Seattle Council PTSA Steps into Growth Boundaries Discussion

 Update: I accidentally got the second-to-the-last paragraph of the letter to the Superintendent transcribed improperly.  I corrected it and it is the last paragraph in red in this thread.
End of update.

Quite the throwdown from the Seattle Council PTSA and good for them for stepping up (albeit a bit late).  It will be interesting to see the response from the district.  I note that this letter is not at their website so thank you to one of our great readers who forwarded it to me.  (Color emphasis mine.)

October 23, 2013
Dear PTA Presidents & Leaders,

Attached is a copy of the formal letter sent by the Seattle Council
PTSA to Superintendent Banda and the School Board regarding our
position on the Growth Boundary Change process.

We met with Superintendent Banda today, and we still believe that
providing parents a real opportunity
to participate in this process is the only way to ensure that the
proposed changes are both reasonable and equitable for all of our
schools. We stand by that position.

At the meeting today we proposed that Seattle Public Schools host
region area (NW, NE, SE, Central, WS) discussion meetings with the PTA
Leaders, other parent leaders, principles, and SPS Area Directors of
those regions BEFORE the November School Board vote. These discussion
meetings would [allow for questions and input and aim to] bring you up
to speed on the boundary process, issues, and how the district hopes
to address them. Additionally, we have asked that the board only
consider changes that are essential for capacity planning purposes for
2014-2015 school year. We believe this will allow both time to focus
on those issues and provide adequate time for collaboration on the
remaining recommendations.

We will work hard to try and make these happen, and we will keep you informed.

We also asked that the District explain their rationale for the
boundary changes that are proposed so that parents could understand
the reasoning. We also asked for transparency regarding the data that
supports the changes, and more clarity regarding when the various
changes would become effective.

Katherine Schomer
President, Seattle Council PTSA

October 18, 2013
To: Superintendent Banda and Seattle Public Schools Board Members
On behalf of the local PTA’s and parents that I represent, I am disappointed with the public engagement and communication process regarding the proposed boundary changes. Based on my experience as a public involvement consultant, and the communications I received from parents and other PTA leaders, there was nothing “engaging” about this process.

Overall I feel involvement with the parent community regarding school attendance boundary changes:
 Lacks in actual community engagement,

 Lacks proper parent representation and outreach to the proper audiences,

 Lacks transparency to provide the data and reasons for boundary recommendations, and

 Lacks adherence to the districts proposed “guiding principles” for this process.

Engagement is the act of engaging, which can be defined as “involving,” “inducing participation,” or “engrossing” an audience. Thus it is not unreasonable for parents to assume that when the district provides a community engagement schedule that there will be two-way communication, and that they will be involved and allowed to participate. This did not occur. Yes, there were community engagement meetings, but there was no engagement. I have heard from many parents that at these meetings they were allowed to provide comments, but there was no discussion. Many expressed the feeling that they “were talking to a brick wall.” This is not engagement; this process instead continues parent distrust in the district from again being "forced" to react to district proposals rather than being engaged.

Further, low-income, minority, and non-English speaking communities were completely cut out of the process. The unreasonably short timeframe between the release of the draft plan and community meetings, the presentation of plan documents in English only, and the electronic-communication based rollout/survey has shut out many affected parents—often the very parents we most want to engage. The Racial Equity Analysis Tool, recently adopted as SPS Board Policy, was clearly not used in this process.

My second concern regards the poor timing and outreach to advertise the community engagement events, causing a misrepresentation of parent feedback. Most of the engagement occurred over the summer and very early in the school year. When implementing a public involvement process, you need to consider your audience. Parents are NOT expecting SPS to engage with them over the summer or so soon in the school year. Many parents did not even realize this boundary process affected them, particularly in areas where capacity is not dire. Thus, many missed the opportunity to provide feedback in the English-only, computer-based timeframe. Based on your current engagement plan, I do not feel you have a representative sample of parent feedback.

My third concern is that none of the recommendations made in the recent proposal (Oct. 16th) provide any concrete data or explanations for any of the boundary changes. Yes, data is posted on the growth boundary website, but none of it explains why recommendations are as such. I appreciate the appendix document (Appendix B on the Oct. 16 recommendations) that highlights the changes from the previous proposal. However there is still no explanation for the actual changes. For example, why does Southeast Seattle need another option school, and why did you add more feeder schools to the Meany Middle School boundaries? There can be no parent confidence in the district’s ability to manage data and decisions around capacity when recommendations are not backed up with data analysis. Seattle Public Schools is a public agency that provides a public service with tax-payer dollars; as a citizen, taxpayer, user of the agency, and a parent, I expect and have a right to know the explanation for the recommendations.

I also am concerned the school district did not adhere to, or publicize their adherence to the guiding principles they set out for this process. I am particularly concerned about the following principles:

Guiding Principle 
Ground Decisions in Data 
Many of the boundary recommendations thus far may have been grounded in data, but that is not at all apparent in any of the documents that have been made public.

