Seattle School Board Retreat

Charlie and I are at the retreat (he was here most of the day) and I can't resist some early alerts/news:

- the Superintendent says that the number show that enrollment is at nearly 52,000.  To understand, this is NOT the case for most urban districts.

- still no clear answer on the Equitable Access Framework.  President Smith-Blum pushed back when it was deferred (again).  She stated it does not have to be the same for every program but she believes parents needs to understand how programs work and what is the definition for equitable access.

Oddly, Director DeBell pushed back, saying "they could get to this eventually."  He called the programs she called out like language immersion "higher level" programs.  (Of course, later he called out how his goal is to meet the LI goal of 12 schools.  Why that is at the top of the list over a clear understanding of equitable access is unclear to me?)

The facilitator got a big laugh when he asked, "Do you have a policy around this?"  Because, clearly, no.

Other interesting statements:

- Joe Paperman, the head of Finance, said it would take "weeks" to be able to say how much it costs to run any given school.  Charlie and I just looked at each other on that statement.

- Smith-Blum also mentioned an October 9th Work Session on the budget and said she would like to see all critical partners there such as Seattle Council PTSA

- new Facilities director, Flip Herdon, said that the district had growth but it was uneven.  He added that some of that growth to some schools was growth within programs housed at the schools.

- Pegi McEvoy then said that there would be "new program placements" announced in October.  Charlie suspects APP at Hamilton might get moved.

Someday, somehow, some way, this district is going to have to address Advanced Learning programs - what they are, how to access them, and where they are available.

- disproportionality and discipline - Pegi McEvoy talked about fewer out-of-school suspensions and new methods to work with this issue (no specifics).  She did say principals have been trained on some new ideas.   Need more data systems in place to look at how they are doing.

 Superintendent Banda said they have reached out to the ACLU and the law school at Seattle U for some of this help.  Also, Oakland School District had had tremendous problems in this area and we are studying what they have done to turnaround this issue in their district.


Anonymous said…
Yes, part or all of APP must leave Hamilton. They are way over capacity. It's not a matter of if, but how and where at this point. Half stays, half goes? One third goes, and the remainder are split among two other schools (one being the new JAMS?)? The delivery of AL services has to be considered as part of this plan, not secondary to this plan.

Anonymous said…
What about equitable access to special education programs? Equitable placement of programs? This was part of an OSPI corrective action. The idea isn't "to get to it eventually". Students with disabilities must have equitable placement access to services in accordance with their IEPs. Unlike all other programs, this is the law.

-sped parent
katie said…
It is really easy to scapegoat a program in the name of capacity. The issue is that it simply is not true that growth in a program is either the problem or even a problem.

The growth in APP at Hamilton has been the ONLY thing that has kept Eckstein semi-sane for the last few years.

Whats the evidence? Ok, go ahead move APP out of Hamilton. Where are you going to send them? Send 200+ kids back to Eckstein (good luck!). Send some to Jane Addams (sure, who are you going to move to make room?) Send some to Whitman. (also full). Ah, McClure, yes, you can send about 50 of them to McClure. That's it!

And these mythical new schools are all at least three years away.

I hope the new facilities head had more to say than that.
This was the briefest of overviews so they did not go into a lot of detail. I assume that comes late.

But these questions should all get pushed at the growth boundary meetings.
Anonymous said…
My hunch - they will close Pinehurst, put JAK8@Pinehurst, new JAMS w/APP, and new Wilson Pacific MS w/APP (to be housed at John Marshall in interim). Some portion of APP to stay at Hamilton.

Public said…
On enrollment hitting 52,000, are you saying that other cities are not seeing this kind of growth in public school enrollment? Why not?

Does the unusually high growth in enrollment in Seattle during this recession have something to do with the unusually high percentage of parents who opt out of public schools here in Seattle (30% for Seattle compared to 10% or so for most major cities)?
Charlie Mas said…
Public, the growth in enrollment has a number of root causes, but the biggest change has been the rate at which families with pre-school children remain in Seattle as those kids reach school age.

Historically, only about 60% of the number of children born in Seattle enter kindergarten in Seattle five years later. In recent years, however, that number has grown to 70%.

These are, of course numbers, not necessarily the same children. There is in-migration and out-migration. But when you also regard the numbers for surrounding suburbs, you can quickly deduce that young couples, who were living in Seattle when their children were born, moved to the suburbs before their children reached school age. That migration - from Seattle to the suburbs - slowed significantly in recent years.

It would be easy to say that the slowing was a result of the housing market and the difficulty getting a mortgage since 2008, and that surely has contributed, but the trend pre-dates that collapse.

Maybe younger families now prefer living in the city in greater numbers.

Maybe families are more confident about Seattle schools.

For whatever reason, reduced out-migration is at the root of the rising enrollment.
Anonymous said…
Good paying jobs are here. Areas like Lake Washington, Bellevue, Redmond, and Shoreline are all seeing growth in their districts too! Workmates across the pond have been grumbling big time over school assignment and class size. Competitive private and parochial schools in the area aren't seeing dips in enrollment either. Companies are setting up shops or expanding in our pugetopolis. A friend who works for a small IT Bellevue company employing <100 workers two years ago is going through growing pains. Her company just moved to bigger digs and now has > 300 well paid employees (as in can afford a house in Bellevue).

Public said…
Thanks, Charlie. That is a similar point, though, isn't it? It used to be that parents in Seattle would opt out of public schools at an unusually high rate (either moving to suburbs or going private) but instead they are picking public schools?

The question is why is that happening more here in Seattle than in other major cities. What is unusual about Seattle? Is Seattle's relatively low participation rate part of the reason? Is Seattle's economy doing unusually well compared to other major cities? Or is something else different about Seattle?

I don't know the answer. I am trying to figure out the answer. Whatever the reason, it seems like a good thing (if it holds).
Anonymous said…
Read Dick Conway's economic piece here:,4

Good synopsis of our economic highs/lows last 15 years and bumps to watch out for. It's why real estate folks on QA are going nuts, but not Beacon Hill. It's not like SPS can handle the return of the 30% anyway. Besides the private folks pay their taxes and the private tuition allows them to practice religion in school. Public schools in some neighborhoods are good value when you consider writing a check for $1,000 PTA donation or $10,000 tuition. The high price of neighborhood real estate is the gatekeeper.

joanna said…
My understanding is that, at least through last year, the Seattle Public Schools served about the same percentage of Seattle's school age children as before. SPS's "market share" increased only slightly perhaps due to the new assignment plans in some areas and the recession. Remember, not all private school students are Seattle residents. There are probably many reasons why Seattle is not seeing the decline that some other cities are. Some families are opting to remain in the city where mass transit is good, along with access to amenities. This is their choice. The suburbs no longer seemed as attractive. Another reason is that during the real estate boom there was more of tendency for families to flip their city house for a suburban home. When the real estate market cooled, the option to flip for a bigger house etc in the burbs was not necessarily a good one. So, more families became a part of the communities where they lived. Another is that Seattle real estate has remained relatively attractive. While it dropped and there were a lot of weird loans and layoffs that caused problems, Seattle real estate in comparison remained stable, as did the job market. Many cities were hit harder than Seattle and had long ago become home to mainly the very very well-off and the poor. Seattle has frighteningly seemed to trend in that direction at times, but the middle class is still standing to some degree. Guaranteed assignments and options to good schools and programs will always be attractive to families. I just hope the Board is thoughtful enough to ensure those good schools and programs in all parts of the city and build on what is good here. I don't usually say these words: just don't screw it up.

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