Update on Pinehurst but Final Decision up to School Board

From Superintendent Banda (color mine):

Dear Pinehurst K-8 families and staff:

This letter updates our discussion regarding the possible closure of the Pinehurst K-8 program after the 2013-14 school year. The criterion for this decision is whether an alternative location can be found which does not result in unsustainable costs. We have reviewed numerous acceptable locations and none have been found. 

Even if a long term site were found, it would still mean continued long term operational and administrative costs of $450,000 annually. The District does not have sustainable funding for the added costs. After considerable research and looking at numerous alternatives, my preliminary recommendation is that the program should be closed. A complete copy of my preliminary recommendation is available on the Pinehurst Web page. 

No decision has been made at this time. The School Board will have the final decision authority. 

If the final recommendation is approved by the School Board at its Nov. 20 meeting, a thorough transition will need to be developed and implemented. We know that school and program closure is a very difficult step for students, families and staff. If this recommendation is approved, my staff and I will do everything we can to make the transition to a new school or program as smooth as possible for everyone concerned. 

Therefore, as part of this recommendation, I also recommend that detailed plans be developed for transition of both students and staff for the 2014-15 school year. I have heard from families, staff and students that Pinehurst K-8 is a welcoming school that supports a wide array of student needs. We want to ensure that current Pinehurst K-8 students and their families are supported so that each one will thrive as they transition to another school or program. 

Some of the action steps that should be included are:

• Some level of priority in school choice for 2014-2015 for current Pinehurst students. 
• Assistance to identify available enrollment options for 2014-15, including information about programs and services available at various schools. 
• Assistance in identifying supports that students may need as they move to a new school. 
• We will also engage in discussions with the Seattle Education Association regarding placement next year of current Pinehurst teachers and staff. We want to ensure that all staff are also supported as they move to another setting. 

The schedule of events to make this decision has been updated. The Pinehurst K-8 families and staff meeting was held on Tuesday, Sept. 10 and this issue was discussed as part of the School Board work session on enrollment growth boundaries on Tuesday, Sept. 17. I also visited Pinehurst on Wednesday, Sept. 12. 

Please note the time of Public Hearing #1 on Sept. 25, has been changed to 7 p.m. at Pinehurst. Advance signup is not required.

Schedule of Events
Wednesday, Sept. 25: 
• Public Hearing # 1 at the Pinehurst Building, 7 p.m. 
• The public will have an opportunity to give testimony and comment.
Thursday, Oct. 24: 
• A final recommendation to the School Board will be submitted by the Superintendent to the School Board. 

Tuesday, Oct. 29: 
• Public hearing # 2 at the Pinehurst Building, 7 p.m. 
• The public will have an opportunity to give testimony and comment. 

Wednesday, Nov. 6: 
• Introduction of the Superintendent’s final recommendation to the School Board.

Wednesday, Nov. 20: 
• School Board decision on the final recommendation.
For more information about this process, please visit the Pinehurst K-8 Web page: we will post information as soon as possible.http://pinehurstk8.seattleschools.org/ 

To submit comments and questions, please send your email totlredman@seattleschools.org (Thomas Lee Redman, SPS Communications Department).


Anonymous said…
Sad. A 40 year program... If they had the wherewithal to implement a charter strategy, I for one would support them. But they must be exhausted.

That $450k figure is suspect. I was told the figure to have a school in a building, weather it is 80 students or 450 is somewhere between $300-$350k

Why couldn't they move to portables on the Thorton Creek 10 acres and then take the old Thornton creek building when Thornton creek moves to their new one? Who's going in the old one anyways?

-go Pinehurst!
"Even if a long term site were found, it would still mean continued long term operational and administrative costs of $450,000 annually. The District does not have sustainable funding for the added costs."

So why go through the process of looking for a new site?. Just a smokescreen I guess.
Josh Hayes said…
I doubt anyone at Pinehurst is surprised by this. I know I'm not. And the first commenter is dead on, from my perspective: I've been fighting this fight for twelve years now, and yeah, I'm pretty exhausted. I feel like I should mock up a picture of us with spears and shields, shouting, "This! Is! PINEHURST!" It's been that kind of fight.