 Guiding Principle
Maintain key features of New Student Assignment plan & Minimize disruptions by aligning boundaries with current attendance

Honestly, many of the new recommendations (Oct. 16) make no sense. There are several examples of a boundary change but with no change in capacity. Why? Most parents have embraced the neighborhood assignment plan, and the PTA’s have worked hard to engage these communities. School communities are critical to student success, so to change these boundaries for no specific reason is very disruptive.

Guiding Principle
 Be responsive to family input to the extent feasible

 This guideline was clearly not met. Not only was there no real engagement, but there is no quantitative data that was representative of parents overall, or any attempt to solicit feedback from subsets of parents.

Lastly, the current “feedback survey” for the October 16 recommendation is not a survey at all, but rather another cumbersome method for parents to provide feedback to a brick wall. A survey is a quantitative instrument that collects representative data with the intent to analyze the data. Parents are expecting a survey instrument where they can see the summarized results validating their input.

A proper engagement plan should have actually engaged the parent community.  Proper community engagement looks like this: hosting community meetings with questions and answers, focus groups, online discussion groups, quantitative surveys, and interviews with key stakeholders and parent groups BEFORE any recommendations are made. Once recommendations are formed from this process, they should be presented back out AGAIN for public comment. If the district had engaged parents in this type of process from the beginning, not only would there be a better plan for boundary changes, but parents would likely accept it because they were involved in the process.

The current boundary recommendations are riddled with problems that cannot possibly be addressed in a timely manner and allow the district to deal with capacity issues. I recommend the Seattle Public Schools and the school board focus on boundary changes for areas with the worst capacity issues.

Boundary changes to other areas can be addressed at a later date when proper engagement can occur.


Seattle Council PTSA President & Executive Board

Katherine Schomer, President, Seattle Council PTSA

Linnea Fichter, Vice President, Seattle Council PTSA

Cassandra Johnston, Secretary, Seattle Council PTSA

Diane Casper, Treasurer, Seattle Council PTSA


Anonymous said…
"VNESS" has sent out a petition too, but it's not clear how/whether this petition represent best interest for all NE kids and it's hard to tell what they are asking for.

Interesting NEP and I would venture to guess they do NOT represent even some/most of the NE parents.

I'd stick with the PTSA.
Anonymous said…
There is strong parental push to keep an APP split from happening and to keep APP out of JAMS. The ramifications for the NE would be middle school boundaries that draw more students out of walk zones. Some voices will be drowned out of the conversation. I'd say the community is split, within schools and within neighborhoods, and there's no solution that doesn't create additional transition for another group. It's kind of lousy all around.
Puhleeze said…
VNESS is the zealot wing of SNAPP, the ones who campaigned against the levy. They are not to be taken seriously.
Anonymous said…
Yet they are pushing quite loudly, with Facebook postings, etc., to mobilize APP parents at Hamilton as well. It's really hard to know what is the best scenario. There are so many moving parts.
Anonymous said…
Well VNESS blasted the entire Bryant school listserv, and I believe they are getting parents signing that petition who don't even realize what, exactly, they are supporting.
Anonymous said…
VNESS was established as a representative group of parents from the NE (including NNE). The mission on the facebook page is:

VNESS is a grassroots group of SPS parent leaders whose goal is to educate and engage NE families in advocating for the greater good of all SPS students.

By educating and engaging families, VNESS strives to be a collective and influential voice in facilitating strong learning environments for all SPS students. Specifically, our goals are:
o To provide timely information from the District and School Board that impacts NE area schools such as feeder patterns, boundary decisions, etc.
o To become a recognized and influential voice with the School D...istrict and the School Board relative to the needs of NE schools.
o To provide a strong voice for NE parents around School District governance i.e., School Board Elections.
o To create an active, grassroots network of NE parents willing to coordinate calls to action regarding significant issues as needed.
o To offer a forum for NE parents to engage in dialog around major upcoming School Board and School District decisions before they are made.
o To focus on the greater good of the NE area schools rather than individual interests.

This Facebook page is intended for the administrator postings only, we will keep editorial content to a minimum. We are parent volunteers delivering information, not a membership organization managing consensus. This is not a blog, but a resource for those in the NE interested in being informed on SPS district news. We welcome community interaction and engagement at our meetings.

Core VNESS Members include:
Jean Bryant, Lincoln APP & Hamilton Parent, Past Lincoln PTSA President
Dagmar Jacobs, View Ridge Parent
David Jobs, View Ridge & Eckstein Parent
Monica Mace, Eckstein & Roosevelt Parent, Eckstein PTSA Board Member
Deborah Sigler, View Ridge & Eckstein Parent, View Ridge PTSA Board Member
Alli Sweet, Laurelhurst Parent
Christopher Wright, Bryant & Eckstein Parent

My observations shortly,

~ NNE Parent
Anonymous said…
There has been one meeting (in April or May) when the conversation was primarily about what the group would be named and how the core members of the group were starting the group so they could step out of their roles in their PTSA's and FACMAC and just act as parents (which I would argue is not possible.)

