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Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Open Thread

Update:  Forgot to mention this book event at Olympic View Elementary.

Come find current, popular books or good-old favorites in good-condition for children and grown ups -- choose from baby board-books, chapter books, picture books, best-selling fiction, a range of non-fiction including parenting books, cook books, craft books, as well as books on tape. There is something for everyone!

Make a day of it! Enjoy readings by local celebrities including UW gymnast Kylie Sharp and meet Geronimo Stilton. Win prizes at the raffle, including the chance to win an Amazon e-reader, Kindle Fire, baskets of new books, gift certificates and event passes. There will be food, drinks, crafts and cozy places to read. The public is welcome!

Friday, May 31st 4 pm - 7 pm
Saturday, June 1st 10 am - 4 pm
Olympic View Auditorium

504 NE 95th Street
Reminder: tomorrow is the Board retreat from 10:30 am to 5 pm.  You are welcome to come and observe but the public does not participate.  It is being held at City University, 521 Wall Street, Edmonton Room.

The agenda reflects a lot of discussion around the new Strategic Plan.  As one reader points out, it appears they are creating an Office of Strategic Planning.   The agenda states what the Superintendent and staff needs/expectations might be but then says "What Directors need to be effective and support staff."  As a voter I would think the "needs/expectations" and "be effective and support" would go both ways (but maybe the Alliance doesn't see it that way).

Friday semi-funny from Education Week- Apparently a man in Oregon carried a pressure cooker into the office of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission over outside signage that had dropped a "d" from the word "and."  He saw it as a decline in teaching standards.

He also complained about spelling errors in the instructions he downloaded on making a bomb—who woulda thought?—and suggested they should also be of concern to the employees of the Teacher Standards office.

Oddly, the police only arrested him for disorderly conduct (as the pressure cooker wasn't a bomb).  Not sure if that is a relief to the people who work there.  

What's on your mind?



77 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Melissa gets quoted in this op-ed:

Should Seattle schools share PTSA fundraising?

Yes, the disproportionate amounts of PTSA funding on exacerbates inequity in our schools.

Anonymous said...

What about schools that are not in the PTSA?

HP

Anonymous said...

Two Seattle High Schools compete for the state championship in boys lacrosse this weekend:

NATHAN HALE BOYS LACROSSE takes on GARFIELD for the Division II State Championship! Saturday, June 1st, 3:00PM at Memorial Stadium.

HP

Anonymous said...

Haven't we been down this road before? Schools with low FRL numbers tend to raise more in PTA donations, but they get little in additional funding. Schools with higher FRL numbers tend to raise less in PTA donations, but they also get more in additional funding (from non-parent sources).

It's the parent funding of staff that I find shocking. Expecting parents to cough up $1000 if they wish to attend McDonald?

As far as splitting the pot, I would anticipate donations going down or PTAs finding a work around, such as abandoning the PTA, if forced to share donations involuntarily.

Anonymous said...

For youth interested in football:

1ST ANNUAL "WHAT IT TAKES" FOOTBALL CLINIC with former Seahawk Rocky Bernard coordinated by Hale football players Winston Hallam-Eames and Jimmy Beaudin and the varsity coaches.
When: Friday, June 7, 3.30 - 8 pm
Where: NE Athletic Complex (Hale football field, NE 110th St. & 35th Ave. NE)
Who: Students aged 9 and up
Activities will include:
· Skills and Drills
· Nutritional Education
· Competitions and Prizes
· Autographing
To request a flier and registration form, please contact: WhatItTakes@outlook.com or (206) 525-2410 or stop by the Nathan Hale office to pick one up.

HP

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

Reposting for helpful Anonymous (pick a name, any name!) and adding a live link:
Anonymous said...
I'll save everyone the trouble of rehashing the debate. Here's the previous, related post:


Money, our Schools and PTSAs.

K-5 STEM Parent said...

If anyone is interested in K-5 STEM PTA's comments and questions regarding the district recommendation (decision?)to place our school at Schmitz Park in 2017 rather than the centrally located, larger Fairmount Park that is available in 2014. Please visit www.k5stem.pta.

Is it too much to ask for a fair process and answers to basic questions regarding the rationale? Marty McClaren mentioned twice at the board meeting that they needed to hire a new Principal for Fairmount Park right away... Wait - isn't this supposed to be a recommendation with community input in the Fall BEFORE a decision is made and steps are taken to implement it.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue with the Schmitz Park building is it's size. It really isn't very large - and if an option school is placed there, the district can control it's enrollment to match the building. Also, they can fill the Fairmount Park building next year by redrawing boundaries.

Lynn

Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, for those schools not in the PTA, I would think that all fundraising could go into the pool. I was a little disturbed at some of the comments of the Times that brush off how the inequities play out and suggest that parents might leave if any kind of sharing took place.

K-5 Parent, you are right. But the district (and sometimes Board members)like to say the conversation is "starting" when, in fact, they are way down the road. Their perception is one public meeting towards the end and that's their due diligence. You might ask School Board candidates about this issue.

mirmac1 said...

I would think "centrally-located" is less important for an option school that provides transportation for students. And the needs of the overstuffed WS assignment schools (with Cooper's closure) outweigh those of one option school.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we should share because I don't think our schools with the most resources are so luxurious that they have dough to spare. At thise "rich" schools, it's still 30 minutes of art a week and 28 six year olds in a class with one teacher. I think we should better fund the most struggling schools so that they get better, not make other less struggling schools worse so some schools are less-bad.

(join me in my cotton candy dream world, sigh. I realize the better funding from the state is not really going to happen. But it SHOULD.)

-sleeper

K-5 STEM Parent said...

Lynn - How do you figure they can fill the Fairmount Park building next year by redrawing boundaries?

I'm presuming you meant as a neighborhood school. Older kids won't be forced out of their current schools. It will be a large building with assigned K students and maybe a few older students.

miramac - centrally located is important for busing - it costs less when kids don't have to go as far. Option and central location are also important for immediately relieving capacity - we're an attractive option, people will chose to come especially when we are centrally located, we were created to address capacity for those reasons. We are doing that, already at the capacity of the current Schmitz Park building.

