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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Boundary Talk with Marty McLaren

I attended the Growth Boundaries meeting hosted by Director McLaren this morning and two themes stood out. One came from the District and the other from the community.

The District's theme was mystery. There is simply no telling who would make the decisions about schools and buildings, no clue about how they would make these decisions, no sense of what data or criteria would be the basis for the decisions, or even when the decisions would be made. Nevertheless we got a very strong message about what the decision would be: K-5 STEM placed at Schmitz Park in 2016. This is the pre-ordained choice, despite the fact that this is probably the worst option of them all.

The theme from the community was primarily frustration. That frustration was directed a bit at the mystery - the decisions are made by a secret committee using a secret process and secret criteria - but mostly at the trainwreck of a decision.



The absence of any kind of transparency or accountability has rendered the process corrupt.

The problems are clear. The choices are clear. The best path is also clear. But there is little confidence or reason for confidence that the District will choose the best path because quality is clearly not a criteria for them. The District is making this decision - as they make every decision - based on internal politics. The proposal from the community will not be even be considered simply because it is a proposal from the community. Instead, they will move forward with the uninformed knee-jerk response from a District staff person with clout.

Despite the obvious best path (establish neighborhood schools at Fairmount Park and Schmitz Park and to extend K-5 STEM to K-8 at Boren) they will take the worst path (neighborhood school at Fairmount Park and K-5 STEM moved to Schmitz Park) because it was someone's first idea and to choose anything else would be to admit error. That's the dysfunction in Seattle Public Schools. That's the source of dreadful decision making. That's what drives people away.

Let's be clear about this. The dysfunction in Seattle Public Schools leadership is not in the Board, which works just fine, thank you, but in the culture of the headquarters. Are we really supposed to believe that the senior management is turning over like a tumbleweed because Betty Patu asks them questions? Really? Or is it more likely that the staff turnover is caused by the toxic culture and internal political games?

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

July 31st, Charlie said:

"The problem isn't with the staff or the superintendents. The problem is with the Board."

Today, Charlie said

"Let's be clear about this. The dysfunction in Seattle Public Schools leadership is not in the Board, which works just fine, thank you, but in the culture of the headquarters."

With the exception of DeBell, I tend to agree with today's assessment.

--enough already






Charlie Mas said...

Different problems.

Did you think that there is only one problem?

The Board is at fault for refusing to do their job and demand compliance with policy.

As I wrote: "The staff would comply with the policies if the Board demanded their compliance. The Board has no problem with non-compliance so the staff doesn't bother to comply. The staff is behaving rationally. The fault lies with the Board."

One of the projects that the Board demanded and has since abandoned was the documentation of the program placement procedure. Having that would have really helped out here. So the Board is at fault for that.

The Board is also at fault for allowing the district's culture to become so toxic and political.

The staff, however, are the ones who are choosing to make decisions based on internal politics instead of data, logic, or stated priorities and guidelines.

Anonymous said...

When STEM was planned and opened without any definite plan made public about its middle school pathway or permanent home, it was troubling. Yet, parents were told the permanent home would be announced before enrollment deadlines this year so it would be just one year of uncertainty. There was also talk that the MS pathway would be studied and determined once the school was open and solved for the rising 5th graders. Then nothing was decided or worked on. Those broken promises were disappointing but stoically accepted because of the uncertainty about the Levy and all energy and planning that went to that. During the last school year at SPS public meetings the futures of Fairmount Park and STEM were not being considered or up for discussion because all the analysis, time, and effort had to go to solving the problems of schools involved in the BEX IV Levy. As if the futures of these two schools were unrelated to planning for the entire region! SPS seemed to ignore any efforts to look at a big picture plan for WS. Instead they were in crisis mode to deal with the deplorable conditions at Schmitz Park and Arbor Heights and everyone else in WS had to wait until after the Levy to get any input or attention. People accepted that, lobbied for SP & AH’s causes, and worked for the Levy to pass. It was understood that SPS couldn’t make any commitments for seats at FP or Boren because those spaces might be needed if the Levy failed. The vast majority of discussion at all the meetings I observed was just about finding solutions and weighing possibilities for the middle school crunch in the NE area. It was painful to hear extended discussion about one classroom in one school that might be repurposed and where one portable at another school might be placed and be told by a board member that there wasn’t any time for the board to consider anything about two entire WS schools (FP & STEM) whose futures were up in the air. There were even meetings in WS where there was more discussion of Jane Adams than anything else. The WS community has waited patiently and reasonable for a turn to have input and energy directed into a solution for these schools. Now you say it’s a done deal! No transparency, no Plan A, B, & C with relevant data and projected impacts like the NE got, not even the illusion of public input or any public discussion by board members until after the fact apparently. This is heartbreaking and disgusting. -Was There

wsmama3 said...