(There was also a lot of discussion about the traffic safety issues around Eckstein after the tragic accident there this spring. There was agreement to support safety measures there and to work with the city.)

Since that first meeting, there have been no further meetings or even email consultations with the members who signed in as representatives from around the NE. There HAVE been endorsements for the school board race with no vote of or feedback from the group. Letters were sent to the district and the school board, signed by VNESS, also without any opportunity for the members to provide input. The petition was not drawn up or vetted by anyone except the core members.

They are a non-representative small group of parents who are trying to use the perception of a grassroots group to lend legitimacy to their own beliefs and ideas.

~NNE Parent
Maureen said…
Unclear to me as to why I am reposting for people who refuse to read the directions, but:

Anonymous said...
There is strong parental push to keep an APP split from happening and to keep APP out of JAMS. The ramifications for the NE would be middle school boundaries that draw more students out of walk zones. Some voices will be drowned out of the conversation. I'd say the community is split, within schools and within neighborhoods, and there's no solution that doesn't create additional transition for another group. It's kind of lousy all around.
10/24/13, 9:10 PM
Anonymous said…
And another -

Anonymous said...

Yet they are pushing quite loudly, with Facebook postings, etc., to mobilize APP parents at Hamilton as well. It's really hard to know what is the best scenario. There are so many moving parts.
10/24/13, 9:34 PM

~ signed, signer
Anonymous said…
I'd rather forego the phony meetings and get some transparency. They treat us like children. Maybe it's because people actually care and get riled. It seems the city will talk and listen and explain every dollar about a sewage outfall or dog park but the district is all obfuscation and platitudes about their plans. Shame

Anonymous said…
Could the APP folks knock it off for five minutes? The world does not, surprise, revolve around you.

IQ 149
Lynn said…
Hello IQ 149,
Why don't you tell us what you think of the PTSA letter? Is there something you'd like to discuss?
IQ unknown said…
Except that in this case, plans for APP have significant ramifications for the rest of the north end in terms of middle school boundaries. You need to pay attention to their mobilization efforts because the resulting boundaries will impact several neighborhoods and school assignments. Lots of moving parts and all that.

The listed members of VNESS are in neighborhoods for which the middle school assignment is not likely to change (their neighborhoods will most likely stay part of Eckstein). The petition being put forth (it's unclear who authored it and okayed it) is working to someone's benefit, but not all of the NE. It really depends on your desired outcome.
Anonymous said…
@NNE Parent

You posted:
"VNESS was established as a representative group of parents from the NE (including NNE)."

I'm curious. Who in this group is representing the NNE? What schools from the NNE are represented in VNESS?


- JR Mom
Anonymous said…
IQ 149

"Could the APP folks knock it off for five minutes? The world does not, surprise, revolve around you."

Maybe before you come out with criticisms, you could become informed. I see one APP parent on this list. How mnay do you see?

I am sorry to read the post above about this group not really having the support or input of non-core members. I think it would be beneficial for there to be regional groupls of parents in the city to go to for information. When groups fake grassroots support, it can hurt the effforts of those groups that really do work to represent many voices. It's just so cynical.

Anonymous said…
I am so glad to see the PTSA step up and engage with district leadership.

They nailed the failure to follow guiding principles. I would love to see the data driving decisions, as well as see the district truly take into account FRL & race/ethnicity, and engage parents.

Thanks for posting Melissa

Eric B said…
The district could head off a lot of these complaints by putting out a document with the revision to the boundary plan that gives a list of the changes and why they did them. You see this on every regulation change that comes out in the Federal Register.

For example: "North End APP was divided into three sites to serve students closer to home, to provide room for the cohorts to grow, and in response to public input that requested more sites." This is just an example--I totally made all of that up. I don't know any of the rationale behind any of the changes.

PS I like the letter from PTSA. Nice to see them getting involved.
Anonymous said…
I LOVE the letter from the PTA to the superintendent. They voiced many of my concerns and feelings. I need this boundary issue to quickly get to a best fit and move on to the middle school transition plans. Even more details to manage and I'm cringing at how that "engagement" process is going to look.

-Flipflopping around I-5
Anonymous said…
Meanwhile, in Maple Leaf:

"This is not a blog, but a resource for those in the NE interested in being informed on SPS district news."

From what I can see, this VNESS is a small group of parents who want to have a controlled conversation. I recall when N/NE PTAs first organized together, I heard from some Sacajawea/John Rogers/Olympic Hills parents that they felt marginalized.

If it's just for NE parents (and not North), they are entitled to say/do what they want but not to really say they represent everyone. I think PTA is far more the representation.

I applaud this bold move by SCPTA. As Eric B said, this is something a long time coming and why? It is not difficult to give your reasoning unless you don't have data and true reasoning to back it up. Yes, people can pick it apart but if you have data/sound reasoning, you can stand your ground.

Also, I hate to tell some of you but it's not "about" APP but about where they will be placed. Program placement drives enrollment, drives school size/capacity and APP seems to be a nomatic group that no one wants to house.