This is not about the needs of one option school. I'm heavily involved in West Seattle, we have been at another overcrowded school, and I have friends at all schools in WS. We are not trying to harm other schools. To the contrary - this is about equitably serving the needs of all our kids with access to alternative approaches based on fair, cost-effective and data based considerations.

Capacity in north WS will be relieved by the new building at Genessee and the district could keep current Schmitz Park open as a neighborhood school with NO extra cost (what a radical thought).

Eric B said...

I see two problems with revenue sharing:

1. If PTA requires it, it will encourage disaffiliation. One of the major arguments at the Ingraham disaffiliation meeting was the large amount of money sent from the school to city, state, and national PTA organizations. It didn't help that the umbrella PTA orgs were doing unpopular things (supporting charter schools, involving themselves with labor negotiations, etc.).

2. I don't know how SPS could require it. The PTA is a separate non-profit, so the District has little legal power. I guess they could set policy that any PTA that has activities in school time would have to share revenue. That would likely be counterproductive, though.

3. Some of the schools with high fundraising are also at the very low end of total per-student funding (SPS + PTA). In many cases, that is countered by large numbers of volunteers, but drawing an equity argument is pretty hard without also getting into social factors.

NB I think that wealthy PTAs should do some revenue sharing, I just think it would be hard to force them to.

Anonymous said...

Nathan Hale's PTSA does not collect funds for the school but the Nathan Hale Foundation does. They try to raise around $100,000 a year to pay for homework help and other items. They do this through an auction and direct donation. There are also various booster organizations for science, drama, sports and robotics. What about these organizations? Do they go in a big pot too?

This school year we donated to the foundation, to the science boosters, the drama boosters and sports boosters. I would be more inclined to donate to a separate fund for under served schools than I would to donate to some giant pot.

Who at Nathan Hale would then decide what to do with their portion of the pot? Would some go to the Nathan Hale foundation? Some to drama boosters? etc?

I have found that raising money for specific items is much easier than some amorphous pot of money.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, according to the PTA, some of your money IS already going to less-well funded PTAs. This was one of the arguments used at the Ingraham meeting. So whether it is voluntary or not, the claim is that some of the money to State PTA goes that way.

LG said...

TCS Staff Open Letter
Note: The following is an open letter from the TCS Staff to the Center School Community

May 29th, 2013

Dear Center School Community:

Many of you have heard rumors that 12th grade Humanities teacher Jon Greenberg may be transferred from The Center School. Although we, his colleagues, attempted to prevent this news from getting out, now that it has been leaked (not by us), we wish to clarify what is going on and our position on it.

Stemming from a complaint about Mr. Greenberg’s race unit, Superintendent Jose Banda is considering a recommendation made by others within the school district that Mr. Greenberg be suspended for two days and then transferred from The Center School at the end of this school year. As of this writing, Superintendent Banda has not announced whether he intends to adopt this recommendation or not.

We, the undersigned, stand categorically opposed to the proposed transfer. Jon Greenberg is an outstanding, award-winning teacher and a seminal member of The Center School staff; his transfer would be a huge loss to the school. We do not understand the recommendation or how it could benefit the students, the school, Mr. Greenberg or the school district, and maintain that his transfer will, in fact, hurt all of them. For these reasons, we take a united stance firmly against the potential transfer of Jon Greenberg.

Sincerely,

Molly Pritchard
Gerardine Carroll
Chelsea Palmer
Jose Murphy
Lindsay Roupe
Nate Chipps
Kathy Webb
Tracey Lott
Karen Harmon
Michaela Peterson
Kevin McCarthy
Rosa Hanckel
Wyn Pottinger Levy
Karen Ross
Dave MacKenzie
Sheila Henneuse
Brian Carman
Nanako Tsujimoto


The CSCA recognizes that feelings about the situation with Mr. Greenberg are quite strong in the TCS community. Those who wish to communicate their thoughts to the school district may send a note to:

Oksana Britsova, Principal TCS: oabritsova@seattleschools.org
Marni Campbell, Executive Director Northwest District: macampbell@seattleshools.org
Joseph Banda, Superintendent: superintendent@seattleschools.org

JSIS Neighbor said...

JSIS Principal Jesely Alvarez has announced she is leaving the school; she has accepted a position in California, closer to family:

http://tinyurl.com/m3hvq6n

Po3 said...

I am saddened by the community letter issued by the Center School staff.

It is very scary that the district is allowing one family this much power.

I think it's time the complaint is made public.

Anonymous said...

I don't share K5 STEM PTA's "concern" for Arbor Heights in their campaign to be placed at Fairmount Park. I'm personally not concerned that AH wouldn't have enough space at Boren during our interim to grow to the needs of our future new capacity as the K5 STEM PTA letter suggests. Boren is huge, and I have faith in our Principal to make big decisions to help mitigate the inconveniences of being at an interim site for 2 years. AH is on a good path, with great leadership, and a plan for calculated growth and new curriculum development. K5 STEM has said loudly and clearly from inception that they want to be at Fairmount Park. I don't agree with their decision to use AH as an example of why they shouldn't be co-housed at Boren and why they shouldn't be at Schmitz Park. I like that they make their voices heard and are strong advocates for their school, but I do wish they'd stop continuously trying to drag Arbor Heights back into their scenarios. Call it what is is, personal concern for your option school. There should be no shame in that. Just please adjust the message. K5 STEM is not the voice of "one West Seattle."
-Not Involved

LG said...

Po3, How would we make it public? What more pressure can we bring? thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not Involved, do you think you or someone in West Seattle could clearly lay out the issue about the various schools and their proposed/suggested movement? I have tried to follow along but I'm not sure I understand the situation fully.

I'm at sss.westbrook@gmail.com

Po3 said...

"Po3, How would we make it public? What more pressure can we bring? thanks."

What about public records disclosure request? Not sure if that would work or not.

But something has always seemed very off about this whole situation.

Anonymous said...