And as Banda points out, the decision isn't final. I know Pinehurst has some support on the Board, but I don't know if we have four votes - and I kinda doubt it.

And anyone who thinks Pinehurst students will get ANY preference in assignments is dreaming: won't happen.
A-mom said…
Bad Faith

Banda has not met with our community once either this year or last, when the district was supposed to be working with the community. We got Phil Brockman, who talked real pretty, but then left for Sedro-Woolley and was not replaced.

A surprise inspection on the 12th doesn't count as community engagement. My husband works for Washington State Ferries. He pointed out that if a ferry run was proposed to be closed due to low ridership the head of ferries would probably lose his job if he failed to show up for a community meeting. Sending his deputies wouldn't cut it. The analogy isn't perfect, but the point is the person responsible for making the recommendation to the elected board should be present. Failing to do so is just insulting. The staff present did not seem to understand, which goes to show that they do not care about our community's sensitivities whatsoever. They are just wasting our time going through the motions required by law to avoid being sued. This process is being done in bad faith. The bean counters have decided our school is not cost effective, and that is all that ultimately matters to the school administration.

Our school was added to the BEX one month before it was voted on. At the meeting mentioned below, Ron English said that we should have spoken up earlier as there had been an 18 month process leading up to the final BEX wording. I pointed out that our site was added at the last minute, but he claimed not to recall that fact.

The majority of questions that were asked at the 9/10 meeting at Pinehurst were written down instead of being answered by counsel Ron English, even though there were other staff members seemingly more knowledgeable who stayed largely silent. This seems to indicate that the school district is more interested in shielding itself from legal action than attempting to find an equitable solution--not a trust building exercise.

Every other program displaced by the BEX has a commitment from the district to find them a home.

If our group of students could co-locate with another program costs wouldn't be so high.

Hippy Goodwife said…
Josh Hayes, Summit kids did get preferential waitlist status, after sibs at other Option Schools. So it is possible. Does anyone know how many current Pinehurst kids were Summit kids.
Jon said…
I know its sad to see a school close, especially your school. But I do not see how we cannot close schools that have unusually poor test scores and unusually high expenses, especially when the current school is also badly under-capacity and we need that capacity to be used fully.

Do you think that we should never close a school? You cannot be saying that we should continue any school as is once started no matter how bad the test scores and how high the costs, are you?
Jet City mom said…
How much space does RBHS have?
Is there space at Mann for pinehurst & nova?
Salmon Bay & Tops are not alternative schools - they are choice schools, which is very different.
Where are the true alternative choices for students that need that?
Charlie Mas said…
I seriously doubt that the District will keep any of their promises.

They never have before.
A-mom said…
Pinehurst does not have unusually poor test scores. Even the district says it is not under threat because of academic performance.

It has increased test scores for three years running, and won awards for two of them. The only reason it did not win last year was because only Title 1 schools were eligible for most improved category.

I personally called OSPI and found this out.

High costs are related to under enrollment caused by incessant closure threats.
Jon said…
A-mom, the test scores for Pinehurst are right here. Look at them. They are awful. Math scores in the 40% range for years. Sure, you can say they improved, but only because there were scores as low as the 20-30% range five years ago, which is not a good thing.

Poor test scores, high costs, and underenrolled are all good reasons to close a school. If anything, this is overdue.
Anonymous said…
My cousin's stepson goes to Pinehurst and they are heartbroken over this decision. The kid never liked school and did poorly until he went to Pinehurst. This child is Native American and Pinehurst was the only school that his met his needs. They are at their wits end trying to figure out where he will go next year. He is too young for the program at Indian Heritage or the Middle College his stepmother works at. This whole process has been just devastating. Alternative schools do so much more than serve up high test scores.

search4chin said…
@Jon, You have no idea of what you speak/type. You sound like a district plant. Do you work for the district? Test scores aren't what makes a program great. Support and seamless information from the district would help this and all other programs in the city.