It's a huge factor.
Anonymous said…
I posted a comment on the VNESS fb book page (in the comment thread of one of their posts announcing an event for Suzanne Dale Estey) asking if they would post information about a similar event for Sue Peters. My comment was removed. I live in NE Seattle too, but they are Not My Voice.

Crownhill said…
I too applaud the PTSA for coming out with some real specifics on how SPS can "do better" on the boundary changes. I thought their highlighting of the language/technology gap was of particular importance. It's something that doesn't get discussed very often and is a true form of discrimination. Will the district listen? Does the Seattle Council have any "sway" with the Board/admin? I'm asking because I don't know.

PS - yes, it would be nice to see something other than APP discussed here in the comments, particularly on this post. There were so many other important issues raised.
Anonymous said…
Then talk about something else! Rather than attempt to censor, and spending comments talking about other people talking about APP, people could just bring up whatever interested them, and then if someone else is interested, they'll comment back.

I live JAMS adjacent, and this proposal is actually what my neighbors want- more neighborhood seats, more affluent schools assigned, and as a result no APP taking up those seats. I think it is hard for that group to mobilize, because right now they are just a very small part of Eckstein (especially with the way the boundaries are drawn now) or current elementary student families. But this petition actually matches what I hear. I believe there was a JAMS poster on here last week making similar points.

I am also curious about just how many kids might come back from Shoreline if there was a middle school up there. I am sure it depends on the quality of the school, but I have talked to several people who are convinced here's a "hidden wave" of middle schoolers coming once JAMS opens.

Anonymous said…
I live JAMS adjacent, and this proposal is actually what my neighbors want- more neighborhood seats, more affluent schools assigned, and as a result no APP taking up those seats.

This comment confuses me. There is a desire to have "more affluent" schools assigned to JAMS, but not APP students, who, by the FRL%, are more affluent. APP students are part of the neighborhood! They would only be coming from the NE, which includes the NNE and students from those "more affluent" school assignment areas that people want drawn into JAMS.

-very confused
Anonymous said…
But the bulk of them come from south of Eckstein- different soccer leagues, preschools, classes, different neighborhood communities altogether. And several of the APP classes are self contained, so they would not mix as much as if you put Wedgwood in, with similar demographics, but which is actually part of the same community (esp north Wedgwood), and would take ALL of the same classes, and be working on starting ALL of the same program. I think the fear is that the current neighborhood schools going in are too small(though great in their own right), and do not have enough active families to really do the push to start a new school. But if you added another neighborhood school or two, there would be a great critical mass, and a truly diverse, blended, community based school, as opposed to two programs with different demographics.

This does not directly affect me next year, but the most positive thing I have heard about putting APP in is "I guess it could be ok," and mostly I hear "no offense, but we have enough challenges without bussing in kids from a different neighborhood at first." Which I think is true, especially if there is to secret wave waiting (is there? Does anyone really know? Obviously sounds a little off to me, but I'm not far enough north that might neighbors would consider Shoreline about the same as SPS.). Are you NNE, very confused? Do you think having APP there would somehow benefit your kid and the APP kids? I don't.


Anonymous said…
PS, actually trying to talk about JAMS, but it's kind of impossible to not mention APP, since it's the district's solution to every capacity problem, so whether it's a good solution or not has to come up.

But I am interested in hearing from people who do not just frequent the same places as me about if they think the neighborhood JAMS program is big enough and whether they'd like to see more schools added or not.(but then, see, you have to decide whether to kick out or leave in APP, and there you go, you just said APP)

Is JAMS going to be a Spectrum school?

John S said…
Good letter from SCPTSA. I like their take on community engagement. I'd love to see SPS explore some new methods. I understand the difficulty as I try to picture a better way, but I'd be interested to see how other urban districts handle it. (Maybe this is a good thread topic?)

I'm also glad to see SCPTSA stepping up on this. They have been strangely silent the past couple of years, to the point that I have to admit I've pretty much stopped paying attention to them.
Anonymous said…
I have to agree with the "no APP at JAMS" crowd. It makes very little sense to assign the largest APP cohort to the school with the fewest resident APP students, and creating a teeny-tiny feeder pattern to do so.

What concerns me the most is what if the APP families don't show up for the first couple of years, and instead choose to accept their dual Eckstein assignment? JAMS will be hurting, with a tiny feeder pattern and the tiny budget that comes with it. Meanwhile, the crowding continues at Eckstein...which evidently people are willing to love to death.

We have an excellent planning principal (Paula Montgomery), and a great facility at Jane Addams. The auditorium and fields are amazing! The hallways are wide, even WITH lockers! JAMS has the potential to be a fabulous middle school.

BTW, Mr."E," if you are reading this we would LOVE to have you join us at JAMS!

Maybe I'm biased, because my kid will be at JAMS unless we bail on SPS and try for Shoreline, but I'm hoping JAMS will be a success.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
I assume there would be Spectrum at JAMS, and ability based math, in which case students are still separated on some level, but they still participate in the shared electives, after school activities, etc. Is that really so different from having APP there?