Not involved--Have you seen the play ground? We have an incoming K, and the play space is not really sufficient for 1 elementary school, let alone 2. As a WS resident, I've long advocated for AH to get the building it deserves--both for the community already there and because it matters to the area that that school thrive.

I found the STEM PTA response totally thoughtful and genuine, and don't think it took liberties with your community's perspective at all. It would be nice if we could actually come together as one West Seattle and discern what makes sense for our kids and the long-term sanity and equity of the region.

STEM should be centrally located as a balanced resource for the whole area, not put right next to the affluent school(s) that are already math strong. There were tons waitlisted this year--over a whole class for K. If supported properly, it has the potential to be large and thriving, taking real pressure off other schools.
--Lower WS

mirmac1 said...

As a West Seattleite, I agree with Not Involved. I believe that Marty is taking into consideration the needs of the entire community, and I am glad she is not simply heeding the voices of a vocal few.

Anonymous said...

Schools with lower funding per student is due to WSS. It's hard to get more money out of WSS if your school has very low FRL, Spec Ed, and/or ELL students. While some schools get more $ per student, money from the Feds, state and local govn'ts come full of red tapes and use of such dollars is very restricted. Grants $ are temporary and it's up to individual school to opt in in that pursuit. Finally it isn't just about dollars. It's tougher to compare staffing needs at RBHS with Ballard HS for example. You have to look at what goes on in these schools. The student body, the neighborhoods, learning environment, school safety, public safety, the stability of leadership and staff, etc.

First step to all of this is fulfill McCleary. Then we can start looking at everything else. Other local districts have guidelines where schools cannot usePTA $ to fund staffing.

That's disturbing news about Center School. Wish we have more facts about this case!

2 cents

Another thought said...

Noting that families support FRL populations via F&E Levy. Parents paying for full day K supplement K for FRL families. These dollars should be included in any formula.

Anonymous said...

The levies are paid directly and indirectly if you rent. So I argue if you live in Seattle, most of us including FRL families are paying for the levies regardless of income.

2cents

mirmac1 said...

Another thought,

I reject that, somehow, FRL students are less deserving of O&M monies than anyone else. FRL students bring MORE monies to a school than non-FRL. I guess they are subsidizing you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
K-5 STEM Parent said...

All, please accept my apologies if you were offended or misunderstood my comments regarding K-5 STEM. As the PTA Co-president, I do not purport to speak for all of West Seattle and I am not attempting to drag Arbor Heights into anything.

We have stood side by side with Arbor Heights throughout this year. We wore yellow at every meeting, every communication to the district said Arbor Height is the priority before mentioning STEM, I personally volunteered at their auction, and we continue to work with their PTA.

The PTA presidents of all WS elementary schools that have PTAs, along with reps from those that don't, worked together and we recently sent a SINGLE, unified letter to the board and staff. We know we won't agree on everything or what the end decisions should be, but we all agree with our request for decisions based on data and objective factors. If you look at STEM's paper posted on the website, we respond to each of the "guiding principles" that the district says it will use and ask questions about those and what factored into the recommendation. All we (STEM PTA leaders) are asking for is a transparent and fair process, our counterparts and friends at the other schools are asking for that as well. Again, maybe it's asking for too much in this district.

K-5 STEM Parent said...

Melissa, I know you weren't asking me, but the basic facts (while trying not to editorialize) are:
- Fairmount Park opens in Fall 2014. When they created K5 STEM, they said we would be at Boren for 2 year and likely moving to Fairmount.

- Now, the recommendation is that Fairmount Park be a neighborhood school.

- K-5 STEM would move to current Schmitz Park in Fall 2016 when SP moves to the new building at Genessee Hill

- Arbor Heights would move into Boren for 2014 and 2015, while STEM is still there

- Capacity at Fairmount Park is about 500

- Capacity at SP is about 250 w/out portables, STEM is already there and Libros says STEM would need at least 8 portable at the SP building

- Capacity is a problem at West Seattle Elementary (but they don't have a PTA, so it's not as visible), also an issue for centrally located Gatewood, and north end Lafayette and SP

- Fairmount Park is centrally located in West Seattle, near West Seattle Elementary (which is the current geozone for STEM) and accessible to both Denny and Madison service areas

- Schmitz Park is in the north, new geozone would presumably overlap with Schmitz Park @Genessee

- Keeping Schmitz Park open as a neighborhood school along with SP @ Genessee has not been consider (at least publicly)

- We have seen no information about comparative cost of the various options

- Not a single community meeting has been held on this.
(Here's the editorializing: No one can claim to know what the "majority" opinion is and no where in the guiding principles does it say majority rules).

Anonymous said...

Right Mirmac! The idea a lot of upscale schools have is "It's OK for us to be funded by large donations, because other schools get FRL/ELL/SPED dollars." No, they get more because they need more. And it really isn't much more considering the needs. The total that they receive, including all donations/fundraising should still be way more, after everything is counted, because they still need way more. So, if we're going to really make things equitable, we should vastly increase the FRL/ELL/SPED differential because it doesn't nearly cover the difference. What? A hundred thousand (maybe 1 teacher, fully loaded) is supposed to make up for a whole school full of kids in poverty? Donations should go into a single pot, and be split up among the schools - at the same funding ratio as everything else.

Bellevue and other districts have successfully curtailed the effects of donation. No, you can't just go fund reduced class size for your kid, and your rich neighbors, while ensuring no poor or disabled kids attend your school. If you want a private school, go to one! Believe me, they'll hit you up over and over again.

observer

mirmac1 said...

Discussion about the status of Fairmount Park has been going since before K-5STEM opened. How do I know that? Because I was one of many talking with staff and board about it. Frankly, there were many who felt Boren should have been opened as an interim neighborhood school, anticipating the inevitable, costly re-opening of FP (thank you MGJ). In the Enfield world, politics and fads were de rigueur. Central staff told the board whatever they thought they thought their (temporary) bosses wanted. Not to say that much has changed, except that the current boss keeps his own counsel.

Anonymous said...

Fairmont Park Elementary in West Seattle news:

Fairmount Park Elementary expansion closing in
http://www.westseattleherald.com/2013/05/30/news/fairmount-park-elementary-expansion-closing

GMG

Anonymous said...

