Friday, August 16, 2013

The Fate of the Mann Building

The Horace Mann building at 24th and Cherry was the home of The NOVA Project for thirty years from 1979 to 2009 when misguided District leadership moved the school to the Meany building for no legitimate reason. New leadership quickly decided to move NOVA back into the Mann building and that has been the District's plan for about two years now.

During the brief intervening period the District rented out the building. Many of the programs which leased space in the building during NOVA's brief absence moved in after the District announced plans to bring NOVA home. A tenant, The Africatown Community Innovation Center is now trying to oppose the return of NOVA and retain their occupancy of the building. Some among them say that they will refuse to leave.

The tenants have no legal basis for refusing to leave. The terms of their lease are clear and their lease terminates this month. The District needs the building to house NOVA, the historical use of the building for the past thirty years. The programs now renting space in the building can find other locations - or not. It isn't the school district's problem.

I find the case for the ACIC to retain the building completely without any merit whatsoever. In addition, my daughter attended NOVA, she was there the last year they were in the Mann building, and I feel a strong sense of loyalty to the school. I'm not the right person to express the perspective of those in support of the occupation, so I offer this link to a blog post called "Parents and Students Self-Organize At the Horace Mann School Building".

As I wrote, I find the ACIC's claims to the building to be without merit. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

They have been pushing the mayoral candidates to support them. My son worked on Charlie Staadecher's campaign and Charlie was asked about it. The questions were phrased to support the group that is occupying the space now.


Charlie Mas said...

They had a public meeting with the superintendent and staff on August 8 and the district officials stood firm. The most they would offer was to give them two additional weeks before they had to move out - August 31 instead of August 15.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The space is leased. The district owns the building. When the organizations/programs signed the lease, they knew this. They have no legal basis to be in the building past their lease.

That's the legal part.

I hear and understand what the various parties are saying. But, just like charter schools where parents are happy because they had a choice (even if the charter does no better or even worse than their former school), they don't want to leave.

Charlie pointed out that Garfield Community Center is just down the road. That's the community center for the neighborhood - some of their programs can't move there?

As well, there is space for lease in the old MLK, Jr. building which is owned and operated by African-Americans. Also, a good choice.

Is Nova a white commuter school? That's one way to say it but it is also a vital alternative school. I note that the article talks about "mainstream" Seattle schools. Nova is about as far from the mainstream as you can get AND the most kind and welcoming student body around. They are not the enemy.

This is really unfortunate and I hate to see a public dismantling of the programs in the building but no judge is going to uphold their actions.

Anonymous said...

More unnecessary destruction and upheaval being caused by the lack of district planning.

The Trayvon Martin verdict, the voting rights ruling by SCOTUS, and the gentrification of the central district are creating a perfect storm.

Again, if the district had planned properly, this righteous and highly justified anger would not be manifested onto a school.

The driving-into-the neighborhood students are visual reminders of the gentrification of the neighborhood. The openness of NOVA to marginalized students does not change this fact for the people who have lived in this community for generations.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

It must have been a pretty uncomfortable meeting. Their claims and complaints are so ridiculous. They feel they deserve a building - and we should give them this one. There's a community center across the street - but that's not under their control - so it won't do. They've located a building nearby that will rent space to the district for NOVA and it doesn't occur to them that maybe they should move in there. How can you respectfully respond to that?

They don't want NOVA in the building because most of the students are white - and they want to use it to serve Black students. I am trying to imagine a group in Ballard demanding the district use it's buildings only to serve students of Scandinavian descent.

They are rallying people to speak at next week's board meeting. Should be interesting.


Patrick said...

Enough Already, I thought the District did plan properly by letting the property out only on a short-term lease when they thought they'd probably need to use it again.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, does this happen in other cities? I have been floored by the response of communities surrounding Thornton Creek, Cedar Park, and Wilson Pacific when the school district tries to properly use school district land to educate kids. My guess is that the meeting was not that uncomfortable, based on my experience at these other meetings, although they do all feel bizarro world.

The people who came to fight feel entirely entitled to free space and land from SPS and are angry that the free ride they've had (for a dog park, for soccer fields, for a community center) has to come to an end so that the building can be called into use by the entity owning them. To educate seattle's kids. I guess at least these tenants were paying for a lease? But come on, that's the deal with renting. You don't own it.

