Seattle Schools Announces a "Partnership" with Africatown Center for Education & Innovation

I am beyond baffled about what is going on with the district, the ACEI, Nova and the Mann Building. 

I am saying - upfront - that I believe there is much more to this story than we know (there's a backstory there somewhere).  I continue in my belief that it will not turn out well. 

I am also dismayed to see this all happening so fast as I wonder if African-American parents - throughout the entire district - have not been consulted and, as has been pointed out previously, no one group is monolithic so no one group can claim to speak for everyone.

As we know there was this hastily thrown-together, unadvertised taskforce around some of the groups that were squatting in the Mann building. 

Then, I read about the ACEI's plans for the outside of the Mann building and the votes taken on what the district should do.  The district's notes from the last taskforce meeting are here (partial):

  • Of the 25-person task force, 18 people were there and voted, a quorum of the task force.
  • Not every person chose to answer every question.
  • On question 3b, of the people who chose to agree/strongly agree, four had an October 4th note, two had an October 7th note.
Superintendent Banda sent this letter to the ACEI on September 23rd (partial but you should read the whole thing):

At Seattle Public Schools, we are committed to developing the services, programs and infrastructure to support all students to succeed and graduate from high school prepared for college, careers and life.  The District is committed to partnering with the Africatown Education and Curriculum Committee.  

As I attended meetings at the Horace Mann building, it was clear that innovative work and programs were happening.  This is why I established the Horace Mann-African American Community Partnerships Task Force and delayed the construction process as long as possible.

The vision of a school-community partnership for our African-American youth, in which we can collaborate on programming, funding, and shared and dedicated space, is important and urgent.

I have given staff the charge of creating and enlisting members for the Success for African-American Students Advisory Committee (SAASAC). The advisory committee will be charged with:
  • reviewing academic and disciplinary data for African-American students Districtwide;
  • looking at the curriculum for black history in America; and
  • making recommendations for programs.
Let me just state that the district issued NO press release around this new partnership at the time.  No announcement, no press conference.

This seems to be quite the in-depth commitment.  I am still waiting - via public disclosure - to see what supporting information/documentation that the Superintendent used to create this partnership.  I'd like to see the proposal outlining what this partnership. 
As well, I'd like to see the leasing agreement for the space this group will use, when it is available. For example, they said they needed storage space and I'm fairly sure the district - when they have programs come in - don't give away school storage space.

So this group gets a portable to use at Mann.  They have access to the building after-hours.   From the Superintendent's letter:
If you sign an agreement to lease space from the District, we will be able to help you move from the Horace Mann building to your new location.
I'll have to ask if this is district policy to use district money to move private groups to and from district buildings.  Could be, for all I know.

The building is to be turned over to the contractors by Monday, the 28th.  The portable can only be used until March of 2014. 

Nova, meanwhile, wrote a lovely letter that includes this paragraph at the end:

For all of the above reasons, we, the undersigned staff and families of Nova, support an open community process to determine the future of the Horace Mann and other SPS buildings. We seek an inclusive dialogue that will best serve the interests of Central District communities as well as the students and families of Nova and other SPS schools.
I see that it doesn't say anything about sharing the building.  

The district did put out a press release (which is dated on October 3 but I didn't get it until Friday, the 4th for an event that the ACEI was putting on at Mann today, Saturday, the 5th.  The ACEI had previously announced this event but the district decided, seemingly at the last minute to announce the partnership via the event.   Part of the event announcement:

At 1:00 p.m., Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda will share details of the growing relationship and partnership between AEIC and SPS. 

I did not attend this event so if you did, let us know what the Superintendent said.


Lynn said…
I too would like to see the terms of their lease with the district if they do sign one. Who will pay the rent on an interim space? Will they be required to carry insurance against child abuse? Will their staff be required to take the district's Adult Sexual Misconduct training class?

Within the last month they asked the district to delay construction on the building for a year - and expected the blueprints to be changed to include a gymnasium for their program. I don't think this is over. How many different 'required to vacate by' dates have they been given? They're not going anywhere.
john said…
But when it all ends badly, there will be no one to be held accountable
Anonymous said…
Perhaps the District is open to acting as an incubator. I should hope that this would establish precedence for other groups in the future as well. Of course I hope the District also ensures that its partners are meeting basic liability and safety requirements.

I don't understand why Africatown would need a gymnasium, there are two large ones across the street atGarfield Community Center.