I will donate to my local, community school, because I can see the difference in a school that it makes, know the community, see where the dollars go, have faith aout how they will be used. I would not donate to a city's school donation pot. Too diffuse, too distant, not sure enough of how it would be used to know if I want my meager resources going that way(obviously there will be "donation efficiency consultants" hired by the district at 100k each, right? Like every other project they take on?) And as mentioned above, if I was going to do that, it wouldn't be for Seattle. Renton is way worse off. So is rural China. I imagine not only am I not alone, but that it is true for most people. These dollars are not fungible. They go local, or they don't go at all.

Which should not be a problem. It is absolutely shameful that PTAs fund basic school salaries, like art teachers, so that having a rich PTA versus poor can make such a difference in actual education. PTAs should be funding muffin baskets for vice principals and djs for school dances. Sure, nice, fine, but should be outside the realm of REAL education. But I'd the state isn't going to do it, I guess of course they are going to step in, and if the alternative is no public school having art, ok, I guess, as an emergency one time awful action. The fact that it has gone on this long is an outrage. This thread has prompted me to write my legislator again- that we are so strapped for cash as a district that the only place we can think to look for funds for struggling elementaries is other elementary schools, is, just, yikes. Yikes. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

What we need to do for these particular inequalities is pull up the struggling schools, not try to push down the successful ones. Yes, more money to the struggling ones, but not from other schools. That never works in cities with robust private options, will only drive families from the system and/or create completely entrenched inequality where the only place you can receive a decent education in the whole city is private school.

Bellevue is different in a lot of ways. Every once in a while I think of moving there, because it would be easier for my non struggling kids to slot into a good education. They'd fit in fine. Then I think about why that really is. Largely because there are fewer poor and struggling kids there. Not because they have figured it all out. I'd rather stay here and try.

-sleeper

GreyWatch said...

@HP - thanks for the shout out for lacrosse. Several Ingraham students play for Hale, as do U Prep students. I appreciate that seattle schools let students play sports at other schools if they don't have programs at their own.

Melissa Westbrook said...

K-5 STEM, what do you think the district does not understand about placement of elementaries in West Seattle?

suep. said...

There's a lot to consider in this thread, but the Center School news is particularly troubling.

How can the district come down so hard on a longstanding respected teacher based on the complaints of one family?

Something is not adding up here.

Anonymous said...

. Then I think about why that really is. Largely because there are fewer poor and struggling kids there.

That is wrong. Bellevue has more poverty (didn't you read Sunday's paper on this) than Seattle. Poverty is moving to the burbs in a nationwide trend. You'll have to look to rationalize your nimbyism elsewhere.

This thread has prompted me to write my legislator again- that we are so strapped for cash as a district that the only place we can think to look for funds for struggling elementaries is other elementary schools, is, just, yikes

Golly gee whiz! WHo woulda thunk it! School funding is a zero sum game! Money goes for one student OR the other, not both. How could that be Mable? If more go to private schools - well then, more money is left in state coffers to fund higher per-student rates. Go ahead! Sign up! Bon voyage!

Gee, how many readers just rolled off the turnip truck?


-observer

Anonymous said...

1) this is not NIMBYism in any way, shape, or form.
2) I just found a dozen websites telling me what I already knew - bellevue's family poverty rate is about half seattle's, and was at least as late as 2011. It's also a smaller district and has other demographic differences. It is true that suburbs are getting more poverty, but if you found something saying bellevue particularly is poorer and has a harder to educate population than Seattle, I wonder about what it is comparing, but think the issue is more complicated for other reasons, anyway. I do love Bellevue's strategic plan language, but we need to look to other cities more like ours for other policy.
3) what I am saying is it does not have to be a zero sum game. We are not in a closed system. There are sources of funding aside from other schools' charities. There are people setting a budget as we speak, which pumps more money in or sucks it out, which can and should make this PTA money peanuts. I have friends with kids in the Massachussets school system, which is actually well funded. Night and day from here. I wish we would spend more energy on that.
4) Loss of students is a loss of dollars. This is why Pegi McEvoy tried to convince us for years that all this overcrowding was so great. Because it meant more dollars. We do want to keep kids in the system. Even if they make you mad.

I get that you disagree with me, but that was a really uncalled for post. I was earnestly trying to discuss the issue, even though I knew i didn't have the majority viewpoint. You can sneer all you like, but at least I'm over here writing legislators, trying to come up with ideas.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

And for those who think this blog is a farce there is this one

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever

Just the comments alone are worth ignoring

Anonymous said...

The toughest thing about McCleary is how to go about funding it. Efforts to find sustainable source of revenues such as income tax have been voted down. There are inefficiencies when it comes to public dollars. You see it in our state transportation system, the way we taxpayers finance sports stadiums, public garages, building miniscule parks everywhere while reducing community center hours or lacking the budget to maintain our existing, great parks. All of this tend to make even folks who are open to finding new tax or increasing present taxes to better fund basic education or fix our state infrastructure very leery indeed. I understand this. It's harder to pay more and see less tangible benefit in your life.

More importantly, I think people feel powerless. We are not all equal. It isn't a new phenomenon to see wealthy, well connected individuals/ groups benefit from public coffers or tax structure, exerting far greater influence than a person with one vote should. What is new is the price to their ever expanding wealth comes at a cost which affects the majority of society, not just the very poor. The unlevel playing field becomes an arena, a race to the top, a fear of being left behind or dragged down so we splinter of into fiefdoms, silos, islands to seek any advantage to maintain that upper hand.

That is why we need to learn how to unite in spite of our differences. If schools band together to donate a portion of their fundraising dollars to a pool for distribution, the amount may be peanuts, but useful and provides a thread which connects us all, reminding us we are part of a whole. That's grassroots. That's coalition building. That's what we have to do to prevail in this political and economic climate.

2cents

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Times reporter asked me about PTA and funding. As he says in his piece, he feels like his family is asked to sacrifice a lot and wonders about families at schools with few PTA dollars (or none).