I just can't believe how much effort and resource waste has to go into fighting for what should be a foregone conclusion- district owned buildings can be used for schools.


Anonymous said...

Patrick, I was referring to the information in Charlie's first paragraph about the musical chairs approach to NOVA's placement. Had the school remained there in the first place, this would be a non-issue.

Also, there are inherent issues involved when a highly impacted population gains some stability (for a change) and promise, and then has to leave. In a case like this, the law may be the law, but it's no longer the whole story either--particularly in the aftermath of such recently charged legal setbacks for the community.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

enough already,

The group advocating to keep the building wasn't using it before this May. This is not a stable program being forced out of a long-time home. If they want stability, they've got to find someone who'll give them a long term lease. Who is going to rent to them after this?


Anonymous said...

Oh boy, whether you believe their claims/wants are ridiculous or not, these are people who aren't going to fade quietly into the night. Wyking Garrett and his father Omari are two of the people who occupied the building that now houses the Northwest African American Museum for almost a decade. If you're not up on that part of Seattle history, google it-it's important to a lot of people. These guys and their friends have been community activists for decades, even if they're usually on the losing end (not to mention Omari's stint in jail for smacking former mayor Schell with a megaphone).

They've been running local events and support groups and classes for a very long time and while their use of the building is new, their presence in the area is far from it. Don't look for them to give up easily.

There's not going to be a simple solution to this, whether or not it's "legal", "right" or "ridiculous".

And Lynn, there are ALREADY plenty of events, parts of town, buildings, churches and community centers that are practically entirely white. That's this group's point.


Anonymous said...

Does the ACIC group know that they are not the only community group that is (unfortunately) being displaced due to SPS capacity needs?

For example, Artwood Studios has been at the Cedar Park School site since the early 1980s. It is a combined residential and day-use artist studio.

The artist community has not demanded to stay at Cedar Park. I believe they, too, had a short-term lease agreement.

It doesn't make sense that a group that has occupied a SPS building for a few months should be demanding to stay in the building, when other groups, such as Artwood Studios, are being displaced from their long-term locations.

As far as Nova being a "white commuter school," Nova is an option school. Option schools have geo-zones, so neighborhood kids should have priority enrollment at Nova when it moves back to the Mann building.

-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

The NOVA school community was so devastated to lose its home when the District moved them out. I was paying attention. They have a history in that building and I was pleased to hear that their school would be re-opening at that location.

The Islamic School of Seattle closed last year, nearby to this location in Central Seattle. Can the community groups not move there? Perhaps the City of Seattle could help engage with the community to develop a cultural overlay district such as has happened on Capitol Hill, to help preserve and cultivate cultural assets and groups.

The Garfield Community Center is pretty heavily used so it isn't an easy location to offer classes and definately not services.

What about the redevelopment of Yesker Terrace? Could not community and office space suitable for non-profits find a home there?


Anonymous said...

Are the people featured in this article (the main ones who spoke at the meeting with SPS) the lease holders, or are they people who didn't sign on the dotted line but want Africatown Community Innovation Center to continue? From a legal point of view, it seems pretty clear cut. And, if the people who signed the lease have a history of not honoring lease agreements (for any reason, no matter how justified), why did SPS lease the building to them?

- Buildings

Melissa Westbrook said...

Historian is right about some of these people being pretty tenacious. I have heard Mr. Garrett (the son) at Board meetings and he has a way of speaking that is unnerving.

That is true about the art group at Cedar Park and they've been there years.

Anonymous said...

The Islamic School building is the one ACIC wants NOVA to move into. I don't know why they don't want it for themselves.

ACIC is not the tenant - the tenant was running the Work It Out program and has subleased space to a private school with a Spanish immersion program.

Historian - are those organizations threatening to occupy school district buildings to keep Black students from using them?


mirmac1 said...

Uh, well I have a way of speaking that is unnerving also. I may not always agree with him but I like his passion and community involvement.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nova, like Center School, needs to be centrally located. That's one of the good reasons for Horace Mann.