Coyote Central, a non-profit that provides arts and hands-on learning classes, is also located a couple lots away from Mann

The FAME Center at the old MLK building offers dance classes.

ArtsCorps is providing arts education to Central Seattle schools and programs:

Anonymous said…
Hey, maybe the broader lesson here is how to get what you want from the district?

I'm thinking about Pinehurst. Maybe they need to stage a sit-in of sorts too, and threaten to not leave the building.

Not saying the situations are similar at all, of course, they are very, very different. One community is fighting for survival, and one community is fighting a broader institutional racism.

Point is, one community that had no franchise is not getting one, and one community that's been a franchise for 40 years is forced to expire.

The process shouldn't have to break down to resort to these kinds of tactics, however, it has, and the tactic has proven effective for one community. Just saying, there might be a lesson in it for all those who are trying to work with the district.

Pinehurst fan
Pinehurst, point taken.

I will say that parents of African-American children have been asking for more input and listening to their ideas for decades. That has happened sporadically. So it's a good thing the district = via the Superintendent - are listening.

But, it's who you listen to that counts sometimes. I am very wary of these groups and I don't feel there is solid footing for which the district to base their trust upon.

I also don't know that starting one program in one area of the district will benefit all African-American students. There seems to have been zero attempt to include other parents from around the district.
Anonymous said…
Lynn and Melissa,

"Will they be required to carry insurance against child abuse? Will their staff be required to take the district's Adult Sexual Misconduct training class?"

Good questions? Is this something the PTAs carry in their insurance? What about all those after school clubs -chess, foreign languages, debate, knitting, theater, robotics,music, the Scouts, and CFGs? Do they fall under the district's liability coverage or does each club have to purchase it's own coverage? As a parent volunteer, I never got the Training for Adult Sexual Misconduct. I can't seem to find it in the district's website. There is something for district employees though. Is this part of the more extensive background check for overnight trips this year?

Anonymous said…
Did a little more digging about after school use of district facilities. This is from SCPTSA

Reading through the PTA document, there are ways to get rent space waived. There's NO requirement for scholarships in exchange for free rental space either, just an EXPECTATION that allows for some number of low income students to sign up. Also some explanations about liability insurance assumed by PTA or other vendor instead of the district's. The insurance discussion didn't specify child abuse rider, but perhaps that's already included within PTA insurance policy. More confusion over teachers led clubs/activities where there's fee involved and how teacher payment should be made through PTA or through district.

Curious, good to know but none of these groups are PTA affliated. But every group that deals with children (without their parents present) has to go through a child sexual abuse training. This was in the original lease and I believe is attached to a RCW.

I'll try to get clarity on this issue.
Anonymous said…
In all the talk about African-Americans in SPS, it's important to remember that even though they fit into one racial category, there are actually several distinctly different cultural groups: 1) those whose families/ancestors have been in the U.S. for generations, if not hundreds of years; 2) those whose families recently immigrated and are strongly Muslim (girls wear the hijab, all eat halal, observe Ramadan, etc.) 3) those whose families recently immigrated and are not Muslim (many/most are Eritrean or Ethiopian Orthodox).
For any group to say they represent or will reach out to all African Americans is rather suspect. There's a big difference between kids whose families have dealt with racism from Civil Rights days and slavery vs. kids whose families have recently fled civil war on another continent with its accompanying trauma. Both have needs, but I would suspect they would be quite different.
Seattle has a large population of Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans, among others. Many schools in SPS have more immigrant Africans that still speak their native languages, than long-time African Americans
Jet City mom said…
In my experience as a tutor, their needs indeed are very different, and I have also observed hostility between ( just a few- but they are noisy)certain members of the groups. ( mostly one direction)

In 2011 SPS released a study illustrating that african americans who spoke another language at home score higher than african americans who speak English at home.

Involvement could be why.

Still True... said…

“While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”...

...“My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered...For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 16, 1963
Time Machine said…
May 13, 1958

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

My dear Mr. President:

I was sitting in the audience at the Summit Meeting of Negro Leaders yesterday when you said we must have patience. On hearing you say this, I felt like standing up and saying, 'Oh no! Not again.'

I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people. When you said we must have self-respect, I wondered how we could have self-respect and remain patient considering the treatment accorded us through the years.

17 million Negroes cannot do as you suggest and wait for the hearts of men to change. We want to enjoy now the rights that we feel we are entitled to as Americans. This we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all other Americans achieved over 150 years ago.