You are suggesting other neighborhoods be drawn in to "do the push" to start a new school, and increase [economic?] diversity, yet that seems to be the same reason APP was proposed for JAMS. So there is a shared desire to bring in a more affluent cohort under the assumption they will do the heavy lifting?

The whole "bussing kids in from a different neighborhood" argument just sounds so silly and territorial when it's only a matter of a few miles. Doesn't that whole NNE currently bus to Eckstein? Are "those" kids not part of Eckstein?
Anonymous said…
Yes, JAMS is slated to have Spectrum. In the 10/16 plan, Spectrum was also placed at Olympic Hills, which makes sense, so that there is a Spectrum feeder school for JAMS (and there should be room for Spectrum at Olympic Hills if APP isn't going in there).

Also, I thought the SCPTSA letter was very good, especially the part about lack of engagement with non-English speaking families. The translated Growth Boundaries info didn't go out to our school (John Rogers) until last week. Especially with all the changes up here (new Cedar Park attendance area and JAMS coming online, etc...), I am sure that there are a lot of families who will be caught off-guard.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
@ John S: The PTSA has not been silent. They've just been silent with you. You're probably in the same boat as I am - not in the clique.

The PTSA leadership of the past few years has been a very tight clique of NE moms. They are plenty active With Each Other. They share group emails and drinks and send their kids to the same public schools and vote for the same candidates. >>Think I exaggerate? After the election, see what the Dale-Etsey vote is in the Eckstein and Hamilton draw areas. She is going to stomp all over Peters via the chattering class.<< >>And why do you think Eckstein's crowding last year was treated like a World Crisis while the rest of us groveled for solutions for equally if not more pressing problems? Bah. Go to Martin-Morris's Saturday chat sometime when they're out in full force. Apparently he told them he only stayed on school board to get them a middle school. What a waste of a director space on the board.<<

PTSA Seattle has been a bunch of navelgazers in it for their own kids and families. Sorry, but that's the way it has been. Good for them for advocating for their kids. Glad they have the time and family finances to do so. It's their right and they've done it with aplomb. Bad for the rest of us. I've been asking my school to drop the group altogether and move to a different form of parent group. At least we'll keep the fees for our own kids. And not trust that PTSA leadership is helping us.

Yes, the letter was a good shot across the bow, but let's get serious, in the end it will still be about the NE Popular Moms.

NE Unpopular

mirmac1 said…
I'm new to the SCPTSA. Avoided them like a plague in the past. Too cozy with Enfield, some members of the board and the Alliance crowd. But this year (and this letter) shows me I might get along with the group.
Anonymous said…
Ouch! Nailed it NE unpopular. Can cross the letter off the to do list.
Anonymous said…
I think "those kids" do not currently feel they are much a part of Eckstein, which is why they are so happy to finally have a neighborhood middle school, and want it to be a success. I don't think anybody wants other families to just do the heavy lifting, but rather wants the neighborhood program to be truly diverse. Putting a program in alongside it with lower FRL numbers does not actually make the neighborhood program diverse. Yes, spectrum is less self contained than APP, so there would certainly be more mixing, and there are also more students in the NNE who access that program. And why NOT just put Wedgwood in? Draw the southern boundaries a bit north. We can quibble over precisely how many classes each Wedgwood student will take with Olympic Hills students, but the fact is it's definitely more, the demographics would be an immense improvement, there would be a larger neighborhood community, Wedgwood kids would still get a less crowded, excellent neighborhood school, and JAMS would be better.

There are several potential scenarios in which some or all of my kids ends up at JAMS, depending on the proposals, and the whole time I've disliked the inequity between Eckstein and JAMS neighborhood programs if APP gets housed in JAMS. Last year I assumed we'd get drawn into JAMS, and I am stunned at how far north the Eckstein boundaries go. Because of where it is located geographically, the JAMS neighborhood program is necessarily going to be somewhat poorer than Eckstein, but I want it to have the best possible start. The first thing, to me, is to draw a solid community of neighbors together, and that means more feeder schools. Not setting it up to fail. I think that if they keep the neighborhood program this poor, middle class families will try to get away from it, instead of seeking out what could be a great, diverse experience, with some tweaking. I think this is happening at Sand Point elementary right now, and wish it seemed like they were working on that with the new boundaries.

Patrick said…
NE Unpopular, that was my impression at Director Martin-Morris's chat the one time I went. Several people wanted to talk to him and for the first half hour he went around politely to each person answering questions or listening to concerns. He didn't get to me, but I figured fine, I'll get my turn.