Also, the Central district is gentrifying (I don't live there but that's what I'm told) but Nova, as Charlie said, was there for a very long time. Long before it was gentrified and them being there has nothing to do with that situation.

seattle citizen said...

I am in complete agreement with the desire to establish more community space that supports and reflects the diverse community of the CD.
But as mentioned, there is already a community center across the street, and MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center is nearby, a large facility...And the Northwest African American Museum in the south end of the Central District surely also has space.

Four schools: MLK Elementary, now being used as community space by the community; Colman School, now being used by the community; Garfield Community Center (on District property) and Mann, which was available for a short-term lease for awhile but is now needed again by the district...

I understand the community's desires - Mann is very central. But it IS a District facility; it was a short-term lease that people signed AFTER the district's intention to re-use it was announced...I don't believe it's fair of the community around Mann to demand the building. While there are certainly issues around race in the district, using these to leverage the building is not fair to students around the city. We need the Mann building as a school, and NOVA is a fine asset for the district and should be back in its original building where it can benefit the CD community and students from around the district.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, of course those organizations are not trying to keep black students from using buildings. Please understand, I do not speak for the Garrets, or their association(s)or their followers. But I AM related to someone who literally lives around the corner from the Mann building, and has for decades. Through her and Central District neighborhood publications, I am very familiar with their complaints, the reasons they occupied the Coleman building, why they feel the wrong people ended up developing it, and why they're doing what they're doing now.

I am not their apologist. However, they, and others, do feel that much of Seattle's minority community has been forced out of its traditional "home" and that other organizations (such as primarily Scandinavian ones) would not be where they should have to settle for using. Do some reading on the history of the Coleman building. That should tell you what you need to know.


seattle citizen said...

Yes, as Historian notes, there are many complexities to both the diverse communities in the city and to the various interested parties organizing (sometimes at cross-purposes) to effect change. The Colman building is representative, as are efforts by different community members to support African American youth in NOVA at Mann and then in AfricaTown at Mann.
The issue of "communities" being excluded from parts of the city by covenant (Jews and Blacks), law (Natives Americans in the 1860s), custom, or back-room agreements (redlining), and then the transition of parts of the city by primarily economic forces ("gentrification") leaves a bitter legacy, and not one easily parsed.

As a native of the east coast, I have to say that Seattle's racial geography seems particularly slow to change. Parts of the city remain almost completely "white": Whether this is due to economic forces, community inertia, racism, or some combination of these is anybody's guess. This continued segregation is a disgrace, though, and will continue to lead to vocal and active efforts by the oppressed to demand change, whether it be in police activities, school practices, or real estate allotment.

Anonymous said...

How about the African American Museum? Can they have room for programs there?
Seattle Schools Mom

joanna said...

I live in the CD. The building now housing the African American Museum was never going to be used as a school again and the history of the occupation and sale of that building may be a part of the current trouble. The Feds gave the District the funds to rebuild a new Coleman (Thurgood Marshall after the freeway destroyed much of the housing.) and therefore the situation is very different. Mann is going to be used by Seattle Schools. The current program/s have used it for a very short period of time and exactly how many students for how many hours per year is still a mystery to me. However,both the African American Museum is at the old Coleman building and AME owns the old Marin Luther King School It is unfortunate that the groups cannot work together, While the process of the last school closures and musical chairs of programs in the CD was especially sloppy and contributed to this issue, this does not entitle any group with a short term lease to the building. My understanding is that old MLK, which was sold to AME, remains underutilized. Therefore, this community group could work with them or others for some space. NOVA has a much longer history of using that space and is a District program. Even if NOVA was completely new to the space, any District program/school has priority to use the space that belongs to the public and the public schools.

Get a grip.

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

Three Points:

I totally agree that students at NOVA need, and should have, the building.

This whole situation could, and should, have been avoided by better planning.

The fallout (and setbacks) from the recent legal rulings is intense for many African Americans (and others) and should not be ignored or underestimated. It is an important context that should be provided and understood when discussing the current situation at Horace Mann.

(enough already--forgot to sign)

Charlie Mas said...

The claim from the ACIC folks has no merit. None.

Much of what they say is simply false. Even the elements of their argument that are true simply are not relevant to the Mann Building or even their programs.