I told him that is all true AND that, more and more, PTAs are stepping up to fund things that they shouldn't be like staff positions and maintenance items around their school.

From my research on arts in SPS, it is clear that students at schools with strong PTAs are funding more arts for their students.

These gaps in what students receive are not good.

What might be a good middle ground, rather than mandating any portion of PTA funding go into a grant pool, is to ask PTAs for a donation. Even a few dollars per school could create a fund that might get matched by a business or non-profit group that could help students at less-well-off group.

I have said it always - bless everyone who steps up to help their child's (or neighborhood's) school.

But, a rising tide lifts all boats. Parents' efforts to do better might just shame our legislators to do better.

I do not know the answer but I know what is happening now is a burden to many parents and inequitable to poorer schools.

Anonymous said...

Quote: And for those who think this blog is a farce there is this one

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever

Just the comments alone are worth ignoring

Me: Really? I found this hilarious, but comedy about life not a serious blog about eduaction. By the end of the school year I am burned out and I only have 2 kids to track. I can't imagine 5! Of course I work full time too, not sure about this blogger. The end of the school year is crazy.

HP

K-5 STEM Parent said...

Melissa - I have no idea what the district actually knows or doesn't know about elementary placement in WS because there is no transparency.

What I do know is that it feels like decisions are made behind close doors, not based on data, and are reactive rather than proactive. A few examples:

- District says our population is dwindling and they close Cooper and Fairmount. Meanwhile, anyone walking around WS seeing all of our strollers and big bellies could tell you there was a baby boom going on.

- They drew some odd boundaries around WS, which changed at the last moment, and then act surprised that Denny and Sealth are overenrolled while Madison and WS High are not.

- They opened K5 STEM 16 months ago to address capacity and said we would most likely move to FP in 2014. They begged us to come to the new "school"; they set up a great design team and made it very attractive.

But then they budgeted for about 50 kids and say we are a "program", acted surprised that over 200 families showed up. They didn't expect us to be a success. They showed that they really don't have a plan - Our success is solely due to parents and teachers, despite the district.

- I ask questions and get a lot of doublespeak, shrugged shoulders and "oh don't worry, it'll be ok". So, how could I know what the district knows?

I'm certainly not claiming to know netter, just want a fair process and reasonable decision. If the data, cost and criteria show FP should be a neighborhood school, I'll admit I'm wrong and stand ready to be a resource for a new school - having gone through it myself this year.

Charlie Mas said...

K-5 STEM Parent, welcome to Seattle Public Schools. It's a trainwreck.

Yes, there is no disputing that the District closed schools when they should not have. They did it to impress legislators in Olympia. It didn't work. The legislators were lying.

So now the District has a capacity crisis.

The good news, for West Seattle, is that there are available buildings - Genesee Hill, Fairmount Park, and E C Hughes, plus the land at the former Denny site. In the Northeast they have to build new schools and relocate option schools out of crowded areas.

The District has a long history of bad decisions and they are sure to continue making bad decisions.

I'd like to know why E C Hughes isn't the rational location for K-5 STEM. Shouldn't the District place an option school in the Denny service area? Why is that a bad choice? I'm sure you know.

In the District's defense, I can see how it would actually make sense for Fairmount Park to be an attendance area school because it stands right in the middle of the north/south gap - a no man's land in the middle of West Seattle where there are no elementary schools between those clustered in the north and those clustered in the south.

The fact that they (sort of) promised the building to the K-5 STEM community doesn't matter.

The District has always lied to communities and they are sure to continue to deal dishonestly with your community and every other one as well.

The District is sure to continue to break every promise they make.

They make the promises to win your support. Once they have it, they are done. The promise has done its job and there's no need to think about it again. There's certainly no need to actually fulfill it.

Learn this lesson and learn it now: If the District makes a promise you can't possibly know what one thing they will actually do, but you do know the one thing that they will not do: whatever they promised.

K-5 STEM Parent said...

Charlie, I laughed out loud at your comment because it's true, and then I just want to cry.

I live 2 blocks from EC Hughes, that would be awesome for our family. But it's not about what's best for us. I hope it goes to Roxhill as Carmella Dellino advocated when she was Principal and as I have advocated. Roxhill needs a new building badly, but they don't have a PTA and are east of 35th, so we don't hear a lot about that.

Side note, all of my negative experiences and commentary do not include Carmella. She has been supportive, responsive and honest, fantastic as our area director.

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

I normally don't delete comments that have a name but the last one had too much innuendo/vagueness in its attack. That is not what this forum is for. If you a real issue to try to bring up, be clear and be fair.

Anonymous said...

Is there a petition we can all sign for Mr. Greenberg's reinstatement? It worked with Ingraham's principle. Can someone set it up? Mr Greenberg must have hundreds of former students who will testify to the difference he made in their lives. It sounds like he is not warm and fuzzy like the principal, but people who make you think and feel never are.

CCA

Anonymous said...

Ugh, principal

CCA

Anonymous said...

We can be angry with the school district for their unwise choices forever. It's too big, there are too many moving parts. Everyone only see a very tiny part of the whole, yet believe what they see is the total, like that fable of the blind men and the elephant. And everyone is looking out for themselves and theirs, it is human nature. The 60's idealism are long gone, forever. Most of us weren't even born then, we do not remember.
We have to work with these constraints, the constant finger pointing will just make us all more crazy. We need NEW FUNDING! Money, money, MONEY for education. Let's find ways to do that. I've brainstormed and suggested a few things before on this blog, more than once, no one comments or responds with their own suggestions or solutions. Only the same hamster wheel over and over. It's very dispiriting. I feel like what our Congressman-for-life, Mr McDermott, must feel, sitting there in the
House of Representatives.
Solutions are what we need, not anger and blame, if we are serious about wanting to make things better.

CCA

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ugh principals, why didn't the District allow a search process to occur, to replace the outgoing principal at McGilvra? There is plenty of time. These behind closed door ("interim") appointments show Mr. Banda to be rather isolated and poorly informed.


All for transparency

Charlie Mas said...