Thanks for coming and for posting.

I can't express the amount of frustration I feel and WasThere nailed the last 18 months of "don't worry it's gonna be OK" and the advocacy work we as a community did (in particular for the levy and AH re-build). We've waited only to be told about a bad option.

I am worried that this "SP is the place you are going" is the worst possible outcome for STEM and for this community. And it alarms me who and how this decision was made.

We've come up with two better options than SP with pros and cons to both and NO ONE at SPS (OR THE BOARD) has yet to give us the time of day.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What did Director McLaren have to say?

mirmac1 said...

Director McLaren first read off the rationale provided by staff for siting STEM at Boren, then she acknowledged some of the merits of the Boren proposal, listened and made sure everyone had a chance to express their concerns. I especially appreciated the presence and input of teachers that live and work in WS.

mirmac1 said...

I would add that too many very important decisions are being left to Michael Tolley who has survived thanks to politics and has wielded it like a blunt instrument since his ascension to Asst Supt for T&L.

Charlie Mas said...

Director McLaren read off the list of rationalizations for the staff recommendation: placing STEM at Schmitz Park. Here are those rationalizations:

* Schmitz Park is located close to three attendance area schools which suggests that it should be an option school.

* Schmitz Park is a small building so the District wants the ability to cap the enrollment there, which indicates an option school.

* An addition is possible at some later date for Schmitz Park

* STEAM is coming to Arbor Heights, so this would create a STEM opportunity in the northern part of West Seattle while Arbor Heights is a STEM opportunity in the southern end of West Seattle

* This was Carmela Dellino's Vision

* Schmitz Park is a heritage site with lots of opportunity to study nature; just right for a STEM program

* If Schmitz Park is an option school then it wouldn't be subject to the rise and fall of enrollment.

It goes without saying that all of these reasons are complete b.s. and that none of them reflect the eight guidelines for program placement in Board policy 2200.

Charlie Mas said...

I have read and re-read this list a number of times and all I can do is shake my head.

Yes, the list is pathetic, pointless, and off-topic, but why do I have to point that out? Why couldn't Director McLaren scoff at it and laughingly reject it herself? Why did she feel obligated to relay it to the community as if it had merit?

And let me be clear - she relayed this list to the community with a serious aspect as if she thought that these were valid reasons for placing STEM at Schmitz Park.

Astonishing.

Anonymous said...

“opportunities to study nature just right for a STEM program”! This reasoning shows a complete lack of understanding of K5STEM at Boren and West Seattle’s needs. K5STEM is not an E-STEM program like Jane Adams K-8. Jane Adams had parks and natural areas that were walking distance and developed an E-STEM focus making use of those. When Jane Adams faced relocation they made a strong case that their E-STEM school needed nearby natural areas. They didn’t get to keep their location but they got concessions to mitigate the loss of those nearby parks. K5STEM has never shown any interest in being an E-STEM program. There was lots of interest in growing into a STEAM program but no one was considering E-STEM for many reasons:

K5STEM is right next door to Pathfinder K-8 which has an outdoor ed, Native Peoples, explorations in nature focus originally based on an Outward Bound curriculum. Why would West Seattle want their only two option programs to have overlapping specialties?

A strong non-EDM math program was what WS families (not lucky enough to be at Schmitz Park) were unable to access in their neighborhood schools. Math was an acknowledged weakness at the one option school WS students had at Pathfinder. While wealthy PTA’s were just starting to bring Singapore Math to their schools (Lafayette and Alki), K5STEM sought to make it available to all students. By using Singapore math at a diverse school in Delridge with an ELL program, they were laying the groundwork to get better math in all Seattle schools. By showing its success at Boren, SPS couldn’t ignore Singapore’s superior learning outcomes by saying it was just high math scores from wealthy educated neighborhoods. Plus it gave public school families in all neighborhoods a chance to get a stronger math alternative to EDM immediately.

As Pathfinder has always maintained a school with lots of outdoor learning (including camping trips, snowshoeing, etc.) works better with small cohorts. K5STEM was never interested in being an exclusively small school. The principal, staff, and parents wanted as many families as possible to have access to PBL and strong math. Schmitz Park would actually be a great location for Pathfinder if it was K-5.

