Thursday, April 09, 2015

More Things that Make You Go, Hmmm

  • From a parent who attended the SCPTSA meeting on Monday, Flip Herndon told several parents that they are considering an annex for Hamilton. 
There is space at JAMS and Eckstein but rather than admit the enrollment made a mistake by sending 5 feeder schools to Hamilton, the smallest, least flexible middle school, they are going to plow ahead with an un-workable and expensive facilities solution to an enrollment planning goof.
  • At least two letters in support of the Africatown MOU say that Africatown should be returned to "Horace Mann upon completion of the renovations."  One of these was from the head of the Seattle/King County branch, Gerald Hankerson.  I asked him about it and he said that former Superintendent Banda gave an "verbal agreement" this would happen. 
And if it doesn't? Is Africatown going to sue the district? Those of you with suggestion that more room for Garfield could be found at Mann may just be out of luck.
  • Why would Director McLaren, at the Charter School Work Session, ask if charter schools could leave out Sped/ELL students "like in other parts of the country."  She was assured that they couldn't under Washington State law.  She looked reassured. There is NO charter law in the country that leaves out Sped/ELL students; that would be illegal.  The problem is that charters are allowed to say they "don't have the programs/services" for those students and they get exited.  Now THAT is allowed.
  • Also at the Charter Work Session, Superintendent Nyland opened with the Board being on record as being against charter schools "but that was then and this is now."  

  • Now that the City Council has passed the Implementation Plan for their Preschool program, when do we see the draft of the preschool partnership agreement with SPS (which seems to be the linchpin of the whole thing)? 

  • At the Hale BTA IV meeting, parents repeatedly stated that they were worried more money would go to Technology than to building repairs/upgrades.  This seemed to baffle staff.
  • Biggest quote from that BTA IV meeting?  Flip Herndon saying, "The Board decides what is going to be on the list and what isn't."  I'm not sure I believe that.
  • Also at BTA IV meeting, the district is going to spend a mere $19M on Lincoln before it opens as a high school.  I can hear the howls from parents whose children get assigned there from my office.
  • Also at the BTA IV, apparently Ballard High has "some spaces that can be reconfigured."  Anyone know what they might be?
  • When will the District ever define "assessment" versus "test?"  Because I'm not sure they are the same thing but even if they are, that is one definition that parents need.
  • How is it at the Curriculum & Instruction meeting that Director McLaren didn't seem to know that Common Core and SBAC are connected?  
  • Interesting how now NCLB is spoken of, across the board, as a terrible law and yet somehow testing 3-8th graders seems to be retained in its reincarnation?  
  • On bad choices, interesting to hear talk at the C&I meeting on how less-than-useful MAP was.  Oh how the times have changed.  
  • Need help figuring out which middle school social studies book to choose?  I'll make it easy to pare it down to two.  Pick the two that DON'T have companies advertised on the front cover.  
  • How is it that Director Blanford, in asking questions on how/why the Board passed a resolution against charter schools, couldn't figure out to go look at the old Board meetings where it was discussed?  He had to be told by no less than three people that he could do that.
  •  Also at the same work session, Blanford seemed confused - even to the point of asking out loud - which Seattle children he represents.  If he really is bewildered by who he represents, he might be in the wrong job.


    Anonymous said...

    Blanford's puppet strings have gotten tangled.


    Anonymous said...

    You say SBAC, I say Common Core,
    Tomato, Tomahto,
    Let's call the whole thing off.


    Anonymous said...

    Ballard High School has a very large space in the science/shop wing that was originally designed to be the "auto shop."

    The auto shop had closed at Ballard at some point before the move to Lincoln due to low enrollment.

    When Ballard reopened, there was a lift installed in the shop, but no other equipment for an auto shop was furnished. There also was no money for an auto shop teacher.

    Former Principal David Engel declared that he was not going to run the kind of high school that has an auto shop, and had the lift removed. In between the auto shop space and the wood shape space (next door) was a very small classroom that was meant to be shared by the two programs (for tests, lectures, etc, as necessary).