There is no consistent process for appointing principals. Some communities get a lot of input, some get none, and some get something in between.

There are no rules.

Charlie Mas said...

No, really. I want to know. Why is EC Hughes a bad choice for a long-term home for K-5 STEM?

NESeattleMom said...

State tells SPS to shape up re: sped services---see Seattle times article:
http://seattletimes.com/html/education/2021104372_specialedseattlexml.html

Anonymous said...

We would prefer not to do APP or spectrum. Are other schools supposed to be able to offer work at various levels, or differentiate at all? Or in Seattle, is the deal that since those things are offered elsewhere, you need to go elsewhere to get challenged? I am finding this model strange but I may not be understanding it. It seems like "regular" schools should be able to offer some level of differentiation? Does SPS have any policies about this, or is it a school by school thing? Thanks for any info.
-clueless

Anonymous said...

As to sleepers empty private school threats. Look, let's do the simple, every-day math. If 400 students are funded with $400, then we have a $1 per student rate. If 200 new students show up, the state notices. We HOPE it will increase the pot to $600. No, that doesn't happen. Instead they cut the pot to what they have. $400. And now, we have $.66 per student. Seattle is the largest district. The state can not manufacture more money if public school participation increases.

Simple Math

Anonymous said...

@Clueless,
Yes, all classes are supposed to do differentiation, but there is a limit to what a teacher can do with 26-30 kids.
When my son was in kindergarten, in a very diverse north-end school, there were about 5 ELL students (from 3-4 different languages), 2 students who would soon be diagnosed as Aspergers/autism spectrum, a number of students who didn't know their letters and then a couple of students who were already reading. It's not reasonable to expect a teacher to differentiate to all those different needs on a regular basis. That's why there is a need for APP and Spectrum.
BTW, it was my son's worst year behaviorally and much of the reason is that he was bored. He's now in APP, which hasn't solved everything, but has made a big difference.

Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Mo2
The problem is that the kids benefit from being with each other and if they can be challenged academically while being together in the same classroom it would work. Self-contained programs like APP and self-contained Spectrum solve the challenge part,but all kids, self-contained and otherwise, lose out on the interaction between each other. Walk to's in elementary address this and in middle school the classes are mixed up naturally.
It's easy to see self-contained programs being reduced further for AL and perhaps a new and very small program created for the few who just can't make it in a regular school. Charlie called it a couple weeks ago and it looks like it's happening.

Thorsen Dandvik

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also Clueless, many teachers have not received PD in differentiating either the curriculum or their teaching. It's not their fault.

If the district had a true commitment to rigor in every classroom, accessible to every student, we probably would not need Spectrum. But it doesn't, it hadn't and we need Spectrum.

StringCheese said...

Charlie, I'm sure K-5 STEM Parent has other reasons to add but I will put in my 2 cents regarding why E.C. Hughes and Schmitz Park are not the best option for K-5 STEM. As with almost every issue in education these days, it comes down to money. K-5 STEM needs to be allowed to grow so that it can gain the resources it needs through the WSS.

We are one of those twilight zone schools that often get lost in the conversations. We do not have enough capital coming in via the PTA (you can call it whatever you want but basically we don't have a large number of wealthy families) and we do not have the FRL numbers to get extra funding. What we do have are a lot of middle income families doing the best they can for their kids and volunteering at an amazing rate. Our PTA direct give campaign brought in $20K. Now, we can either use that money for supplies and teacher PD, or we can sit on it and use it as a down-payment for an auction for next year with the hope we can recoup the cost. People seem to forget that, as a new school, our PTA started with nothing. $0.

As I have said in other forums, I would like those of you who keep repeating the mantra, "Let STEM stay small!" to stop and think about how much your PTA raised this year. Find out about all of the things that your PTA was able to fund.

We are in the twilight zone of funding - not rich enough to bolster our offerings via PTA and not poor enough to receive federal assistance (which, of course, comes with many strings attached). If we are allowed to grow to a "3-up" of approximately 450 students, we should be fund what we need to justify the STEM in our name.

We are simply trying to work within the messed up system as it stands. We don't have a choice. Keeping us small prevents our growth in so many other ways.

** E.C. Hughes capacity as per the 2005 MENG analysis is 277 without portables and 371 with portables.
**Schmitz Park capacity as per the 2005 MENG analysis is 216 without portables and 271 with portables (clearly SP has many more portables than what is mentioned here and has found a way, uncomfortably, to fit over 500 students). Keep in mind that this is why a new building is being built. SP is a fine building and could be fantastic if allowed to function within its proper capacity limits. 450 does not meet this criteria.

Anonymous said...

I have no issue with spectrum, APP, etc. I agree these are needed. I am curious if the district has any policies about "regular" schools in terms of what they should offer students at various levels, or does the district say if you want "challenge" it is up to you to go to spectrum and APP. Or heck, what if you don't qualify for those programs but are bored silly because you need _more_. I totally don't don't want want to debate programs, I just am curious if the district has any policies or expectations about what schools should be offering students. I hope that makes sense.
-clueless

dw said...

Thorsen said:The problem is that the kids benefit from being with each other

There are both benefits and losses, socially, in academically diverse classrooms, particularly for kids at the very top and bottom. I hope people don't try to whitewash that away. Also, age makes a huge difference, as does the magnitude of ability/skill differences in the classrooms themselves. For many of the youngest APP kids, moving to self-contained classrooms was a life-changing event, and I've heard things like "life saving" many times. I do not accept your notion of overall "benefit" at face value - at least not across the board. It's a mixed basket, for everyone.

and if they can be challenged academically while being together in the same classroom it would work.

Getting back to academics, you've laid out exactly why self-contained classes are much better for almost all kids, top to bottom - academically. What you need to do is boldface and italicize the word "if". The problem is that most kids are NOT properly challenged in classrooms that are highly academically diverse. It just doesn't happen in real life.

It's not that it's 100% impossible in all cases, but teachers are human beings, and they only have so much bandwidth. MAYBE with classroom sizes of 12 or 13, but not 28-30.