K5STEM’s principal is a former math specialist who embraced the vision of STEM having a math focus and with more technology use throughout the curricula and an engineering curriculum not used in any other Seattle schools. The school is piloting a language arts curriculum that uses more technology than the Readers/Writers workshop used at other WS elementary schools. The school invested in a computer lab and classroom technology to match its vision. The engineering curriculum requires open lab space for building projects.
The curriculum at K5STEM has been developed requiring computer lab space, adequate infrastructure for technology in the classroom, and space for engineering projects. A cramped campus with many classrooms in portables does not fit their needs. They would either have to change their whole vision or downside the student body so much that it would not provide the access that was part of that vision. Saying it’s just right because it’s next to Schmitz Park shows that the people making this decision did not consult with the school and instead projected the needs of a NE E-STEM school onto a WS community they didn’t accept input from.

It also goes directly against the program placement policy by placing this program in the one neighborhood in WS that already has access to a full Singapore math program and lots of science PBL. It also places STEM far away from where most of its students live. Families in elementary schools in the north end of WS didn’t seek STEM in large numbers because they already had access to better math thanks to their fund raising abilities. An adjacent park is nice, but has almost nothing to do with what this program offers.

-Was There

Anonymous said...

The fact that only schools with strong PTAs or advocacy get a decent math curriculum is the real outrage here.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

So biology, geology, hydraulics, geography, topology, environmental engineering, meteorology, paleontology, and minerology etc (note, I didn't say Outward Bound) have no relation to science and engineering? What you describe is a pretty narrow focus. STEM is more than technology and math.

And "A cramped campus with many classrooms in portables does not fit their needs. They would either have to change their whole vision or downside the student body so much that it would not provide the access that was part of that vision" obviously applies to ANY elementary, not just the special ones.

Sanislo parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough, that's not true. Mercer did not have a particularly strong PTA and they got a different math curriculum.

Anonymous said...

I said "or advocacy" with Mercer specifically in mind. I didn't mean PTA advocacy but an advocacy by a person or group with influence.

Sorry about the confusion.

--enough already

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

Please choose a name next time so you don't get deleted:

Anonymous said...
The fact that only schools with strong PTAs or advocacy get a decent math curriculum is the real outrage here.

District policy has allowed for this, along with the delayed adoption of new math materials K-8. The rage should be directed toward the district.

So, Jane Addams needs the outdoor space, and K5STEM needs space for their PBL. Well, there are many students that just need a space. And better math curriculum.


8/4/13, 9:19 PM

re-posted by enough already (so it doesn't get deleted)

Anonymous said...

Sanislo Parent,

Of course, STEM is more than T&M, but that is a strong initial focus of this school for the reasons I described. If anything the teachers at this school have avoided putting much of their effort into outdoor learning due to the uncertainty of the permanent location. Why pour time and effort into developing outdoor projects at Boren and the adjacent parks that may not be feasible at the new campus? At least now they know and can use the information to guide what they select and design.

I don’t want any students to be in a crowded environment which is a large reason why I want STEM to be successful and 3-up. That way it can continue to alleviate the crowding at other schools by choice not force and without splitting families. Including Sanislo, where this year I heard the crowded K classes were reduced by some Sanislo kids opting into STEM after the school year started. The WS Elementary Geozone this year surely helped STEM ease some of the growth at that school. Some schools have a vision that works best with only 2 homerooms per grade, such as Pathfinder. STEM is not one of them unless it changes its vision. Unless the old SP core facilities are expanded including the cafeteria this setting is best for a 2-up school. The neighbors say there are significant problems with the traffic and parking generated by a large school there also. The Boren neighbors are thrilled to have a great school there.

I’m heard some parents say they would never be interested in sending their elementary kids to a school that made extensive use of computers because they believe in limiting or avoiding screen-based technology for their young children. I’ve also heard teachers say they have spent years building a classroom library and they are not interested in using a digital reading program. There is nothing wrong with these views. They are just different from the teachers and parents at K5STEM who have been building a school with 3 homerooms per grade and making extensive use of technology including their computer lab.

So no school should be crowded, but not every school would be so crowded at SP. Every school should have the space it needs. A school designed with lab space for large PBL building projects and computers and invested in these is likely to need more space than a traditional school or one invested in more mobile technology.

Every kid deserves the best possible learning environment which is why we shouldn’t stuff any kids into portables at SP or anywhere if we don’t have to. I’m guessing STEM will have to downsize staring next year or plan to send a large number of their students and teachers to the new AH building which seems like it could be the unspoken “vision” behind this decision.