Have African-Americans been poorly served by institutions in general and Seattle Public Schools in particular? Yes. But that doesn't mean that this group should get the Mann Building. It has nothing to do with this.

If they really just want space for their programs, they have lots of options other than the Mann building.

If they want to do something about access to programs, this is not the right battleground.

If they want to do something about discipline rates, this is not the right battleground.

Yes, Omari and his group were robbed of the Coleman building. That's absolutely true. But that doesn't mean that his current group gets the Mann Building.

Is the Central Area a historically black neighborhood? Yes it is. Which is why there are already so many institutions in the neighborhood that historically and currently serve a predominantly black community. They don't need the Mann Building.

The School District does need the Mann Building and they need it to house the program that has been there for most of the last thirty-five years.

Ed Lambert said...

As a parent of a recent Nova graduate and a returning Nova student, this is a critical issue that strongly resonates with me.

Personally, I respect and completely support the self-directed actions of the ACIC community to create a model for education and engagement that works for young people of color in the Central Area. (The current Seattle School district practices and the larger culture as a whole are clearly NOT working for young people of color.)

I personally support the ACIC remaining at the Mann building because it is critical for communities to reclaim common spaces in the face of an increasing economic marginalization (economic violence) that has pushed poor communities out of the way to make room for white-condo-rei-disneyland Seattle.

Given the behavior of the district and their lack of accountability over the botched 2009 school closure and a long succession of fumbles, I have zero belief in the legitimacy of their authority over what happens to the Mann building. They change rules at their whim because that is what power structures do. (Charlie, you of all people have seen that first hand. Stating that everyone should "respect their authority" as if you believe the district is always right seems disingenuous to me.)

My family chose Nova because we believed that the model of horizontal, democratic decision making would allow students to work on social issues in a way that is deep, authentic, and addresses the real conditions of their community. We felt this would be a positive contrast to the hollow and abstract self-declarations of "social justice" that we have all hear preached, but rarely see put into practice.

However, I believe that the Nova community has become negatively conditioned by a 'siege' mentality. For 30 years, they have fought near constant threats of closure and hostility from the district for refusing to follow top-down mandates and listen to the needs of their students. Unfortunately, the cost of this 'siege mentality' is high, and may be partially responsible for the extreme lack of solidarity with other communities that I have seen Nova exhibit in recent years.

For example, during the brutal 2009 closures, schools were clearly pitted against each other by the district. One community had to lose for another to win. Schools came to district HQ begging the district overlords to "close THAT OTHER school - not ours!!". Nova had opportunities to stand up for schools like Meany (the building Nova now occupies), the African American Academy, Summit K-12, and others and they did not. (In fact, Nova refused to consider merging with Meany, AS#1, or Summit - all of which would have given it the middle school that they now want to add!)

At a recent district meeting, students from the Center School gave impassioned testimony to try to prevent one of their teachers from being transferred for teaching an Anti-racism curriculum. Nova students also appeared, but testified about recycling, without mentioning (or even seeming to notice) that there were real people 20 feet away from them that needed support. Just a passing shout out would have shown humanity and helped create solidarity.

Ed Lambert said...

(PART 2 of 2 - Continued from last post)

I have been disappointed that this type of on-the-ground social empathy and solidarity has not been more ingrained in the school culture at Nova. I have heard at least one teacher and a handful of students and parents recently voice concerns that Nova is not doing enough to address the needs of ALL students in the district.

It would be fantastic if Nova students reached out to the ACIC to learn the value of what the ACIC is creating. The principle of community-empowered and self-directed education that Nova espouses is what ACIC is DOING! The repatriation of public space to the African American community is the embodiment of of the “social justice” that Nova claims to pursue.

I personally would hope Nova students could see this value and create an internal movement to show solidarity with the ACIC and try to stop or alter the move of Nova to Mann.

No one reading this article can deny that the district has demonstrated sheer incompetence in managing school capacity and a callous disregard for the needs of communities of color. The Nova community and other communities in the city should be standing with the ACIC to de-legitimize district authority and fight the social and educational structures that funnel all of our young people into the role of either the oppressor or the oppressed.

seattle citizen said...

Ed Lambert writes, "Nova had opportunities to stand up for schools like Meany (the building Nova now occupies), the African American Academy, Summit K-12, and others and they did not."