    The space was basically unused the first three years Ballard was opened, though it was repurposed for the Maritime Acadamy classes shortly thereafter. What they are using it for now, I don't know.

    You could probably carve three full size classrooms out of the auto shop plus the "shop classroom" space.

    There is also the black box theatre drama space. This is in addition to the regular theatre and stage. Unclear if that room is getting full utilization, either.


    Oy said...

    "Also at the Charter Work Session, Superintendent Nyland opened with the Board being on record as being against charter schools "but that was then and this is now."

    Oh my.

    Anonymous said...

    HCC/App schools also don't admit students with disabilities who otherwise qualify. What does the district tell parents?
    "We don't have the programs/services" for those students and they get exited. Now THAT is allowed.. Those words were almost word for word what parents at the district's central region sped informational night were told. Parents were also told that if they changed the services they needed, they would be good to go to HCC. In other words, be a different person and we're happy to take you. The students have no way to even enroll... Sped heads off all enrollment at the pass, and rejects out the school assignment.

    Sounds like the exact same stuff charters do, except parents feel better in the public school.

    Another Parent

    Anonymous said...

    Could you consider a seperate thread on the Hamilton Annex?

    For Flip to casually blunder enrollment this badly and NO ONE to stop him when there is space available in 2 other middle schools and a simple non-construction solution is indicative of how poorly he performs his job.

    Are teachers and students suppose to make the trek to Lincoln during passing period? Children leave their campus unsupervised and be expected to return unsupervised during their class schedule? If they do this this year, what about next? There's is not enough room at Lincoln. Does Flip even realize that?

    The HIMS principal has no power to solve this, the HIMS PTSA won't try to solve this because there's no way for them to suggest how to reenvision enrollment without disenfranchising some, and Facilities can't solve it because their job is not to do enrollment but rather just to find space for whatever bodies Enrollment tells them are coming to that space, the Board can't solve it because they'll say they don't do 'program placement' and that just leaves Enrollment to solve, but they won't because they'll never admit their mistake, and they too would say they can't make placement decisions. Clearly Flip won't solve it because he fails at every turn, otherwise we wouldn't have to have this discussion in the first place.

    A seperate thread, please? This unprecedented and unnecessary annex simply cannot happen. There are sustainable, less risky and less disruptive options.


    Anonymous said...

    Maybe a little off topic, but it should not escape notice that Rick Burke has filed to run for School Board in District 2, for the seat now held by Sherry Carr, whose plans are as yet unstated.

    Readers of this blog should be heartened by this news. Certainly I am.

    -- Ivan Weiss

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    Another Parent, I'll look into that. Thanks for the heads up.

    I'll put up threads on the other topics soon.

    Anonymous said...

    It will be curious to see what spaces the district thinks are available to use at Lincoln. APP at Lincoln uses the main core of the building and it will take up more classrooms in the fall since the school is expected to grow by around 100 more students. Licton Springs uses the South wing portion of the building for their school. There is the north wing of the building but much of that space hasn't been remodeled. There is the auditorium and small practice rooms behind the auditorium, but some of that space is being used for one of the sped teen programs.

    I guess there is a random room here and there on the ground floor near the lunchroom that's unused, but I'm just not seeing where all of these HIMS kids will be expected to fit as an annex. With three+ schools/programs using Lincoln, the building is pretty highly utilized. It will be curious to see where they will put HIMS kids at Lincoln if that ends up being the plan. This isn't an impossible thing, it's just going to be very interesting to see how it shakes out.

    I think it's funny that this idea is being discussed now. Parents argued last year until they were blue in the face to let their HIMS/Eckstein kids graduate from their school instead of being ripped out and sent to JAMS. Parents suggested that HIMS students could walk across the street and use the classrooms at Lincoln as an annex to deal with the overcrowding. (This was before the decision to place Licton Springs in the building). The district said there was no way that HIMS kids could walk across the street to Lincoln, due to liability, travel time, which students would go there, etc. Funny that now Flip and others are back to talking about a HIMS annex, especially now that it will be much more complicated to make it work.