-Was There

AFI said...

Marty McLaren the joke of the School Board

Anonymous said...

AFI,

That is a mean-spirited thing to say. Just because you don't get what you want, you blame her? Man, she doesn't get paid enough to listen to the complaining. Oh wait, she does this for FREE.

Get a Grip

Anonymous said...

If the space at Boren and FP and SP is all needed for capacity why wasn't that given as a main reason for this decision? Where are the numbers and projections to back that conclusion up? What is going into Boren in 2016 or soon after that forces a move to SP for STEM?

Can someone remind me how long a school building can be unoccupied before it must be brought up to current building code to be reoccupied? I remember this was an issue for Boren and SPS explained they had to put students in the building in 2012 or lose the grandfathered code status and pay millions more to remodel. This was also a issue for FP which was empty too long and had to be extensively redone thanks to a bad decision to close it. If this is the issue with leaving SP empty why doesn't someone just say so openly? Where are the crowding and cost comparisons of the different combinations that any reasonable person would want to see to make this decision? If capacity or money are the reasons behind this decision and those are supported by data then it would be easy to accept this less than ideal program placement. The reasons given here are not at all convincing. Also where is the community input piece? Only after the decision?

-Was There

Recall Marty said...

You're right, Marty is a board member for free - and therein lies the problem. Qualified candidates are hard to come by.

Call it mean, but here are some facts. She has openly said at her meetings:
1. When asked for financial data, "I'm not good with financial numbers," - a primary fiduciary responsibility of a board member is to understand the financial so that they are not mismanaged.

2. The PTA presidents of nearly all WS schools wrote a letter asking for data repeatedly in relation to the boundary changes and recommendations. She still has not responded.

3. When asked whether she will advocate for WS, "you need to talk to other board members, I'm not the big strong advocate." Why do we elect a WS rep if not to advocate for us?

4. When presented with alternative ideas on a variety of issues, answer is often "I hadn't thought of that" and then proceeds to parrot what staff have said. Independent thought is a critical characteristic of a board member.

5. The Governor visited K-5 STEM and publicly praised our children and the school. In her public comments at the next board meeting, she went on about North Seattle schools with not a single mention of a historic event in West Seattle. Whether you like the Gov or think it was political - having the governor visit a public school in our district AND praise it is a pretty big deal.

6. Despite voting to open the school, Marty has not done a single thing to help support the only new school in her region. Not a thing. No help with start-up problems such as getting basic supplies and a playground, didn't ever bother to even ask how things were going. We have been successful despite her.

From my reading of this meeting summary and that from other, it seems like Marty's reaction was to again repeat district staff and throw out roadblocks. it's fine to disagree, but it sounds like she's unwilling to even look into the alternative options.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Recall Marty, you make some valid points but you miss the boat on one key issue.

Directors are NOT elected to be the rep from their district. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it's true. ALL the director represent all areas.

The "speciality" is really more for each director not to have to know 100 schools well and be the "expert" on their area for the other directors.

Should they know their region and its issues? Of course. Is it necessarily within their ability to advocate solely for that area? No.

I think Marty IS an independent thinker but she may still be on her learning curve and you have to give her credit for admitting what she might not have considered.

#5 - you're right and I have no idea why she would have done this.

#6 - Marty could (would) get into a lot of trouble if she did that. One, it's operations and that is NOT the Board's area, remember? Two, if she helps one school, she'd be remiss in not helping them all.

Could she have sent an e-mail to the Ex Director and Super asking them to please consider the newest of the school/program going forward to best support it? She could have and I don't know that she didn't.

Having said all that, again, this is what happens with newer Board members who defer to staff recommendations even in the face of community wants and real data.

Anonymous said...

Recall Marty, what do you do? Transcribe everything she says? That is downright creepy.

How do you think Steve Sundquist would have taken your abuse? The same way he treated all parents - talk to the hand and lie to your face. He did nothing for our school, and only listened to staff.

Obviously the "Recall Marty" campaign is the same strident crowd making demands and claiming to represent WS. Well, you don't represent me. And just because you got some PTA presidents to sign onto your crusade does not mean that the membership supports your cause. I'm going to have to talk to our PTA president about that!

If I remember right, Marty was supportive of opening STEM. Blame staff for the botched roll out. Don't take it personal that you don't get what you ask for. Join the crowd at the other WS schools that are waiting for decent math and science, materials and programs.

