Seattle Schools' Tours

Have you been on a tour yet?  Where and how was it?

Had a friend who went to an IBX meeting at Ingraham and said it was absolutely packed to the rafters. 

I recently got a private tour of Sand Point Elementary (which I had never been to and had wanted to check out).  Very impressive.  For those of you who wondered how well a new start-up school can do, here's proof.  And, it's a team effort with the principal (Dan Warren), staff and parents. 

Principal Warren had done his homework in checking out the Sand Point of former years.  It was opened in 1956 with 13 (gulp) portables as the school and with a K-6 enrollment of 309 students.

 (Actually checking district archives, Pontiac Elementary opened in 1890 by the Yesler School district and was annexed into SPS in 1911.  The land was then sold to the federal government in 1926.  But in early 1941, Navy parents at Sand Point Housing wanted a school and staged a one-day strike and out of 51 children, 48 stayed home.  It didn't work.  But 15 years later, they got their school.  "By then, SPS' enrollment was only second to LA in the western states."  A school was built and it opened in 1958 with 407 students.  The school then became a K-5 in 1971.)

Today's Sand Point has about 275 students and one of the most diverse student populations I have ever seen.  It is 33% African-American, 25% Asian, 25% White and 14% Hispanic with 54% F/RL and 28% ELL.  (I have a friend who has one child there and was worried about it not being an "established" school like Laurelhurst or Bryant.  She cannot sing its praises more because of the diversity, the solid parent group and Mr. Warren and his staff.)
They have a lot of volunteer tutors, including the Washington Reading Corps, who do one-on-one tutoring.  This seems to be paying off in their MSP scores -
  • for reading in grades 3-5, they average 80%,
  •  for math 4-5, the 4th graders scored at 48% and the 5th graders at an amazing 84.6%
  • the 5th grade science score was 78.9%
They also have a student newspaper and a garden club at recess during the spring months (it's an impressive looking garden and a nearby restaurant chef comes over once a year to help harvest herbs and show the kids how to use them). 

Download photo.JPG (793.7 KB)They are the mighty Squirrels and Mr. Warren's bookcase in his office reflects that.  The building is kid-sized (which means I was very comfortable but I noticed Warren almost had to duck going thru the cafeteria.)  It's a good-sized room with a nice stage and gets used in the afternoons for after-school care.  Some really good offerings there including Spanish, Lego building and art.  They have a covered space for rainy day recess and the PTA - in its first year - raised $60k to create a better, larger playground.  They have four portables and are getting at least one more.

Principal Warren - who was previously at Blaine and then John Hay - says he appreciates the small size of the school and being able to really know every single child (including his own daughter who attends SP as well).  He says he has no idea how large the school will eventually grow to in the future.  But he said he was able to pick his staff and had just four teachers at the beginning. 

Not to say they don't have struggles like every school.  But for a school that has just been opened a couple of years, it's a very solid launch. 

One of the most lovely things was a mosaic on a lobby wall - created in the first year of this new school - by parents and students.  It's a great start. 


Anonymous said…
Tours of Ingraham and Garfield were both great! Both were packed to the gills too.
-8th grade parent
Anonymous said…
Visited Hamilton during the open house for my incoming 6th grader. I thought it was really disorganized and lacked meaningful content. No real "tour" and while I had the opportunity to speak with one teacher for about 5 minutes, the experience was free for all. Not terribly impressed.
-Future HIMS mom
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
We haven't gone on any tours yet, foolishly waiting for our eligibility letter before deciding what exactly we should be looking at.... So now, even if my kid does qualify for something different, it will be too late to tour the schools by the time we hear.

Way to go, YET AGAIN, SPS. This place is a train wreck.

Sorry, feeling a tad pissed off right now.

- Past Frustrated
Eric B said…
We had a similar experience with HIMS, although we did have a few good conversations with teachers. Those mostly started with other teachers pointing us in the right direction. A good thing was the number of students who were there.

Whitman had a much more organized night, but with few or no student involvement.
Anonymous said…
Mercer Middle School is quite impressive based on the tour. Parents of kids there talk very highly of it, it's test scores are beyond impressive, and it has tons of resources. It's a gem; though tours are over, I'd encourage people to check it out if you can.
Anonymous said…
Past Frustrated,

In case you're in the NE Region here is a blurb about APP enrollment at JAMS, and info. from Enrollment on how to submit your forms even if you have not been notified of eligibility...

JAMS principal Paula Montgomery has scheduled a meeting in the JAMS Cafeteria on Wednesday, 3/5 from 7-8pm for families of newly eligible APP students and/or previously qualified students who will enter APP for middle school.