Then, mystery woman appeared. District insiders probably know her face, but she was not introduced and I never found out who she was. For the entire rest of the "chat", she and M-M tuned out the rest of the group while she brought out charts and maps and told him all about what she thought. Everybody else ceased to exist as far as M-M and mystery woman were concerned. I don't know why they bothered taking up a table at the coffee shop, they could have sat in one of their living rooms for all the public engagement that went on.
Anonymous said…
@ sleeper

I agree with most of what you've posted. However, I bet that "those kids" who are currently at Eckstein do feel like they are part of Eckstein, and a split, if it happens next year, will be painful.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
The guiding principles of the growth boundaries include maximize walkability, minimize disruptions, and be mindful of fiscal impacts. Drawing Wedgwood into JAMS would not be consistent with those principles. Another guiding principal is create diversity within boundaries, which you suggest would be the reason (the sole reason) to draw Wedgwood into JAMS.
Anonymous said…
I agree that it is hard to move schools once you've started, and for that reason I used to be for roll ups, just to avoid that pain, and because I know they work at the elementary level. But after talking to staff about how small the budget is and how weak the schedules, classes, community, after school activities, and community are for those 6th graders, I do think a geo split is less painful overall. I hear about a lot of alienation at Eckstein from NNE families, though. But perhaps that is just because they are happy about getting a new middle school closer to them. Not because they have the extremely unusual 6th grader who wants to move schools!

I googled and did not come up with a lot about how other districts usually start middle schools. Do any of you know? I know of one district in VA that recently started one, and it was a geo split. They geo split new elementaries, too, though, no grandfathering. No community engagement process, they just did it. Makes sps look like softies.

Sleeper, you may be onto something with that "sleeper" wave of kids that may show up at JAMS.

The only way JAMS will succeed in with buy-in and yes, some willingness to step up and create that school community. If it had been me during this time, I would have put one or both sons into JAMS. Eckstein, a great school, also has a very distinct personality and if you are not part of the "in" crowd - either as a student or parent - it's not always great. I would love to be on the ground floor to create something great.

NE Unpopular, you may be speaking of some particular PTAS but the Seattle Council PTSA was made up of people from all over the district. That said, they seemed more interested in state advocacy than helping advocate for district issues. I welcome this firm and clear voice from SCPTA.

One fun fact from my recent visit to the district archives, we used to call them junior highs (that's what I grew up with).
TechyMom said…
Katherine is one of the most competent people I know. I expect great things from the SCPTA this year.
Anonymous said…
I like the SCPTSA letter. I agree that this process is too rushed, and unnecessarily so. It seems like there is broad consensus about that, whether your attendance area school is Maple or North Beach. It seems like staff is propelling most everyone into unnecessary chaos, and badly mangling walkability and community cohesion in the process. And what's worse, is where's the net gain? What's driving all of this?? It just seems WAY too premature.

JAMS is a case in point. That school is the comprehensive middle school implementation that goes first. There is a lot at stake. It should be done right. Does anyone think starting it with 2 k5s, OlympIc Hills and John Rogers, makes sense? Really? Given the long list of K5s and k8s that feed and will continue to feed to Eckstein? That then leads into a conversation about which k5s should feed to JAMS, but because of the long skinny attendance areas, it gets to be crazy-making. Which is why JAMS should be more like Nathan Hale, and be fed with a territory, perhaps with 90th being the line or 85th, whatever the numbers say would balance it out. That would start it up with its community of neighbours, who will then feed to Hale together. That would make sense. K5 boundary adjustments in the NE wouldn't be so loaded and difficult. It would keep neighborhoods together and respect walkability. That's what should be done to solve the problem and establish JAMS as the north NE school, community buy-in will happen when the Principal gets out in front of the community and starts sharing her vision and highlighting a strong teaching group. JAMS deserves nothing less. Meany will then follow, as will WP.

And what's proposed in the south/south east is whacky. The crazy train needs to stop. A lot of bad planning centers on what is proposed for Dearborne, but the pulls to and from Mercer are equally nutty. Leave Hawthorn alone! Stop messing with Beacon Hill. And the list goes on.

Which is why I like the SCPTSA letter. I say: STOP! Stop before permanent damage is done. Before you break it, and make it unfixable. World school to TT Minor? Really? They will just have to move again in 4 years. Kind of like their pals at NOVA, who left Mann and now are going back to Mann. I worry for World School.

So stop. Just do what must be done this year, like an adjustment between Hay and Lowell, Like starting JAMS, and whatever else is an obvious fix or need, and leave the rest. Because the plan is too rushed and doesn't make sense.

Slow Down, this is very much the conversation last Saturday at Director Martin-Morris' meeting.

They were talking about historic high school boundary lines (like NE 80th or 85th) rather than random=looking boundaries. It seems to be the same for middle school.

Yes, I believe this rush will not play out well and hitting the pause button could show other options that give time for the most input and best planning.
Benjamin Leis said…
Playing Devil's Advocate: The staff is generally bad at long range planning. They particularly have tended to defer painful decisions until they become an emergency. So I think its actually quite valuable to debate the long term plan right now. Let's actually plan for once and give everyone a roadmap to work against. What I don't think has been that great so far is the actual planning process. This is where I think the PTSA letter is valuable. By all means let's have the conversation right now. But let's see the reasoning behind the changes and spend the next few months getting it right. The worst thing to do would be to kick the can down the road and then repeat the current cycle again in the next inevitable emergency.
Anonymous said…
If the process stretches out until late January instead of a board vote in November 20, is there a downside? Are there things that must be done in December/January that depend on the boundaries being set? I'm trying to understand why the timeline for such a major change has been so rushed.