If I were her, I'd regret creating another group of parents who feel entitled and will use any means to get what they're after.

Sanislo parent

wsmama3 said...

Sanislo Parent -
Wow. To start - I'd be happy to send you a copy of the letter we sent to Marty and SPS staff. Feel free to e-mail me directly and I'll get you a copy. As for it not representing you - read it and then I'd be happy to hear how to feel differently. We asked SPS for facts - for a study of this West Seattle area with regards to options for capacity prior to them making boundary redraws.

I'm part of the group or PTA presidents that met and decided that working together to support all schools and all kids in West Seattle was a good use of our time.

Obviously all communities have different ideas about what is and it not working - but as a whole I felt like we, in creating some unity, are helping more families, more kids, and more schools.

"Don't take it personal that you don't get what you ask for. Join the crowd at the other WS schools that are waiting for decent math and science, materials and programs.' I do take it personally. I take it personally that the school system has no accountability and that every school has challenges getting basics. Again - not just my school. Our community came from all the other schools so we get it. Personally I think we agree on this - it's total crap that schools have to pay for "good" math, and materials (like paper!) and professional development. It's totally unacceptable. Me demanding it for my school doesn't mean that I'm not also demanding it for all kids here. Guess you've never been to a meeting I'm sitting it because I've said that a lot.

"Blame staff" - I do. I blame the SPS staff. Our teachers are doing just like every other teacher is doing the damn best they can.

I expect that the Board (including but not limited to Marty) would assist schools. Not just MY school - but all of our kids schools.

"Obviously the "Recall Marty" campaign is the same strident crowd making demands and claiming to represent WS." Nope. I didn't say either. I didn't say I'm representing WS and I didn't say we should recall Marty. Bottom line - you are incorrect. We DID say we would work together and try to support one another and as the PTA presidents group no one has ever said the words "recall Marty"

"If I were her, I'd regret creating another group of parents who feel entitled and will use any means to get what they're after."

If I were her I'd be happy that parents care about their students education.

Since I KNOW you are going to pick this apart and assume everything I wrote is either a lie or wrong - let me say - I'd much rather do this in person - so if you ever want to come to the PTA president meetings, or be on the e-mail thread so you "see" the intent - let me know. Each one of us has 1,000 ideas but bottom line - we just want to do what is best by our families and our schools. And you can't pick that apart.



Anonymous said...

PTA Presidents should not claim their represent the sentiments of families. Was this request (and the STEM demands that piggyback it) presented to your membership? Where the pros and cons discussed? Did they vote to move it forward? I have no problem if you sign a letter as individuals. But the unity you talk about are really just a handful of WS parents who think they know what's best for us.

It sounds like you don't support Recall Marty's sentiments. Then we agree on that.

Sanislo Parent

Anonymous said...

I have nothing against Marty and appreciate the hard, thankless work she does with the best of intentions. I think she isn't getting the answers or information either. She seems to be dedicated to the idea that she shouldn't advocate for WS but a director at large which is actually true. Unfortunately most of the other directors and many of the SPS central staff seem to know very little about the West Seattle schools, buildings and neighborhoods and always have the needs of their own areas or their own careers in mind. Also they don't seem to want to listen to the ideas and insight of the WS community. Whatever her weaknesses might be, Marty always does seem to want to listen and understand to everyone not just WS. Marty sent out a message today saying what she shared at Saturday's meeting was her own "unofficial assessment of the main factors behind the Staff Recommendation"... I'm thankful that she is even having meetings in the summer, but it sounds like she wasn't given any official information to share except the recommendation. I certainly don't blame her for that, but it sounds like she didn't communicate it as well as she wanted. Probably just being characteristically polite and patient with SPS staff. -Was There

wsmama3 said...

Again - if you want to see the letter (so you know what you are talking about) ask.

I'm not going to waste my time with the other comments you've made that are not the intent or reality of the getting the PTA presidents to talk.

Anonymous said...

wsmama3,

Let me get this straight. What you refuse to respond to is the following:

"PTA Presidents should not claim they represent the sentiments of families. Was this request (and the STEM demands that piggyback it) presented to your membership? Where the pros and cons discussed? Did they vote to move it forward? I have no problem if you sign a letter as individuals. But the unity you talk about are really just a handful of WS parents who think they know what's best for us."

No problem. I have my answer. Thank you for acknowledging that this the PTA Presidents talking, NOT the WS community.

Sanislo parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

WSmama3, I will gently point out that "Recall Marty" mentioned your group and it seems, unfortunately, made it sound as if your group of PTA presidents thought this way (or were angry enough just to say it).