    Ultimately, I'm really glad to hear that John Marshall won't be used as an interim site before WP is completed. I'm sure all of us with kids at HIMS will be glad to squish in wherever we can for the next two years until WP finished. If squishing in to the corners of Lincoln will help give HIMS kids one more year of stability, so be it. I'll volunteer to be out on 43rd St as a crossing guard during passing period, whatever it takes to retain some stability for everyone.

    APP mom of 2

    Another Candidate said...

    "Why would Director McLaren, at the Charter School Work Session, ask if charter schools could leave out Sped/ELL students "like in other parts of the country." She was assured that they couldn't under Washington State law. She looked reassured. "

    It appears Director McLaren is no longer up to speed on important issues impacting education. Fortunately, a candidate has registered to run in McLaren's district.

    Anonymous said...

    My current eighth grader was relocated from Hamilton to JAMS this year. We would have been THRILLED with the annex.

    -- different strokes

    kellie said...

    Once again, Lincoln is expected to act as if it is the Hogwart's room of requirement. That somehow Lincoln can magically expand, contract and morph to solve all the capacity problems in the north end.

    Lincoln is pretty darn full. Full of what is a question that seems to be unclear but full as every nook and cranny in the building has been being used to solve a wide variety of small'ish capacity problems.

    It is notable that during the BEX IV planning process that Lincoln was scheduled to be used as the interim location for both the Decatur property (Thornton Creek) school project AND the Olympic Hills rebuild.

    Thornton Creek is now a build-in-place, despite the need to add even more portables for new homerooms next year. Olympic Hill triggered the opening of Cedar Park to be used as in interim location.

    So if there is not enough room at Lincoln so that i can be used as an interim location, how can there be enough room for an annex???

    An annex would need to be fairly sizable in order to be academically feasible, comply with union regulations for teachers and provide a middle school experience.

    kellie said...

    @ different strokes,

    I concur.

    An annex would have been a wonderful solution two years ago when there was adequate space at Lincoln. However, that was not a welcome conversation because there wasn't a big enough problem.

    Last year's geo-split was predicated on the un-workability of the annex, once Lincoln had grown and Pinehurst was placed at Lincoln.

    So now this year, the return of the annex conversation for the third year in a row, as a solution to the fundamental problem that Hamilton is a small middle school, that is promised to far too many students, is truly disrespectful of the families that navigated the split.

    Anonymous said...

    @ Kellie

    Didn't the John Marshall building serve as the 9th grade annex for Roosevelt years ago? It would seem as though they would need a somewhat-comparable amount of space to do a meaningful (full grade band?) annex for Hamilton?


    I'm assuming that you are implying there is room at JAMS for (more) Hamilton overflow? Please keep in mind that construction is not complete at JAMS. It cannot seat its future capacity of 960 students, as, is, without a ton of portables. Most of the capacity-generating work is due to happen before September 2015, so it is possible that there will be room by then, if all goes well, but there will be a bump in enrollment as the small 8th grade cohort moves out and a larger 6th grade moves in...so JAMS will not be under 800 kids next year, as it was this year.

    - North-end Mom

    Lynn said...

    JAMS and Eckstein have room for portables and HIMS does not. If the children coming to HIMS next year won't fit in the building and if there's no room at Lincoln for them, what other option is there?

    I don't think an annex (if it's possible) would need to be for a full grade band. Couldn't kids move between buildings during their lunch break?

    kellie said...

    There is a really simple problem that was raised multiple times during last year's boundary conversations.

    Buildings have a design capacity. This is the number where things work and they work well. In other words, things work as they were intended to work.

    Hamilton was designed for 800 students. At 800 students, the library and computer rooms work well. The gym works well. The cafetorium works, not well, but OK.