My child was at Cooper when they closed. Preference in the next years school assignment was the only promise that SPS kept.

I have heard board members voice support alternative schools.

For a different perspective, SPS likes big schools, 600+ for an elementary school. Is there another school that Pinehurst could share a building with? That might work for the bean counters.
Josh Hayes said…
Jon, thanks for the link to those test scores. They are virtually identical to scores from Broadview-Thomson (another K-8 in the north end) and Olympic Hills and Northgate (the nearest elementary schools with anything resembling comparable demographics); if anything, Pinehurst's test scores are better than Broadview's. Given the challenging student composition, I think this is pretty good, but obviously, you have some deep-seated desire to see this in as bad a light as possible.

But I suspect you'll keep going on about how horrible the test scores are. I'm done trying to teach this particular pig to sing.
Pinehurst parent said…
The best option to keep the Pinehurst program is to co-locate or merge with Thornton Creek, another alternative option school in NE Seattle, and become a K-8. This gives the Thornton Creek a new K-8 path since their current preferred K-8 is Salmon Bay and that has a long waiting list from NW Seattle families. There is some Board support for this plan.

If the plan is to co-locate, then there are some administrative costs for Pinehurst K-8 unless a head teacher model is used. If the plan is to merge, then there is no additional administrative cost.

For the co-locate/merge option to happen, Pinehurst would need an interim site for 2 years until the new Thornton Creek building is open. That shouldn't be that challenging since Pinehurst is a small school. The challenge is to convince the District that Pinehurst provides value is and worth retaining.
dylanw said…
They are virtually identical to scores from Broadview-Thomson (another K-8 in the north end) and Olympic Hills and Northgate (the nearest elementary schools with anything resembling comparable demographics)

But it's an alternative school -- shouldn't they be better? Northgate, Olympic Hills, and B-T are consistently the low performers of the north end. Olympic View, Rogers, and Jane Addams score far better.

I'm kinda happy Pinehurst is going away. When I went school shopping 4 years old what struck me about AS#1 was how much they wore that "under siege" badge on their chests, even as I picked at some questionable academic practices (e.g. the kindergarten that felt less challenging than my daughter's preschool at the time, which was far from some academic hothouse). For as much as Pinehurst has been put upon by the district, it's felt (and felt on that visit) like the animus of the parents was feeding the animus of the district, and vice versa. The relationship is toxic, and honestly, I think it's time to end it.

Goodloe-Johnson's war on alternative schools led to AE#2 morphing into a far better Thornton Creek and a wrongfully closed Summit replace by a Jane Addams that's academically strong (and will replace Pinehurst). Alternative schools, in new forms, live on. So why couldn't Pinehurst evolve?
Anonymous said…
Pinehurst follows more of the model of not starting academics until 1st grade, around the age of 7. There was just a big writeup about waiting until 7 to start academics. It is also how Waldorf runs. No academics in Kindergarten. It would be nice if SPS could offer this model to students who can't afford Waldorf.

A-mom said…
My daughter attends Pinehurst K.
She is adding and subtracting double digit numbers, and learning her ABC's.
She enjoys all of the playing and singing too.
search4chin said…
I agree that the relationship between Pinehurst K-8(AS#1) and the district is toxic. The school does hold tight to the "under siege" badge too.
If your house was being foreclosed on, or subject to imminent domain for absurd reasons not related to late payments or anything else you could control, wouldn't you also feel like you were under siege?
If the district was asking for the school to "evolve," then that's what we'd be working toward, but they aren't. They are closing in on putting an end to the program, so we are "under siege" again mind you.

search4chin said…
FYI: There is a public hearing at Pinehurst K-8(aka AS#1) tonight. It is at 7pm and hopefully any form of information will come out of it.
If they ask me what I want to happen, I will tell them to fire each other and use that money for the education of our children, because it is not my job to figure these things out. They are supposed to have the public's trust.


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