I would remind everyone to please do NOT - unless you are the head of the group or know this for a fact - make statements that could be attributed to a group. You can see the confusion and tension that may create.

I also applaud PTA leaders in regions getting together to talk about REGIONAL needs and advocating for those to district leadership. A united front of schools in one area is a good thing.

That said, it does not always play out well (see NE Seattle) if a few of the players believe they are going to dominate the conversation. All the schools have to have an equal voice and representation.

As well, Sanislo is right - you have to take any ideas/recommendations to your school PTA. PTA presidents/leaders cannot just get together, discuss and then vote to put forth ideas/advocacy without backing from their membership.

StringCheese said...

Sanislo Parent - Sounds like you must have a disengaged PTA. I encourage you to become more active in your PTA and make your opinions known. However, the PTA Presidents are acting (just like our elected legislators) as a representative of the school community. To assume that the full STEM community was not encouraged to weigh in on this document (which I have seen) as well as the approach to site placement/capacity management is simply incorrect. All meeting are public. All meetings have recorded minutes. All meetings are announced ahead of time. All PTA officials' contact information is publicly available for anyone to express their opinions should they not be able to attend meetings.

It is, indeed, a shame if you are implying that Sanislo's PTA is not meeting these standards. However, your vitriol and insistence on applying your poor experience to the whole West Seattle community and the hard-working, unpaid, PTA presidents is rude and unfounded.

As your behavior thus far has put you firmly in "blog troll" territory. I will no longer engage with you and encourage WSMama3 and others to do likewise.

Anonymous said...

Some schools have parents who are working two or more jobs and are simply unable to be active in the PTA.

It doesn't mean they are "disengaged" but that they are putting their energies into survival needs. There are schools in West Seattle with many parents who are dealing with making ends meet. I applaud the efforts of this group of STEM parents who have made diversity and inclusion a major focus.

However, characterizing Sanislo parent as a "troll" contributes to the perception that there is an
in-crowd and an out-crowd. Honestly speaking from experience, with a history in West Seattle schools, should be welcomed, not dismissed.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

StringCheese,

You have NO idea of my engagement. The difference is I don't misrepresent my opinions and sign my posts as "Sanislo Community" or "Best Interests of ALL of WS students".

That said, I'm not calling out the Sanislo PTA. I am calling out the individuals who were/are PTA presidents in the WS community who somehow forgot the protocol to follow before signing their name as "PTA President". Thank you for reinforcing that point, Melissa.

I would add that I find these statements amusing:

"To assume that the full STEM community was not encouraged to weigh in on this document (which I have seen) as well as the approach to site placement/capacity management is simply incorrect. All meeting are public. All meetings have recorded minutes. All meetings are announced ahead of time. All PTA officials' contact information is publicly available for anyone to express their opinions should they not be able to attend meetings."

First, why wouldn't the WS community all have seen these documents? Are they posted on a public website? Please post the link. As for protestations that all meetings are public, does that mean that the entire community must be on board because they could've gone the the meeting and put the kibosh on your demands? Finally, are PTA presidents the new school board? Are we expected to come to them with our entreaties? Or are they expected to come to their membership for affirmation of any PTA position?

Troll. That's a good one. I have questioned the tactics used by this group of parents, and pushed back on personal attacks on Marty McLaren. I haven't called you a name. The statements made by some on this thread are sufficient enough to make my point. Thanks again.

Sanislo parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

However, the PTA Presidents are acting (just like our elected legislators) as a representative of the school community.

Wait a minute. PTA leaders are NOT like elected legislators and that's a BIG stretch. No PTA leader should unilaterially speak for the entire community without explaining the issues and at least asking for input or a vote from that community.

Was that done? I don't know.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't recall the WS PTA Presidents advocating for any specific outcome. I think they only jointly requested data, a pretty reasonable thing to ask for.

"To start - I'd be happy to send you a copy of the letter we sent to Marty and SPS staff. Feel free to e-mail me directly and I'll get you a copy. As for it not representing you - read it and then I'd be happy to hear how to feel differently. We asked SPS for facts - for a study of this West Seattle area with regards to options for capacity prior to them making boundary redraws."

Also this:

"I'm part of the group or PTA presidents that met and decided that working together to support all schools and all kids in West Seattle was a good use of our time.""

Which part of that should have required a majority vote of the school community?

StringCheese said...