As the chief executive of our nation, I respectfully suggest that you unwittingly crush the spirit of freedom in Negroes by constantly urging forbearance and give hope to those pro-segregation leaders like Governor Faubus who would take from us even those freedoms we now enjoy. Your own experience with Governor Faubus is proof enough that forbearance and not eventual integration is the goal the pro-segregation leaders seek.

In my view, an unequivocal statement backed up by action such as you demonstrated you could take last fall in dealing with Governor Faubus if it became necessary, would let it be known that America is determined to provide—in the near future—for Negroes—the freedoms we are entitled to under the constitution.

Respectfully yours,


Jackie Robinson


Wait No More
mirmac1 said…
"Education Summit and Partnership Celebration at the Horace Mann building on October 5

On Saturday, October 5, the Africatown Education and Innovation Center (AEIC), which is currently housed in the Horace Mann building, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will hold a public Education Summit and Celebration. The public is welcome to attend. Activities begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Horace Mann building.

The AEIC Education Summit will focus on culturally inclusive curriculum and community ownership. It will include breakout sessions on curriculum alignment for African American teachers and administrators, parent engagement, advocacy/organizing for community and parents and an exhibition of youth programs. There will also be a health and wellness component to the celebration.

The AEIC and SPS honor African American elders and ancestors by recognizing the oral histories as told by Horace Mann school building alumni. A drop-in video booth will be available throughout the day. These stories will ultimately be placed in a time capsule that will be housed in the building. Africatown community students’ work will be displayed and a station where the public can contribute to the AEIC’s ofrenda for El Centro de la Raza’s Día de los Muertos celebration will be available.

An on-site portable will be painted by central district artists to honor the growing partnership between the African-American community and SPS There will also be an opportunity for community artists to register to paint the construction walls that will be placed around the perimeter of the Mann building.

At 1:00 p.m., Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda will share details of the growing relationship and partnership between AEIC and SPS.

What: Education Summit and Partnership Celebration

Who: Seattle Public Schools in partnership with the Africatown Education and Innovation Center

When: Saturday, October 5, 2013

Times: Honoring History Video Booth open: 11:00 – 5:00 p.m. (and on-going)

AEIC Education Summit: 12 - 4:00 p.m.

Remarks by Superintendent Jose Banda: 1:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Portable painting and artist registration for construction murals: 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Location: Horace Mann building, 2410 E. Cherry Street, Seattle"

I'm excited for the group. I hope they get the support they'll need to succeed.
Jet City mom said…
My family has lived in the Central district since my grandmother & her sisters came with their families from the midwest during WWII, but i was not aware of the covenants banning Japanese, African American & Jewish families elsewhere as it has always been a very diverse neighborhood.
Whole Truth said…
Melissa, for whatever reasons you omitted the following clearly stated in NOVA Letter...

"We do not support the forced relocation of the current programs in the Mann building and are working to explore other possibilities, including collaboratively co-housing with these programs or an alternative location for Nova."

Full text below. Link here

Educational Justice and the Horace Mann Building
The Nova Project Alternative High School is a democratically-run, all-city-draw, inquiry-based learning community that emphasizes social justice and the arts. We work to educate ourselves and take action around power and privilege and to make our school accessible and inclusive to all students and families. We also strive to maintain and develop a school where LGBTQ students, families, and staff, including LGBTQ people of color, can thrive.

We respect the unique importance of the Central District as the historic heart of Seattle’s African American community, and we recognize and oppose the recent gentrification and subsequent displacement of communities of color out of the CD.

We also recognize that, historically, the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has not adequately served African American and other students and families of color. We believe that both of these facts point to the need for long-overdue action on behalf of SPS to listen to and work with communities of color to meet the needs of all students.

Four years ago, SPS displaced Nova from the Horace Mann building and moved us to the Meany building. We fought to stop our displacement and to create solidarity among all of the programs facing closure. After over 30 years of making the Horace Mann building our school’s home, we were heartbroken by our forced move and have no desire for anyone else to be displaced. We do not support the forced relocation of the current programs in the Mann building and are working to explore other possibilities, including collaboratively co-housing with these programs or an alternative location for Nova.