    The tricky thing about flex space is that you need some empty space to make it work well. In other words, you need space for the dominos to fall. When there is no extra space the sequencing that is built into the design of flex space works less-well.

    Hamilton can handle 900 farily well. When HIMS first hit 900 students, there needed to be some building modification to the design to make it work.

    At 1,000 students, there are some significant challenges. In other words, it can be made-to-work. Made to work requires more effort because you are no longer working WITH the design. At 1,000 students, you hit the tipping point.

    Over 1,000 students, then all of a sudden, the building requires significant resources to simply be traffic cop, rather than be there for education. When HIMS enrollment went over 1,000 students, mitigation staffing was needed just to hold things together.

    So you have a building designed for cohorts of about 250 - 300, or approximately 12 elementary school homerooms per cohort.

    This school is then promised to FIVE elementary schools. BF Day, West Woodland, Greenlake, JSIS and McDonald. It is then promised to HC from McClure, Whitman and Wilson Pacific attendance areas. The math just does not work.

    Anonymous said...

    Melissa, of course they will deny the failure to place students with disabilities in HCC schools, TM or Lincoln. That would be illegal. When you make them aware of that illegal practice, they will switch tactics. They will force families into IEP meetings, and then declare that the special ed services kids need just happen, fortuitously, to be the exact same ones they already have in the building, whatever those may be in any given year. And yeah, its really strange that students needed specific servises the year before. But gee whiz, kids change. It's the district that writes the IEP, and decides what it says. Parents can take legal action on the IEP, but boy what a hassle. And if your kid fails because the schools don't provide adequate special ed, well, they just weren't really smart enough after all.

    The thing for people to notice is that no HCC school has an "ACCESS" program. How can HCC students needing ACCESS be served? That is the question to ask. Also, how can SM3, behavior, students get HCC.? That also periodically comes up. Although TM has SM4, so far nobody has gotten any traction on getting services for HCC out of that staff which is dedicated to exclusion at all levels. They don't want to provide ANY Gen ed for students with disabilities either, in the plain old Gen ed program.... because the Gen ed students are a bad influence on the sped kids. Go figure.

    Another Parent

    Anonymous said...

    @another parent

    I'm not sure what you are talking about.

    There are children with various disabilities at ALL HCC sites. And there are children with disabilities served within HCC, just as one would expect. It is the law.

    For example, in one of my children's classrooms at Lincoln, I know of 3 students served who clearly have IEPs. Our other Lincoln child also clearly has fellow students with IEPs. A little known fact: the front lawn was turned into the 'playground' because of the LRE and IDEA requirements triggered by a deaf and hard of hearing student (the concrete back was to noisy, so soft surface had to be found to be a play surface, which meant the front lawn).

    2E students are served. There is an APP 2E group that meets.

    SpEd family

    Anonymous said...

    Given that it's casual Friday, I didn't expect the obligatory APP/HCC slam to arrive until at least comment #15 or so. Another Parent drew quick and fired at #5! That might be a record. Hmmmm...


    Anonymous said...


    Is it slamming HCC program to acknowledge that Sped students are counseled out or told to choose between appropriate SDI & HCC placement. It does happen. Regularly.

    My 2e kid is in an HCC program. I got a phone call mid year saying that she was being pulled out of all HCC classes because they had to serve SDI with a model that could not fit into the HCC program. Many 2e parents in that school got those calls this winter. Given the choice to ditch the HCC program or ditch the sped services. This is not our first experience with this.

    I also have emails from school administrative staff in several schools as I toured secondary schools, telling me that they would not serve my kid in sped & AL both. Certainly no inclusion or push-in services.

    I don't think that is so different from how charter schools treat sped students.

    Would it be more supportive of HCC to hide those things & pretend they don't happen? It would not be supportive of the sped students in HCC programs to do that. So who should we be trying to support by sweeping it under the rug, the administrators who are continuing this?