First, many teachers do not believe in differentiation. It's just a sad fact. Even among those who publicly say they do, many don't in practice. Ask APP parents; many pulled their kids out of exactly these situations to enroll in APP.

Second, it's very, very difficult, even with lots of PD, let alone without it. The unarguable fact is that it's more difficult to teach 2 different levels than 1, and more difficult to teach 3 than 2. If you mix APP, Spectrum, General, and maybe a couple different types of Special Ed kids all in the same classroom, you are absolutely guaranteeing that teacher will have a vastly larger workload than if they had only one or two of those levels.

The realities in these classrooms are that many kids fall through the cracks. Decades ago it was more common to find teachers that only taught to the top students, but now it's usually the kids in the middle and mildly struggling that get attention. The top and bottom are on their own.

(continued below)

dw said...

Thorsen also said: Walk to's in elementary address this and in middle school the classes are mixed up naturally

WalkTos provide some benefit, but what most people forget is that they label the kids, and they are reminded of those labels every single day when they leave their classmates, or are left behind. I remember this in elementary, don't you? The kids all notice it, and it reinforces within themselves the academic hierarchies within the classroom. When you provide self-contained classrooms, the kids land where they land and then they are free to learn without having it pounded into their heads every day that they are different -- either better or worse -- than the other kids.

All of the models have pluses and minuses, socially. However, self-contained classrooms provide academic benefits that are born out in research. I tend to value research over vague notions of kids benefiting from each other. Sorry if this comes across as insulting, but many people just don't seem to understand the full picture of what these decisions mean. Even teachers.

It's easy to see self-contained programs being reduced further for AL and perhaps a new and very small program created for the few who just can't make it in a regular school.

At least part of this gets an emphatic Yes! This is exactly what APP is supposed to be, a program for kids who are far enough out of band to require their own school (or at least brought together in one building). It has grown into this huge monster, because the district has allowed and encouraged it to grow. APP is not supposed to be 800 or 1000 kids in elementary alone. It should be more like 350-400, fitting in one centrally-located building. Oh wait, that's what existed at Lowell prior to 4 years ago. Too bad that was destroyed.

Anonymous said...

DW,
Why do you say that APP is supposed to be 350 - 400 kids? The district says it's for the students who are in the 98th or 99th percentile cognitively and at the 95th percentile or higher in math and reading achievement. You might be happier if it was only available to 400 students - but that doesn't mean only that many need the program. I am curious as to why the number matters to you?
Lynn

dw said...

So many important thoughts, and you key in on the #? The 350-400 is just for elementary, and it's not magic, it's merely a level that worked for years, giving access to the vast majority of kids/families that truly needed it across the entire city, but kept the program at a size that could be stable. People seem to forget that program stability is really, really important. Just look at the past few years of APP's crazy instability to understand.

The overall growth in the district over the past few years might bump that range up a bit, so more like 400-450 would make sense. The meaningful limit is a range that supports enough staff for a building and yet still fits in a single building.

If you're in APP, look around at your kid's classmates and tell me how many of them truly need to be in APP to survive. Don't tell me how many kids are benefiting from it, because that will certainly be a much larger number, hopefully almost all of them. But the reality is that many, perhaps even most of the kids now in APP could have been well-served in a strongly supported regional Spectrum program. They derive benefit, but they are not "special needs" kids that require a special standalone program like APP.

As Thorsen said earlier: perhaps a new and very small program created for the few who just can't make it in a regular school

That used to be the defining nature of APP. It is arguably already no longer the case. SPS has essentially killed APP, the continued splitting and sprinkling is just the end game.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well DW, when has there ever been a "strongly supported regional Spectrum program." The answer is never. (Or at least not in the last 15 years.) Now there have been some strong ones at the school level but my understanding is that right now, ALL of them are weakened.

We cannot talk about one program without the other two. It does no good because they connect in a couple of ways.

I also take issue with the phrase "who just can't make in a regular school." There might have been a kinder way to phrase that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well DW, when has there ever been a "strongly supported regional Spectrum program." The answer is never. (Or at least not in the last 15 years.) Now there have been some strong ones at the school level but my understanding is that right now, ALL of them are weakened.

We cannot talk about one program without the other two. It does no good because they connect in a couple of ways.

I also take issue with the phrase "who just can't make in a regular school." There might have been a kinder way to phrase that.

Anonymous said...

dw,
I keyed in on your last comments because they were so disappointing. Are your children in APP classrooms? Do they really need the program? Could I tell by looking around their classroom that they are the really bright students who deserve this special standalone program? And if not, why wouldn't you keep them in a general ed classroom?

We so often hear the attitude in discussions that nobody really needs APP and they'd be just fine in their neighborhood school. As I said, it is disappointing to hear it from someone who understands how it can be life-changing and even life-saving.

How would you sort out the truly needy APP students? Where does the kid who's in the 98th percentile, quirky and socially awkward belong? How about the kid in the 99th who is content in a general ed classroom, completely unchallenged academically and not learning to persevere when something is difficult?

I don't understand people who are concerned about whether someone else's children are in the correct program. Place your child appropriately and trust other parents to do the same.

Lynn

Charlie Mas said...

clueless wrote:

"I am curious if the district has any policies about "regular" schools in terms of what they should offer students at various levels... I just am curious if the district has any policies or expectations about what schools should be offering students.

The answer is "Yes, but you won't like it".

The District does have such a policy. The policy calls for teachers to teach to the grade level expectations. The policy does not require - or even suggest - support for student work beyond grade level. All of the focus is on bringing students up to grade level, and there are no resources - including attention - allocated to supporting student work beyond grade level.

This is a fundamental flaw in nearly all Standards-based Learning Systems. In theory, the Standards are supposed to be a floor. In practice, they function as a ceiling.

If the District were to adopt MTSS, then students were came into the system working beyond grade level would be supported, but there still would not be any effort to boost grade level students to beyond grade level.

Such a system would exacerbate the disproportionate identification of advanced learners. So far no one at the District gets that. So far, no one at the District seems to get anything about advanced learning.

Anonymous said...

