Finding Solutions: Where is the Leadership?
This issue of homes for Cascade and NW Center Kids is but one of the first capital dominoes to fall. The new 2014-2015 budget reflects that the growth isn't quite what the district expected. At this point, that doesn't matter.
The district simply does not have the capacity for the students who continue to pour in. There will be more dominoes and the number and speed at which they fall will only get faster.
There are huge mistakes being made in our capital building and thinking. Someone needs to have the political courage to do something but what is it going to take?
I have heard from a number of different people on the front lines of the issue of housing both Cascade Parent Partnership and NW Center Kids.
There has been an astonishing amount of "haven't heard from them", "didn't know" and "they offered no options." Somewhere in there is the truth.
It's like in Cool Hand Luke - "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." And, there are smart people involved so I suspect that rather than ineptness, there is some pridefulness going on.
- Just upfront, I think that Rep. Reuven Carlyle is just trying to act as a facilitator/go-between on this issue and is not advocating anything except for the district and the City to work together. But it is a delicate matter when you are talking about jurisdictions and elected official turf.
- NW Center Kids is an established program that serves both disabled and developmentally on-target children. It has been a program for over 25 years. Some of the student in the program would be SPS students - or at least SPS would be responsible for their education - if they were not in this program.
They knew - according to CEO Tom Everill - that the district was having some talk about capacity issues and had even been considering a downtown school from an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2012 where Michael DeBell was interviewed. And yes, some Cascade parents did tour the QA building. But Mr. Everill asked, at the time, if any changes were coming, to please be kept in the loop. He never heard anything about the building being taken until they received notice.
So you have a tenant asking a landlord to be apprised if the building's lease will not be renewed. Doesn't sound like a lot.
I asked him that with his knowledge of these capacity issues why they went ahead with the use of a gift to renovate their building. He said that after his request he never heard anything and thought that the district would have let him know especially after the group giving the money for the renovations went to the district about doing them. (And c'mon , the districtnever would have allowed those renovations to happen without their knowledge.)
I would say that clearly some finger-crossing (that it was all talk by the district) happened at NW Center. But then again, you ask to be kept in the loop and you are not and it's not exactly a poor judgment to make.
- Cascade Parent Parentship serves a diverse group of students that even the Superintendent says were failed to be served at other SPS schools. It is an incredibly diverse group - racially and socioeconomically - who treasures their community. You can feel that walking in the door. And yet they are in an incredibly terrible building. They have been made promises that were not kept. They have been kept in limbo over where they would go. And now they are being told they will get a building - at the expense of another established program - but will have to stay in their crappy building but with massive demolition going on all around them for at least 6 months.
- I have been told - by three different players in this arena - that the City has been supportive of finding a solution but has offered no options or solutions themselves. I am trying to verify if this is true.
But the point is that the City knows many more possibilities than the district ever could. And they could offer no answer to either program? It is very difficult to see City officials insert themselves into a discussion without answers. I can appreciate that maybe they don't want to overstep their bounds given the City has no real role in running schools. But no one is asking them to run anything - they're asking for the City's knowledge and expertise on buildings around the City (like at Magnuson).
Here's what I think should happen and pronto:
-leave NW Center in that building. It has been their home and upgraded - with the district's knowledge - and to find another facility, with the specifications they need in a short period of time, is a Herculean task.
Because NW Center is a community-based program and the district would be allowing them to stay, then the district AND the City should be working together with the City offering ideas of where Cascade could move.
There have got to be spaces that the City either has or knows of that would be suitable for Cascade for at least 5 years (until the district gets their capacity footing and plan). And, the City and the district should split the costs of leasing that space.
If this cannot happen - by either/both the district and the City's inability to get - it - together - then they are both to blame for the suffering that is going to happen to both programs.
The district's proposal is just a no-go to me. I've thought about it and I always go back to "is this what I would want/allow for my child?" And the answer is no. (And again, if this was being suggested for any regular-type elementary, the parents would be up in arms. )
Even if the district does exit NW Center, Cascade still can't move there. So, one way or another, a new and better and existing home has to be found for Cascade. It would seem leaving NW Center where it is and asking the City to be good partners and find a home for Cascade - which is not as specific in its needs as NW Center - would be the way to go for the best outcomes.
Where are the grown-ups and, more specifically, where is the leadership?