    We may see 2e kids in our schools but you do not know what compromises they had to make to be there or how many were counseled out before they started.


    Anonymous said...

    Eckstein looks odd without the half-dozen portables that were out back for years.

    I can't imagine they'll be gone for long, though.

    Roosevelt Dad

    Anonymous said...

    "2E students are served." Really, then why am I spending $20,000 on outside services? Why am I spending $7,000 on legal fees? I'm not seeing much proof of success with 2E at SPS, however I have seen multiple SPS internal documents detailing how to disqualify special ed students from advance learning.

    "they will force families into IEP meetings, and then declare that the special ed services kids need just happen, fortuitously, to be the exact same ones they already have in the building"

    Yes this a good description of a verifiable pattern of abuse many parents are experiencing.

    2E parent

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    "I have seen multiple SPS internal documents detailing how to disqualify special ed students from advance learning."

    2E, I would like to see those if you feel you could pass them along. I'm at sss.westbrook@gmail.com

    Anonymous said...

    NNNCr, liked your parody. Any thoughts of writing something to Pink Floyd's Brick in the Wall?

    Arch Stanton, yes, please post a SBAC top10 list. We could use some humor. I started a list and so far just have a top 3. Feel free to use or modify.

    #1 Common Core for the Common folk

    Common Core Standards and tests are only for public school students. If you are wealthy and can pay for private schools then you can bypass Common Core Standards and tests. Private school students can spend their time on enriching curriculum with music, art, PE and adequate time for lunch and recess.

    #2 College and Career Ready

    Common Core Standards emphasis on skills and testing those skills means there will be less time to learn content. Not to worry though, even if your child can no longer be a doctor, engineer or lawyer, you can rest assured that your child has the skills to get a part time minimum wage job grading Common Core tests.

    #3 Cost Savings

    School districts will continue to divert money to Pearson and other testing companies. This is necessary because they supply the tests, collect and sell data, and generate the curriculum for test preparation. The cost savings will come from the fact that schools will spend more time testing and on test preparation so there will be little to no time left to teach. Teachers will be turned into facilitators that can be employed at minimum wage. Additional cost savings will come from closing "failing" schools and diverting the money to charter schools.

    Have a Happy Spring Break.


    David said...

    I don't know anything about the auto shop at BHS but the black box is also the choir room. Ballard now has at least 6 choirs that I can think of, although a couple of them meet before school. So that room gets plenty of use during the day with the choir and drama classes.

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    David, while that may be true, it saddens me to think that would go away.

    Just like McClure where, because of the length of testing, they will miss 12 classes of orchestra.

    seattle citizen said...

    Ballard has an auditorium that seats about 500. Those seats are rarely used during school days. If funding could be found for laptops, 500 more students could be enrolled at BHS - 24 credits, 1080 hours of seat time of CCSS online coursework, Amplify formative assessment, and SBAC summative.....Box lunches could be brought in at noon.

    Anonymous said...

    Gee. Melissa comments on exclusion of sped students in charters. It really is quite similar to many sps schools, including HCC schools at the elementary level. And it isn't only HCC. Other popular schools also exclude. And oh look, sped family has a special ed kid in HCC.... Just like charters, 1 instance must mean they're following the law , to a similar extent as a charter. Right?

    Just pointing out the current practice in sps isn't really better than charters.

    Really Melissa, you don't need internal documents. Just notice the lack of variety in special ed programs in HCC buildings. That means that all students needing those programs, can't attend. It's darn simple.

    Another Parent

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    Another Parent, I asked for the documentation because 2E said he/she had it. If there are such district documents, then I'd like to see them. Because then I would let a lot of people know about this because it would be illegal. Maybe send them to OSPI.

    I don't think anything in this district is "darn simple."

    Anonymous said...