I'd just point out here that Charlie Mas (Nova parent and supporter; district-wide student supporter) supported the John Marshall school as the district moved to close that school. He attended meetings with district and spoke eloquently on behalf of the students and programs.

So it's not quite true that Nova didn't support other schools. Some in its community certainly did, individually and/or as part of the Alternative School Coalition and the district's Alternative School Committee.

Ed Lambert said...

Seattle Citizen:
I recognize that individuals from the Nova community (like Charlie) were against the ill-advised closures.

However, my point is that as a COMMUNITY Nova did not show solidarity with the larger community. I think that is a bad thing and expect more from humanity.

I hope that the students will consider the issues facing the wider community, rather than be the willing foil for yet another series of clumsy moves from the district.

Anonymous said...

@seattle citizen,

Minor correction, Garfield Community Center sits on Parks property, not the District's. Although minor, I don't want people thinking the District can just go wrestle that building back if they felt like it.

--Fremont Dad

Charlie Mas said...

Ed, I guess the NOVA community should be proud that you hold them to a higher standard than any other community in the District.

NOVA could not offer to merge with Summit K-12 or Meany in 2009 because the Mann building couldn't hold all of those students.

If you think that the ACIC is deserving of some public space, there is plenty to choose from other than the Mann Building. Why the Mann Building? And why must the school district be the institution to sacrifice their asset instead of the City, the County, or any other public or private institution?

Half of Rainier Beach High School is empty.

The building at Van Asselt is under-utilized.

The community center at the MLK school - you know, the one that the District sold at a significant discount from full market value so it could provide space for the African-American community in the Central District - has space for ACIC. Surely that is precisely the sort of concession that you're looking for, isn't it?

Ed Lambert said...

I actually don't think this is a particularly 'high' standard - if you don't think people should be kicked to the curb, don't kick people to the curb.

Principles like this are important. I could go back and forth on fine points of the numerous other options that were available to Nova in 2009, my opinions on why Rainier Beach is half empty, and my personal thoughts on who I think should go where.

However, I think that misses the point. My point is: we live in a system of grave systemic injustice. The culture in our city generally ignores the white supremacist social structures that maintain boundaries of power, freedom and economic control.

My point is that maybe white dudes like you and me should take a back seat and let the community decide what THEY think should happen.

Anonymous said...

Ed Lambert,

You doubt the legitimacy of the district's authority over the Mann building? They own it. They don't need to permission of the neighborhood to use it.

Is repatriation another word for theft?


Ed Lambert said...

Yes, I believe that the system is so incompetent and structurally oppressive that I do not have respect for the legitimacy of its authority.

We have all seen this system talk from both sides of its mouth, change the rules to its own benefit, and never actually take accountability for its own errors. (How many board members of administrators resigned for their handling of the school closures).

You can choose to have respect for their arbitrary power. I do not.

My use of 'repatriation' is probably not entirely precise, but I certainly do not mean theft. I mean an explicit attempt to re-balance economic and social power.

Anonymous said...

Census data reveals a changing Central District (2011, Central District News)


Anonymous said...

It seems as though plans to redevelop at Union and 23rd, coupled with an influx of newer non-Afican-American residents is creating a lot of tension in the Central District.

The comments on this recent arson story on the Central District News site weave a story of a culture clash and a lot if discomfort

Updates on the MedMix Fire Story


Anonymous said...

I think you misread the options Nova had in 2009. They were not some magic voice in the ear of the district who could have saved Meany, AAA, Summit or any other program. Nova did what it could to shine light on they incredibly misguided and harmful closures/moves. Students and staff did help organize rallies, made signs, spoke to the school board, to city council members, to journalists, to neighbors... SPS was clear, Nova moves to Meany w/ SBOC or closes. Options were not on the table. (Though it wouldn't surprise me if at the time, different groups were told different things.)

I am in favor of returning Nova to Mann. I'm saddened, frustrated, and angered by the district's poor management of the entire situation, which exacerbates the challenges of all groups impacted by the coming move.