The letter was asking the district to be data driven in their approach to boundary changes and program placement. The letter requested that the district staff make this data available to the school communities in an open and transparent manner. Not much more could be added because, frankly, that was about all that could be agreed upon.

Oh the outrage! How dare they implicate their school communities in such a request!

Why is there an assumption that the school PTAs did not have discussions? The PTA presidents signed as a representative of their respective PTAs. I spoke about how the STEM PTA engages its families.

enough already, everyone understands that not everyone can attend meetings. That is why I also stated that contact information for all elected PTA officers is available so people can submit their concerns, questions, opinions, whenever they like.

Melissa, each PTA president was acting as a representative for the parent community at their own school. These are elected positions. If the parent community does not feel that their board is properly representing the interests and desires of their parent community then that is an internal problem that each school must address. How did they step out of bounds on this?

Ask your past PTA president for a copy of the letter! Send them an email! Call them!

Since when is trying to have a united voice on important issues cause for such anger?

I will apologize for my use of the term troll. It was a gut reaction to your repeatedly hostile tone. I fell into it as well and I retract it.

Unknown said...

Some of the comments by posters advocating for K-5 STEM are coming across in a not-so-positive light. Rather than act like yours is the only school that is owed by the district, tone it down a notch. Perhaps it might win you some sympathy from others.

-Just saying

wsmama3 said...

I signed my name and I signed that I was a co-president in West Seattle- I didn't sign that I represented my school community.

Letter asked for data to help us help our families make these decisions as we went into the boundary redraws.

And - I always ask for input from my community and inform them about where we could help others in our community. Not always can we run a survey, but we always inform the PTA membership about what we are doing (website, facebook, school messenger, meetings). I've never spoken "unilaterially for the entire community" as a PTA president.

What I have done as a bigger part of the West Seattle community is try to get PTA leaders to use each other as a resource and for support. Like how do you structure your direct give, or what did your teachers like for teacher appreciation, or asking about what I can do as a parent to support the school (like when is your auction - I'd be happy to volunteer).... none of which I think require community input or approval.

Back to today - we held a community PTA meeting and our community who could attend on short notice felt strongly that K-8 at Boren was the best option for them and their families. Not a scientific study, but good feedback to have.

Have a nice night.

Anonymous said...

How about one of you posting a link to the letter. Is there anything preventing that?

--enough already

wsmama3 said...

I don't have it on my PTA website - let me see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

Here is the text of the letter (sorry no formatting, I just copied and pasted from email), for anyone interested in what it said...
-Copier

Dear Seattle Public School Board Directors and District Staff,
West Seattle PTA and Elementary leaders have been discussing the most pressing needs in our elementary schools and community over the 2013-2017 school years. Addressing Capital Projects, enrollment, and program placement are our top concerns and, as a group, we put this letter to you in the hopes we can engage the District and Board in productive and immediate conversations over solutions to our challenges. 
Our leaders, as a unified group:
reaffirm our commitment to work together as one West Seattle community to support our children,
understand that changes to one school community always impact the surrounding communities - we are links in a chain, and
recognize that each of our diverse communities is unique and that the same approach is not possible or appropriate for each school. However, we advocate for fairness and transparency in the decision-making process.
Therefore, as a West Seattle community, we ask the district to employ its resources to develop and vet data-driven scenarios similar to what was completed for north end schools in their capacity evaluations and decision-making processes, i.e. the Jane Addams community, and make those scenarios public for review and comment. 
Specifically, we ask the district to develop best-case scenarios for: 
the school boundary locations to be developed and implemented for Open Enrollment Spring 2014 with the opening of Fairmont Elementary for 2014-2015 and Open Enrollment Spring 2015 with the opening of Genesee Hill Elementary for 2015-2016 and the new Arbor Heights in 2016-2017; 
permanent home of  K-5 STEM (currently at Boren) inclusive of the long range plan for a STEM pathway beyond K-5 and; 
the best use of the current Schmitz Park Elementary building, E. C. Hughes and other K-12 facilities in West Seattle to address capacity and program placement in our community.
Thank you for all your proven commitment to engage our community in the planning and review process.  We appreciate your response to our request above and are available to meet for further discussions.
Sincerely,
Davina Dilley, Alki PTA President John Christensen , Arbor Heights PTA President
Angelica De Lorenzo, Concord PTA President Natasha Hissong, Gatewood PTA President
Marie Figgins, Highland Park PTA President Annie Higgins, Lafayette PTA President
Mary Wiener, Roxhill PTA President Laura Doerfler, Sanislo PTA President
Mark Wainwright, Schmitz Park PTA President Odetta Owen, Parent Booster Chair, West Seattle Elem
Robin Graham & Heidi Alessi, K-5 STEM PTA Co-Presidents

Melissa Westbrook said...