    Ok Melissa, you're right that nothing is simple. OSPI really and truly has never been a resource for students with disabilities. So that isn't likely to be fruitful. Parents in charters could always use their states head education office to file complaints and resolve the issue of charter school discrimination against people with disabilities. And yet, we still see charters doing what they do, and nobody taking action. These lead agencies, like OSPI, really just prop up the local districts. What did the CCAP or RCCAP do for any kid in Seattle? It simply directed the district to divert funding for kids either to new administrative positions, or to consultants. Thanks OSPI.

    Here is a new document showing where they put all the elementary programs. Notice, they make it pretty hard for parents to find. This is because they want to be able to shove anyone, anywhere. Students needing any of these programs, must go to these schools. End of story. Where does that leave students who need any other service only offered at a single (or couple of) location?

    But, yes awesome, if other people can find and daylight other "tactics" type procedures.

    Another Parent

    Anonymous said...

    Has anyone tried the Seattle office of OCR regarding the 2E issues (filing a complaint with them instead of OSPI)?


    Anonymous said...

    Sorry, to clarify, I meant the federal office for civil rights that has a branch office in Seattle.


    Anonymous said...

    Another Parent:

    While it is true, I think, that SPS does not treat its sped students fairly in terms of program access (my guess is that there are problems at at least 3 levels -- downtown administration, building principals, and (some,not all) classroom teachers, it does NOT follow that "the current practice in sps isn't really better than charters." It may well be (and I suspect it is) far more likely that charters are just another giant step in the WRONG direction! Because while it is at least possible, in public schools, to rattle cages, write directors or (as I did -- just show up at your neighborhood school with your kid, a SPED plan and more energy than the building staff has to defeat it) -- it is virtually impossible to fight a charter with private backing (to go along with the public money), a board that you don't elect and can't influence (and may well be taking strongly ANTI-sped marching orders from some national organization), and a charter authorization authority in Washington who has NO responsibility for your child (unlike the SPS district -- which definitely DOES) and no reason to become inclined for taking your kid on if they don't have to -- which they don't.
    Is it good now? No.
    Is it "as bad as charters?" No.
    Could expanded charters well make the placement and education of sped kids worse? Absolutely!

    The ONLY thing that I think could help here would be if the state legislation provided that as soon as there are X numbers of charters in the state (or in a specific area, the charters -- as a whole -- must demonstrate a commitment to offering the full range of services -- to ALL sped kids. Don't want to serve "those kids?" Can't open more charters.

    Do I think that the SPED community and their allies (who are few and not well funded) have the ability to bring this kind of legislation into existence? No. Unfortunately.


    Anonymous said...

    The reality is HCC operates with many of the same issues as charters. The good luck you may have had getting your one kid services at your one neighborhood school isn't true everywhere, and especially isn't true in HCC. Just pointing out the similarities which many others have also done before.

    Another Parent

    Anonymous said...

    Another Parent -- I completely agree that what worked out for my and my kid was probably anomalous, and shouldn't be chalked up to any "success" of the public school system. I mentioned it not as a triumph of public ed, but to illustrate that the greater the amount of control parents have (in this case, it was our neighborhood school, I didn't have to fill out an application, etc. -- I COULD just "show up,, etc.), the better. The more we place school control decisions out of the hands of SPED parents, the less likely it is that we will be able to have any positive influence.

    Many sped kids have issues that can be pretty easily addressed with minor modifications (extra time on papers and projects, help with note taking, spacing of exams, etc. But if a charter school simply elects to say --
    "we don't provide those services" -- they are home free, and it appears that many charters do this pretty consistently. I guess my only point was -- there may be problems with SPED services in public schools as well as charters, but they are not equally problemmatic. Frpom what I can see, charter barriers (except in a rare few nonprofit charters that actually seek sped populations as part of their mission) are MUCH higher and MUCH more intractable.


    Charlie Mas said...

    So long as special education is seen as a program for placement and the population seen as portable, it will be used as a tool of capacity management.

    As for Africatown returning to Mann, yes, that has been the plan from the start. That is the plan that was discussed at the few meetings the District had with the Africatown community.

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