I can't speak to ACIC's willingness or interest in working with Nova, but I do know that the "Work it Out" program who holds the lease on Mann were entirely uninterested in working with Nova students, or even allowing them to visit the Nova garden on graduation day. Both students and myself were told we need to "get over it and move on."

Finally, I can't remember if it has come up on this thread, but because it is being talked about elsewhere- the now vacant Islamic School at 24th/Cherry is not big enough to house Nova (plus, it is not a district owned property).

6th year Nova mom
20 year Horace Mann neighbor

John Stewart said...

The now vacant Islamic School (which is in fact right across 25th from the Mann Building, as those of us who live in the neighborhood are well aware) is available. Why the 'Africatown' folks are not interested in that solution, or talking with the folks at the former MLK school, is not clear to me; I could support working for either of those goals.

I can't support telling the District, despite its many well-documented failings, to not move NOVA back to the neighborhood. Given the resources the District has available and the increasing demand, I don't see many reasonable options.

But I'll also agree with those who say this could well get ugly. Omari, Wyking et al will not go quietly. And yes, they do have many very valid reasons to be upset. I just wish they could see past the anger and try to do something with some long-term potential, rather than go down in flames on this one.

John Stewart

JM said...

I am a white graduate from the Nova Project, spending two years at Nova, one at Horace Mann, the other at the old Meany building.

The Nova Project is failing in 2013 when it builds walls between itself and communities, such as the Umoja Peace Center. It failed in 2011 when high schools across the District walked out against budget cuts, including Garfield HS across from Horace Mann. And, as Ed Lambert pointed out, Nova failed in 2009 when selfish parochial politicking won out over solidarity.

Nova exited the Central District with a horrible expression of lack of community, it is hardly ironic then that it's coming back is also marked by that. With planned development at the major intersections of 23rd (Union, Cherry, Jackson), a returning Nova would be just another example of ongoing gentrification and loss of neighborhood connections.

I was, and am, a proud graduate of Nova; however it is ACIC which would more fulfill the heritage of the Horace Mann building, than Nova.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about this from a different angle: is there another district property that could house NOVA? Lincoln HS perhaps? Where else are there vacancies?

Is there a reason from a program distribution standpoint that NOVA needs to be in the center of town?

P.S. Not all leases permit sub-leasing. Where was SPS legal during lease negotiations? Who manages real estate for the district?


Anonymous said...

Are you new to the district? There are 500 elementary students at Lincoln, another elementary school will be moving into the rest of the building temporarily and when they have all moved into their new buildings, we are going to place an entire high school there.

There are no empty buildings, no extra buildings. ACIC staying in Mann is not an option. I hope the district doesn't enter into negotiations with these people.


Ed Lambert said...

Hi Nora:

I was not stating that Nova had the power in 2009 to change the district's course. However, my partner (Gretchen) was in numerous meetings with representatives from Nova where options for co-location, collaboration, and solidarity were put on the table by others and rejected by Nova. I am not naive, and realize that this would not have changed the outcome, but a gesture of support would have been more in keeping with Nova's aspirations for "social justice".

However, all of that is water under the bridge. Nova now has an opportunity to reject the district's continued tactics of pitting communities against one another. Nova could now show solidarity with a community that is facing continued and increasing oppression.

The mess that the district has made out of space planning is the DISTRICT'S problem. When people in power want to control others, this is what they do - create scarcity and make those at the bottom wear themselves out fighting each other so that they do not join forces against those at the top.

I personally hope that Nova refuses to play this game and fights the real enemy rather than being the district's foil.

Anonymous said...

Article in Seattle Times today: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021642343_mannoccupiedxml.html


Anonymous said...

You all could also use one of the other spaces within blocks of the Mann building that are: a) available, b) not owned by SPS, c) available, d) designated for community groups just like yours, and e) available.

Seriously - there is the community center down the street, the vastly underutilized MLK building, and the now vacant Islamic Center, all of which are more appropriate for your group anyway. The lease on the Mann building is up, and the folk who sublet to you have moved out, the actual owners very much need that space, and there are clearly options in your neighborhood that suit your stated needs.

There is simply no justification for illegally taking over a much needed SPS building, especially during this time of serious overcrowding. And that does not even take into account that NOVA was there for over 30 years, far, far, far longer than your group's few months as a sublet.


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