String Cheese, I didn't say it was out of bounds and because no one has explained what was asked for except "data", it was hard to decipher. No one said, "we have discussed it with our communities and then as PTA presidents".

I'm a past PTA president and I know to be careful when trying to say my community "says" this without knowing what was asked for and how if was asked for.

It sounds to me like the "anger" is some kind of competitive feeling between schools or perhaps a perception of insiders and outsiders within a school community. It's not unusual.

WaMama, if you used the title, you should be clear in what capacity you are using it.

But, at the end of the day, it sounds like ALL of you are concerned for your region. You want data to both understand the staff's recommendations, both on program placement and boundaries, as well as to present your own on-the-ground alternatives.

Marty should support that position as should every other director.

But one thing to keep in mind that ALWAYS has parents at a disadvantage on these big issues.

When the district has big issues to tackle, somehow we always get to the end of the school year and "hey, we'll take up in the fall." And then the district headquarters powers way down in the summer so your access to information will be limited and/or take more time.

Then, when you are at your busiest as parents - getting back into the swing of the school year - you suddenly get hit with a community meeting where you have to digest a boundary plan with lots of ramifications.

So, please try to be helpful and respectful to each other but please remember that it's really important to include everyone in discussions as much as is possible.

Anonymous said...

"Our leaders, as a unified group:
reaffirm our commitment to work together as one West Seattle community to support our children,"

I don't see input from the "leaders" of the MSs and HSs in our community. Boren is best suited for their use when the crunch hits. It's inavailability will impact them the most and flow downstream from there.

While this letter appears innocuous in what it requests, the fact there is a letter, tangentially related to STEM's crusade and signed by "all" of the (elementary) PTA Presidents, has been raised numerous times in meetings and blog threads as proof that there is broad community support for a STEM at Fairmount Park or STEM at Boren. The letter and outcomes are not and should not be related. My friends in one of the listed PTAs tell me they are tired of the high-pressure pitch and do not wish to be associated with the STEM group's tactics.

Sanislo parent

dan dempsey said...

Dear "Recall Marty",

Please read the RCWs on recalling a public official. You have failed to make any case which would pass the court hearing and authorize a recall petition.

Libby said...

My family moved to West Seattle about 10 months ago and our daughters will be attending Madison and STEM in the fall. Just getting the lay of the land (this blog has been an excellent resource so thanks!), but I have to say I'm not sure why this is such a contentious issue. I attended the STEM PTA meeting on Monday and was very impressed with the PTA leadership. They provided a good re-cap of the history and background of STEM at Boren, had a Q & A session, discussed the pros and cons of various options for a permanent STEM home, reviewed next steps, and in the last minutes, took an informal poll to get a sense of where families want STEM to be: at Schmitz Park, Fairmount Park, or Boren. They also stressed that it's up to each family to decide for themselves, and to communicate with SPS board members in a respectful and constructive way.
I agree with Melissa that there seems to be a competitive element coming through some of the messages on this blog, and although you say it's typical, I don't see how it's constructive or moves us forward in terms of finding solutions to the capacity issues facing West Seattle. Also, I'm not sure how advocating for a permanent home for STEM undermines or trumps any other West Seattle school's vision for their own school community. Is it unreasonable to expect parents to advocate for the school their child attends? It certainly doesn't mean that we DON'T support the interests of other schools. Obviously, we desire - demand - the best education for ALL children.
-pagefive

Ms. A said...

Libby - thank you for that thoughtful and unheated response.

I was also at the STEM PTA meeting and was impressed with the leadership. They addressed pros and cons of the SPS proposal to move STEM to SP and let everyone speak their views. They stressed that each family needs to make the choice about what they want, and whether to contact the SPS board. One of the co-presidents emphasized that they wouldn't give parents a model e-mail or letter to sign if they decided to contact the SPS board, because each family needed to express their own wishes.

What I think is unfortunate, is that in the midst of a budget-crunch, and serious capacity issues in WS, lots of WS schools got very little and, in contrast, STEM appeared to receive quite a lot of attention and resources. In reality, STEM received very little of either and it was the parents and the teachers who made the school successful in its first year, despite some first year hiccups.

Every parent (and school) is entitled to advocate for what is best for their children. I am saddened by the anger expressed here - it appears misplaced.