There is and there isn't.

Enrollment needs to plan where all those kids will go. They will be revamping schools/tiebreakers/etc. A big lift.

But, other things can happen. Double-shifts, more portables (and I have news on that front from the district archives - this is NOT the portable high point for this district).

I don't think it's kicking the can down the road - it's getting a system with many moving parts in the best position for NOW and in the future.
Patrick said…
Families also ought to know what's going to happen before open enrollment.

Some concern was expressed at the JAK-8 meeting last night about how many middle school families would choose to go to JAMS instead of with JAK-8 to Marshall. I'm sure a few will, based on convenience to their neighborhood and Marshall being a less than ideal building in a less than ideal site. However, it seems equally possible that some Eckstein families might choose to go to JAK-8 at Marshall rather than be split off to a brand new school with unknown teachers.
Anonymous said…
I second what Patrick said. This needs to be settled prior to open enrollment!

apparent said…
Why not REOPEN John Marshall Middle School as a comprehensive middle school in 2014 including APP (North) MS intact, along with some other SPS program? Restoring John Marshall Middle School to its original school purpose would allow revision of attendance area boundaries in line with enrollment and capacity, including equitable access to advanced learning services and programs as a key component in those boundary revisions.

Version 2's “Capacity Management” big issue recommendations (Slides 21-25) are internally inconsistent with its preceding request for board direction in the “Accelerated Progress Program (APP)” big issue section (Slides 16-20). Proposing an immediate APP (North) MS 3-way split, Version 2 actually eliminates one of its own stated open options: “1 all-APP school for elementary APP, 1 all APP-school for middle school.”

Where could the APP (North) MS cohort be housed intact, rather than the 3-way split currently being recommended in Version 2 by Superintendent Banda?

The SPS board should reopen 952-seat John Marshall Middle School as a fully comprehensive middle school in Fall 2014, and assign APP (North) MS intact to this building (cohousing not with an attendance area school, but with another program, e.g. Pinehurst K-8?). As Version 1 previously recommended, the SPS board should also cohouse Jane Addams K-8 with Jane Addams MS during their respective interim construction

Instead, under the heading “North Middle Schools: Full Grade Assignment in Year One,” Version 2 recommends filling John Marshall Middle School with Jane Addams K-8 for two years beginning Fall 2014, forecasting enrollment of 808 rising to 819 students (including many who would actually transfer through choice over to Jane Addams MS). Then in Fall 2016, after Jane Addams K-8 would have moved out, a 2/7 cohort NW APP Wilson-Pacific MS Pathway and the new Wilson-Pacific attendance area MS would be moved together into John Marshall Middle School to begin a 6th grade roll-up, with forecasted combined enrollment of 779 students for one year before a shared move to the new Wilson-Pacific Middle School building in 2017 (Slides 21-22 & 24-25).

This current October 16 proposal replaces Version 1, which recommended interim “Co-location of Jane Addams K-8 and JAMS at JAMS 2014-15 and 2015-16" with “Addition of significant numbers of portables to Jane Addams campus.” The SPS board should now reject the new alternative proposal in Version 2 because it would force an immediate 3-way split of APP (North) MS, while simultaneously squeezing that same intact cohort (i.e. about 550 APP middle schoolers at Hamilton) out of presently available interim and indeed permanent space in John Marshall Middle School (952 seats).

So the SPS board should adopt the much more sensible earlier interim proposal in Version 1: cohouse Jane Addams Middle School and Jane Addams K-8 during their new building construction. The board should also reopen John Marshall Middle School as a fully comprehensive middle school including APP (North) MS intact in Fall 2014, together with some right-sized option program. Without a needless split, there will be no reason to place 3/7 of the APP (North) MS cohort into Jane Addams Middle School, and this will save as many as 300 seats for JAMS attendance area students.
Anonymous said…
I don't think the district should slow down because they do things too slowly as is and the capacity issues are real and a problem at overcrowded schools and must be addressed before open enrollment begins.

I also don't have a problem with them providing computerized options to provide input -- if the only choice had been to go to a meeting, I never could have provided input, but I did review the maps and use the survey to provide feedback. Would be great if they had done MORE types of real, substantive engagement, but I wouldn't critique them for providing at least some options. I am sure there are districts out there that would simply draw the boundary lines without any rounds of public engagement at all.

What I DO agree with the letter about is the random decisions in the second round of changes with no reasoning provided. Stevens is over capacity and the first round of changes therefore logically shrunk its area. Now in the second round other different areas are ADDED to its attendance area, with no explanation provided of why this was done or how ADDING to the size of its area is going to fix its over-capacity problems.

-- A Stevens Mom
kellie said…
I think the letter is very solid.

There are things that must be done on Nov 20th in order to put all the rules in place for open enrollment for the 2014 school year. The few years that the "discussion" went past the Nov deadline, open enrollment was pushed out to March or as last as May and that is not good for anyone.

However, there are a lot of things in this plan that have nothing to do with the 2014 school year and there is no reason those items can't be given additional time.