At this meeting, Ms. Montgomery will discuss middle school APP very specifically for these families and take questions. Ms. Montgomery also wants you to know the following:

Families will receive letters next week indicating that they are assigned to their neighborhood middle schools. If families want an APP assignment, they will need to go through the Open Enrollment Process unless their student is already attending Lincoln or Hamilton.

I know that many families do not yet have their testing results and/or are appealing. Families should still request JAMS APP during Open Enrollment if they believe that APP middle school is where their student will attend. If it turns out that the student is not APP eligible after the appeal process, enrollment services will then reassign the student to the neighborhood school.

It will be important for JAMS to know as soon as possible after enrollment how many students are coming. With this information we can then plan the best middle school program possible.

Anonymous said…
I was looking at some online tour info for JA K-8 and saw that the district is installing a playground with a soft scape surface at their interim site at John Marshall. That's a relief! I can't imagine housing elementary school aged kids at a site without a playground!

playground mom
Anonymous said…
Do you know if the JAMS meeting is open to parents of Spectrum kids, too?

-North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
@North-end Mom,

I don't have additional information. Was sharing a story from our PTA newsletter. I've heard that Principal Montgomery is very responsive to inquiries.

Anonymous said…
Playground mom-that's great for JA K-8. I'm happy for the kids but now I can't help but start to believe the "conspiracy" theorists that JAk-8 is getting preferential treatment. It is our 3rd year at Lincoln with 3 more to go and we have inadequate playground space yet JA k-8 is to be at JM for a lousy 2 years and get a permanent new high end home at the end plus ideal bus times, plus enough space all to themselves.

Anonymous said…
In the JAK8 online tour packet, it says that the new playground (large soft scape area with a play/climbing structure will be included in Phase 2 renovations of the John Marshall building this spring. Maybe there is something similar going in at Lincoln? Isn't there work being done there, as well?

playground mom
Anonymous said…
Future HIMS mom: I'm sorry that the school didn't present itself well. That was the same night as Roosevelt's info night (dumb planning) and so many parents and kids went to that instead of helping on info night at HIMS. HIMS has been great for our daughter for the most part.

Current HIMS mom
Anonymous said…
I'm curious - in any tours were special education staff introduced? I attended 2 tours last week. They made a point of introducing ELL and Counselors. But not SPED.

Anonymous said…
playground mom,

No, there is absolutely not something similar going in at Lincoln. The district has refused all of our attempts to put in a more usable and appropriate play space for our kids. This "temporary" location will be in use by these 1-5th graders for what, six years?

Not every school gets the same treatment.


Anonymous said…

You are right. Not all schools get the same treatment. The JA K-8 community has convinced the district that the move to the John Marshall building could potentially "kill" their program, therefore, it seems as though they are getting incentives (transportation grandfathering, bus tier change, playground, etc...) in order for their program to continue to be an attractive option, and continue to pull families who would otherwise attend the (crowded) NE neighborhood schools.

APP also plays a HUGE capacity management role, by keeping NE elementary schools from exploding, but apparently the lack of a playground hasn't kept families from opting into APP, so the district doesn't seem to think it is a worthwhile expenditure.

Since this thread is about school tours, IMO, it was a really horrible tour at Eckstein last year, in which the high probability of drug use was discussed, combined with the possibility of a geo-split from Eckstein this year (which indeed happened), that contributed to JA K-8's "successful" recruitment of kids otherwise bound for Eckstein. Maybe the Sharon Peaslee - produced promo video and the K-8's recruitment efforts helped, but probably not nearly as much as the over-crowding and safety concerns at Eckstein and the impending geo-split.

There will be even more elementary kids at Lincoln next year, with growth in APP and the addition of the Pinehurst population. With at least a couple hundred more elementary school-aged kids at Lincoln than at John Marshall, it would seem like a playground would certainly be a necessity there.

NNE parent
Maureen said…
Can anyone report on a TOPS K-8 tour or open house? Our family has been gone a few years now and I'm wondering how the school has been doing.
mirmac1 said…
reposting for Anonymous: "Mercer Middle School is quite impressive based on the tour. Parents of kids there talk very highly of it, it's test scores are beyond impressive, and it has tons of resources. It's a gem; though tours are over, I'd encourage people to check it out if you can."

Those scores are what they are because the Mercer principal actively works to exclude students with special needs. So are scores representative? NO. Kind of like a charter. And district admin could care less because they can continue to hold up Mercer of "what's working!" Sure it works if you shut out anyone you think might affect scores. Further evidence that school grades and evaluating based on scores is inherently defective.
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