I wonder then what to do with MAP expectations? If students are expected to have a certain amount of growth (which they are) and a student starts out well above grade level, but teachers are not expected to differentiate, how is that supposed to happen? It seems to me that their own expectations require some level of differentiation and teaching to all levels, below, at and above grade level. Otherwise, They would have to say if your MAP score says you are at expected grade level, fine.
--clueless

Anonymous said...

I agree with "not-involved." nothing against STEM K5, but I am a parent a AH and I advocated for a neighborhood school at Boren. Instead a choice was placed with brand new curriculum, new techonology and Singapore Math (I clearly remember the PTA president STEM announcing on WS Blog to entice families). Nothing is really wrong with any of this, except that a fair number of families left AH, two of those families lived right next to the school.

The numbers got low enough that at one point we were one family away from losing a teacher at the end of September. We lost families, because our school could not compete. We had very OUTDATED techology, strapped with EDM, and a building that is falling apart.

AH has been fighting its' own fight for a long time, this year we got traction with a new ED in WS and our new Principal Christy Collins. As parent who was very active in trying to get the board to keep and move AH up on the LEVY timeline, I did not want our school voice muddled in with Schmitz and STEM. Schmitz has money and STEM a new school and getting told that they would have newly remodeled and expanded facility by 2014. While AH was struggling to not be lost on another levy and a dwindling enrollment.

I am on our PTA Board and we do have president and I don't recall any letter to the district that includes our voice in STEM's quest to get FP. I guess we have someone who thinks that are spokesperson for our board...interesting.

WSparent2

dw said...

@Lynn
I keyed in on your last comments because they were so disappointing.

I agree, the whole situation very disappointing. There are many concerns. APP is being slowly killed, its days are numbered.

Are your children in APP classrooms? Do they really need the program? Could I tell by looking around their classroom that they are the really bright students who deserve this special standalone program? And if not, why wouldn't you keep them in a general ed classroom?

I have multiple kids, with different needs, and yes, I'm very aware of the differences in my own family as well as in the classrooms. If you don't spend a lot of time in a particular classroom, then of course you wouldn't be able to just walk in and make those kind of judgements. Your choice of words is a little suspect, since "really bright" is more likely to be used to describe Spectrum kids who are well-suited to working a year ahead. In any case, if you spend enough time around a particular group of kids, it usually becomes apparent which kids are truly high-needs.

Which takes me to the following: the teachers know. They won't tell you directly, but they know.

The big problem is that there are very few APP teachers left with more than a couple years experience in the program. Especially at Lowell->Lincoln, where the experienced teachers were (probably still are) bullied and harassed until they left, quit or retired.

The experienced teachers I've spoken with (mostly gone now) have made it quite clear that the kids in the program are not working at the same levels as a few years ago. They do not have the same talents, abilities or needs. But there are almost no experienced teachers left, and the new teachers can't possibly have any understanding of what has happened to the program. Even if they were comfortable sharing this with you, they just don't understand.

(continued next post)

dw said...

We so often hear the attitude in discussions that nobody really needs APP and they'd be just fine in their neighborhood school. As I said, it is disappointing to hear it from someone who understands how it can be life-changing and even life-saving.

You’re absolutely right, there are many ignorant people that don't think any kids have special needs, and they should all just be dumped into their neighborhood classrooms, either not learning a thing, shoved in a corner with extra worksheets, or teaching other kids. That is a crappy attitude that kills kids' love of learning, is inequitable, and it has to stop.

But it's just as important to recognize that not every "bright" kid needs to be placed in a special stand-alone program. As Melissa said above, Spectrum has never been strongly supported throughout the district, although there used to be individual buildings where it was supported reasonably well. Spectrum could (and should!) be a great option for most advanced learners. Just from a numeric standpoint it should be 4-5 times larger than APP, but it's not.

Spectrum is the key to Advanced Learning in Seattle, and as it has been dying, APP is dying as a result. APP is turning into what Spectrum would be in an ideal system.

How would you sort out the truly needy APP students? Where does the kid who's in the 98th percentile, quirky and socially awkward belong? How about the kid in the 99th who is content in a general ed classroom, completely unchallenged academically and not learning to persevere when something is difficult?

Setting the benchmarks is indeed a challenge, and will always imperfect. The good news is that kids can make multiple attempts to test into the advanced learning programs, it's not a one-time shot. The bad news is that because Spectrum is no longer adequately supported, there is no fallback program for these kids in their region. Instead, if they don't get into APP they'll be sitting in a regular classroom.

What worked as a natural/organic filter for many years is simply that there was only one building for elementary/middle, and it was NOT convenient for most kids/parents. It might seem harsh, but if you think about it, you probably couldn't design a better filter to know which kids were not going to be well-served in their neighborhood schools! If you really, truly, had a special-needs kid that was so far out of band in their neighborhood school that it was never, ever going to work, you put them on the bus or drove down to capitol hill every day.

I don't understand people who are concerned about whether someone else's children are in the correct program. Place your child appropriately and trust other parents to do the same.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy. APP is dying, suffocating under its own weight. It's likely to be split into 4 or 5 buildings in the next couple years, and that is a direct result of too many students, many of which could be reasonably well served in their own regions IF Spectrum hadn't been neglected and even spurned over the past few years.

I do not blame parents at all for what they are doing. They're advocating for their kids, and grasping for any kind of stability they can for their bright, capable kids. Unfortunately, APP is dying as a result.

K-5 STEM Parent said...

WSparent2 - I think you misunderstood what I wrote regarding the unified WS PTA letter. The PTA presidents agree that it's not in anyone's interest for WS schools to fight among ourselves or point fingers at each other. You should thank your President for that because we have advocated for AH all along the way.

As I said above, "We know we won't agree on everything or what the end decisions should be, but we all agree with our request for decisions based on data and objective factors." The letter did NOT take a position one way or another on the use of Fairmount Park. We just asked for data scenarios and transparency. We're just trying to work together.

So, STEM has a new curriculum and MIGHT get a remodeled building. What's your response when others start complaining that AH (not an option school) is getting eSTEM and a new building?