEPs must include a representative of the LEA, local education authority, to provide resources to implement it. That can be a principal or a CT. They have paired back this a lot. If students all become locally placed, the need for this job is greatly reduced.


David said...

True, there is a somewhat artificial accounting difference between capital and operating budgets. My understanding is that there are ways to move some funds between them (such as grants that are not restricted to one or the other and can be moved, or designating some work to reopen a school as maintenance so it is an operating cost not a capital cost). Am I wrong about that?

In discussing minor accounting problems, though, let's not lose sight of the big issue. The problem was the 2008-9 school closings and what they did to capacity. The solution is to rapidly reopen as many schools as possible as soon as possible with as low cost as possible. We should prioritize reopening schools quickly and find ways to get it done. And we should seek creative ways to get the funds to do it next year, such as shifting other capital projects out a year, cutting administration and teaching coaches to make funds available for operational maintenance or capital construction, whatever it takes to get those schools reopened fast.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You are mostly wrong on the capital side. There are very few ways to move money from capital to general fund. What they have done is write into BEX things that might have come under the general fund previously. but no, you cannot move money from capital to general funds.

They are prioritizing reopening schools and if they could do it any faster they would. (That said, I think there are federal dollars out there but I don't hear anyone looking at that.)

As Meg said, the levy money comes in pots, not in one lump sum as with bonds.

You say that reopening schools is more important and the most part it is. But Arbor Heights is in the worst building in the district. It's not just bad, it's horrible. Why should they go to the end of the line?

Patrick said...

The 2009 closings were a mistake and shouldn't have been done, however in fairness we would have had a very bad crunch anyway. The most overcrowded schools now are not where schools were closed in 2009, but rather decades ago.

Anonymous said...

According to Lowell's "About Our School" page:

- We are a "boutique" (200 student) public elementary school educating PK-5 students located in the vibrant and eclectic Capitol Hill neighborhood.

No overcrowding there.


NESeattleMom said...

Lowell would like more students if they would register. They have plenty of room in the building. The "boutique" word is only a word that whoever wrote description chose. It doesn't mean a thing. If people signed up and it was full it wouldn't be boutique size anymore. That said, it is istill connected legally to APP@Lincoln, at least for ths school year.

Jan said...

Patrick is (mostly) right, I think. Many of the schools that were closed (AA and old MLK, for example) were not in the parts of town where the capacity problems are most severe (the big, notable exception here is the closing of Cooper -- almost NONE of the capacity decisions made in 09 in West Seattle made any sense to me).

The other problem in 09 seems to me to have been the false narrative. If the District had been "speaking truth," they would have had to acknowledge the looming space crunch in the north (and I KNOW it was known -- because I recall people discussing it back then). We could have had a four year jump on this issue had we made better use of demographic data in 08/09. The good thing (I guess) is that they did, at least, get two new elementaries in the north end started. But it looks to me like much more was needed.

Anonymous said...

One of the main reasons for closing the buildings in North and West Seattle was to ensure "equity". Basically, since many South Seattle schools were under-enrolled they needed to be closed. But for "racial equity" they needed to close schools in all regions of the city.
It doesn't make sense, but that's the problem when you claim "equity" is treating everyone the same, not treating everyone according to their needs.

It's the same as claiming that the biggest educational problem is closing the "achievement gap", which can be reduced by just bringing the top kids down, instead of trying to raise the skills of all kids.
Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Mom of 2, which south Seattle schools besides RBHS you think should be closed due to undercapacity?


Anonymous said...


I was discussing the school closures several years ago, when the district illustrated how they were closing schools in each quadrant of the city - for equity.

Several elementary schools in the South End then had 200 or fewer kids, with almost no parents choosing them as their first choice for their kindergarteners. Those were among the schools closed.

Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Sorry mom of 2. i didn't know equity was the reason behind the last round of school closures. I thought it was tied into savings (building conditions, cost per pupil, etc.), AYP, and NSAP roll out-- more operational concerns. Must have missed that discussion under Raj and Dr. G-J's admins.


Anonymous said...

Equity was not the reason for the closings, but drove some of the decisions about which schools to close, including schools in the north end that have since needed to be re-opened at huge costs - like Viewlands. There was a large graphic put out by the district showing that there were schools closed in each quadrant of the city, proving that they were being equitable.

Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Quadrant idea was 100% done by the school board. It was in 2006, and it was proposef by then Board President Brita Butler-Wall. Perhaps Melissa can speak to this at greater length, as I recall that she was on the citizens advisory committee that was tasked with making closure recommendations based on the quadrant model. If I am remembering things accurately, district staff ultimately pulleld one of the recommendations -closing Sacajawea - because of capacity concerns. Quadrants came from the school board, it was not what then superintendent Manhas wanted to use as criteria.


Jan said...

Mom of 2: You are right on the "pitch" for "equity." I had forgotten some of the talking points around that. I think the sense was that since closing schools was SOOOO unpopular -- they needed to make sure that certain areas of the city didn't feel like they were the only ones suffering. While I get the politics, I have no doubt that it drove any number of stupid decisions (especially in West Seattle and the North), and wasted lots of money.

Anonymous said...

So if school choice was maintained, could we have kept the schools in W and N Seattle off the chopping block then?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Boy, what a lot of questions and misconceptions. I may try to do a separate thread because there were several closures/attempts at closure and all were done differently and for different reasons.