Moreover, there seems to many parts of town that are suggesting the middle school assignment is address based like high school. The biggest effect of that change would mean that you could make a change at either elementary or middle school without generating over a dozen secondary changes.

The cascade effect in the south end, due to the change at Dearborn Park would not have happened is the middle school areas were independent. Based on this one question alone, which can only be decided by the board, many pieces of this puzzle just need to wait.

Reversing almost everything from the 08 closures has taken a toll on many communities. It would beyond unnecessary to generate all of these changes to elementary attendance areas so that the attendance areas can conform to a middle school feeder pattern and then a year from now move to address based assignment.

That then creates a very interesting question. What has to happen for the 2014 school year and what can wait?
Lynn said…

What do you think has to happen now?
kellie said…
@ Lynn,

That is a big question and probably needs its own thread.

The board already voted to start JAMS next September so everything related to JAMS opening needs to be settled. That would include the open questions of APP at Lincoln and the K8 at JM. Both of those questions would have to be settled one way or another to be able to set boundaries for JAMS.

However, WP boundaries do not need to be settled. There is likely going to be a lot more changes in the next three years that would most likely cause today's best guess to be undone. So that can wait.

Part of Hay to Lowell should have been done last year so that should happen now.

Fairmont Park is opening in September so everything related to Fairmont needs to be settled, which most likely means Schmitz and Genesee need to be settled. However, Boren and Arbor Heights could wait.

Those are the things that seem to be both critical and urgent because they need to happen one way or another in September 2014, whereas most of the other changes will be "phased in over time."

But after there there is a lot of room for debate. There are Steven's families that think the Steven's / Madronna boundary needs to be settled now. But some that would rather wait until the TT Minor question is settled as the families that would go from Stevens to Madronna are the same families that would then boomerang to TT Minor if that opened.
Anonymous said…
@ Kellie


I do not even understand WHY the District feels compelled to draw imaginary boundaries for schools not yet built and, by domino effect, change so much so soon for everyone for things that will happen 4, 5 years from now. Because, the net effect is that they are changing things today that are working today.

Why are they so intent on damaging Maple? A school the community works so hard to make great and cohesive? Or, for that matter, the whole south end? Just leave Beacon Hill alone.

The 'grand plan' is too grand. It makes no sense. Especially when their track record at predicating the future a few years out has been abysmal. So, they will make whole-systems decisions today about things 6 years out? And thus change all of the boundaries now? And, what if they are wrong? What happens in two years when they have to come back and correct their mistakes? What happens to families, neighborhoods? Siblings will have been split. Children are not ping-pong balls, they can't just bounce around.

So, I agree with Kellie. Seems like a lot of people do. Perhaps the Board members will too, and, act accordingly?

Which is why, I say,

Lynn said…
Thanks. Those things make sense to me.

I think anything that can be done to open Meany earlier should be a priority. Could World School move to leased space (there are less than 225 students I think) until their new school is ready for them? If not, could renovations on the NOVA side of the building start this summer?

I haven't heard any discussion of how Fairmount Park will open. If it's a roll up the school won't have many resources allocated to it in the early years. Do parents care about that in elementary schools?

The hold up in the north end is clearly the Curriculum and Instruction staff. They have to decide before the November 20th vote how highly capable services will be delivered and they're not even going to begin the discussion until December. It seems there hasn't been any communication between staff working on Growth Boundaries and Teaching and Learning. Who dropped that ball? There are enough APP kids in the north end for two middle school pathways. The problem is finding two middle school communities who are willing to take them.
Anonymous said…
I agree that some parts of Growth Boundaries could be slowed down, but others, like JAMS, need to be settled ASAP, so we can move on with the planning for the school itself.

There is a community meeting scheduled for the Jane Addams building re-purposing project (Nov 7th, 6:00-7:30, Jane Addams cafeteria), but so far, there have been no community meetings scheduled for planning the programming, focus, etc... of the new middle school. I am hoping that these types of meetings will be scheduled as soon as it is known who will be assigned to JAMS.

Last year, many neighborhood families supported Director Peaslee's amendment to put off the assignment of students to JAMS for one year (until 2014-15), so there would be adequate time to plan a new comprehensive middle school. We have a Planning Principal, which I'm grateful for, but in order for proper community input to be considered prior to staff hiring, we have to get started on the community input piece ASAP.

This planning year almost didn't happen, and we need to make it count.

The JAMS boundary decisions cannot be postponed until late January. If they were, we would be in the same boat as last year, when it was January and families were finding out for the first time that their Eckstein-bound 5th grader may not be assigned to Eckstein.

So, I agree with Kellie, JAMS is one example of planning decisions that need to be made as part of the the Growth Boundaries vote in November.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
And I assume that any planning re: JAMS opening next year needs to also involve Eckstein and Hamilton boundary and program assignment issues, no?

Anonymous said…
1. VNESS speaks because last year Eckstein PTA voted to silence itself on all boundary issues. No devote this year.
2. Tons if board positions still open on the Eckstein PTA. Don't like VNESS? Step up.
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