For all of the above reasons, we, the undersigned staff and families of Nova, support an open community process to determine the future of the Horace Mann and other SPS buildings. We seek an inclusive dialogue that will best serve the interests of Central District communities as well as the students and families of Nova and other SPS schools.
Charlie Mas said…
That "NOVA Letter" was a petition circulated among the NOVA community. How many signatures did it get?

It was not a statement that got majority approval from the NOVA Community or the NOVA PTA. It was a petition that was circulated.
erik tanen said…
NOVA and the World school needs to move to their new locations so that Meany can be renovated so that Washington middle school can serve kids with out overcrowding them . This decision was public for more than one year. Just because some group comes in at the last minute and wants to jump up and down and cry we should not stop a process that was in the making for more than a year.
There had been plenty of community engagement during the past year. If the district can not just move forward with a well thought out plan then they are more incompetent than I thought.
Of course there is some degree of racism in the system, but this is the wrong fix at the wrong time and will harm the kids that they are wanting to help. The entire central region needs this to move forward.
I note that the groups in the building did not move out in a timely manner. I think it was at the fourth or fifth date given and they still left on their own accord.

The building, as of today, appears to be empty, save the numerous flags around the perimeter of the fencing. (As well as two Ed Murray campaign signs that should not be on school grounds.)

At the More for Mann Facebook page, one supporter called out Ron English for sending in security people to have the building cleared, saying that Mr. Garrett of Africatown is "still in negotiations" with Superintendent Banda. That may be true but it doesn't mean the building didn't need to be vacated in a timely manner. It also stated that Mr. English is not just an enemy of black people but all people.

The supporter also called Mr. English and Ms. McEvoy "dogs."

There are no comments in defense of the district or staff at the More for Mann Facebook page.

Not a great starting position to negotiate from.
Ed Lambert said…
Why has there not been a vote at Nova? For a 'democratically run' school, my student has not seen a democratic process to address this issue.
Ed Lambert said…
Perhaps that would have helped stop the unwise closures of good programs such as As1, Summit and the African American Academy.
Lynn said…
Ed - what issue would you like them to vote on?
Lynn said…
Sorry Ed - that wasn't very clear. I am accustomed to voting when there is a choice to be made. What choice do you believe the NOVA community is facing?
Ed Lambert said…
Sorry, I thought that replies to comments stayed 'attached' to those comments.

My 'voting' comment was aimed at Charlie's comment from 10/7/13, 1:13 PM that seemed to minimize the petition written by Nova teachers and circulated in the community.

A petition is not a democratic indicator of collective thinking, so you can't use it as proof for either 'side' (Charlie was using it is a counter-example).

Which brings me to my point: I find it odd that a 'democratically-run, social justice-focused' school is NOT using some sort of democratic process to gauge their collective thinking on an ACTUAL social justice issue that they in the middle of.

According to my student there, "most students seem to support not booting out the ACIC", but there has not been organized among the broader community of students and families.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, I went to the summit on Saturday and there were numerous community groups there from across the city and across the region, as well as notable educational scholars from multiple colleges and universities. This is not just a narrow project of a few Black families in the Central District; it is an attempt to create a pilot program that can develop curriculum and community engagement models which could be replicated elsewhere. I've sat through many professional development meetings and graduate school classes on race and pedagogy, and what I heard in an hour at Mann was much more valuable then these - it resonated much more with my experiences as an educator who works with Black youth on a daily basis. I hope the program thrives and that its successes can be replicated across the district. For that to be possible, there needs to be continuity of programming, which means the district should agree, in writing, to allowing the ACIC to stay in the portable at Mann and to access space elsewhere in the district until the construction is completed.

Also, I checked with some of the Africatown organizers yesterday and they are still in the building, contrary to your assertion in this thread.

I agree with Ed about the question of Nova support and the need for a democratic vote on this issue.
Lynn said…

My point is that the NOVA community has no control over whether or not ACIC is 'booted out' of the building. The district determines how buildings are used. I suppose they could vote on whether they will advocate for allowing use of the completed building outside of school hours - is that what you are thinking?

Also - I don't think whether they're leaving now or not is in question. I understand that Wyking has been given notice many times that the building must be vacated. With so many "notable educational scholars from multiple colleges and universities" supporting the programs, they should have no trouble raising funds to rent alternate space from the district or another entity.

Anonymous above - do the organizers you spoke with have a planned response to their inevitable eviction?
Ed Lambert said…
I am suggesting that NOVA should stand in solidarity with the AIC and actively resist eviction.

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