West Seattle's Middle College Program: What Happened?

As you may have heard, the district has, quite quickly and quietly, decided to close the West Seattle campus of the Middle College High School program at High Point.  The district says that the enrollment is down.  Seniors will finish there but the other students will have to find someplace else to go.

Programs like Middle College are the ones that catch the drop-outs, the at-risk kids and the kids who need something different to stay in school.  In short, programs like Middle College save lives. 

Our friends at the West Seattle blog have a great wrap-up of the story. 

Apparently, the staff is not prepared to go down without defending their campus.  

As the West Seattle blog reminds us, this program was kicked off of the South Seattle Community College campus in spring of 2012.  It then got moved to Neighborhood House's High Point Center. 

The district doesn't have anything up at the website nor has there been any news release.  A letter, dated May 18th, was sent to families of students at Middle College.  Students who are freshman, sophomores or juniors can go to their home attendance high school or go to one of the other Middle College sites (nowhere near to their current location) or can go back to their home district high school (if an out-of-district transfer).  Oddly, no mention of Center School or Nova High.

Here's what the West Seattle blog heard from a longtime teacher, Alonzo Ybarra (also a grad of Middle College - talk about giving back). Bold mine.

The letter from the Superintendent asserts that the district is closing Middle College High Point due to low enrollment and future projections. This explanation is problematic for the following reasons.
First, Middle College High Point has existed for 19 years in West Seattle and has historically maintained the highest enrollment of any Middle College site. Our current enrollment, although down from past years, remains on par with Middle College at the Northgate Mall except for the fact that they have 30 additional DCHS students who are online students that do not attend school daily.
Second, the faculty and staff at Middle College High Point were prevented from continuing to develop our school wide interdisciplinary curriculum based on critical thinking, social justice and service learning. Our principal, openly stating that she did not support our efforts, forcefully imposed an arbitrary schedule that severely diminished our abilities to deliver exciting and creative curriculum and instruction. Preventing MCHS HP teachers from building on the momentum of successful curriculum and instruction at our school had a negative impact on student morale, attendance and enrollment numbers.
Third, our principal moved a staff member, without discussion or warning, directly undermining our efforts to recruit underserved African immigrant students who reside within the High Point community. Undermining efforts to work with the community to enroll new students clearly contributed to diminished student numbers. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year we’ve seen an approximate 30% decline in enrollment although it should be noted that we’ve been prohibited from enrolling new students by order of Michael Tolley since April 7th. We’d normally add 10-15 new students during second semester in preparation for the following school year.
 Charlie chimes in with some great questions and comments:

1. How is this decision consistent with the criteria for program placement decisions listed in policy 2200?

2. Why wasn’t this decision included among the pending program placement decisions listed in the quarterly program placement report made in April?

The Superintendent, and the Superintendent alone, is 100% responsible for this decision. Anyone with concerns about the quality of the decision should direct those questions to Dr. Nyland directly.
Under the new customer service standards set by Dr. Nyland, he should make a prompt and complete response.

I encourage interested parties to review policy 2200 and to review the new customer service standards and then contact Dr. Nyland. In particular, you should ask him how having Middle College campuses exclusively in North Seattle is consistent with the idea of Equitable Access to Programs and Services.


I've read elsewhere that the policy in question, 2200, denies the school board the power to reverse this decision. That is a very serious problem. The democratically elected leadership of our public schools should be the ones to make the final call on a decision such as this, as routinely happens in other school districts. It is inappropriate for staff to be making these decisions on their own, as they are not accountable to the public.

No matter the details of that policy, this is clearly the wrong move, and the district needs to reverse this decision. It is notable that West Seattle is also the site of one of Seattle's first charter high schools. I suspect that there is a link here. Whether there is or is not such a link, Michael Tolley and Larry Nyland need to reverse their decision here. If they will not do so, then it's time for them to look for other jobs.
W. Seattle said…
Were there issues with the district paying High Point for their space?

'Throughout the 2014-2015 school year we’ve seen an approximate 30% decline in enrollment although it should be noted that we’ve been prohibited from enrolling new students by order of Michael Tolley since April 7th. We’d normally add 10-15 new students during second semester in preparation for the following school year" Shameful. Where does Nyland fit into the equation?
Anonymous said…
Where's the transparency in making the decision? Maybe it's significantly less expensive to spend $66,000 to bus the students to a more utilized program? The problem is we don't know. I think Nyland's contract would require SPS to cash him out should he be let go. That's not going to happen.

mirmac1 said…
Ironic that the Times prints an article on a Middle College students' success story:

Anonymous said…
Extremely disappointing they'd pull this out of such a central location in West Seattle and at a great resource center we already have, Neighborhood House. Really want to hear the reasoning behind this.

-High Point SPS parent
Anonymous said…
In the Talmud, it states:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world

Why is Dr. Nyland doing this? Are these souls not worthy of the attempt to save them? Does he want to see these kids at risk for crashing and burning? Is Dr. Nyland aware of the school to prison pipeline?


These kids matter. If this alternative setting is working for them, is what they need, why shut it down?

Students who are forced out of school for disruptive behavior are usually sent back to the origin of their angst and unhappiness—their home environments or their neighborhoods, which are filled with negative influence. Those who are forced out for smaller offenses become hardened, confused, embittered. Those who are unnecessarily forced out of school become stigmatized and fall behind in their studies; many eventually decide to drop out of school altogether, and many others commit crimes in their communities. Carla Amurao

I am not saying these particular students have been disruptive. Just saying that if among them, there are students who were pushed out of high schools by suspension, isn't it worth having this Middle College to get them back on track?

Dr. Nyland, would you rather shut down this Middle College, or, shut down the school-to-prison pipeline?

You are not serving our children, sir.

Shame on you.

North 2EMom
uxolo said…
Time for a letter writing campaign.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
I don't want to see Anonynomous 10:29's comment (no, it's not me) get deleted so I will cut and paste what s/he said:

"There is MUCH more to this story. Go talk to the staff. They learned about the closure through Nyland's letter. There was no communication. The principal consistently breaks the law, lies and doesn't follow the teachers' contract. Her decisions have caused this to happen and since Tolley and Nyland haven't talked to the teachers themselves, the students who need the most support are expected to pay the price for her "leadership."

I do wish that Dr. Nyland had taken the time to speak with the MCHS - HP staff, students, and families.

--OldSchool Music
Charlie Mas said…
I know that it seems like I go on and on about program placement and I know that people are tired of hearing about it... until something like this happens.

And something like this happens just about every year.

The Board, with policy 2200, has completely delegated all program placement decisions to the superintendent (except when they decide to take them back as Directors DeBell and Martin-Morris did with APP). But the policy that gives the superintendent that authority also sets some rules for how he's supposed to do it. Not one superintendent has ever followed those rules and this one is no different.

There are a number of criteria that are supposed to be used when making a program placement decision. The superintendent is supposed to describe how each decision met those criteria in the annual report - he has refused to do so and the Board has failed to require it of him.

This isn't an especially egregious case, it is only the most recent egregious case - a program placement decision made after open enrollment to close a program without providing the students with a viable alternative. Think about it - Middle College is a program for students who need a school different from our traditional comprehensive high schools and the superintendent closes it and suggests that the students transfer to our traditional comprehensive high schools. Nice.

With this closure, all of the remaining Middle College campuses are in North Seattle. Is that what he calls equitable access to programs and services?

Does this represent the appropriate level of public input for this sort of decision? Really?

Aside from the policy, which I encourage you all to read, consider the Core Beliefs listed in the Strategic Plan.

"MISSION: Seattle Public Schools is committed to ensuring equitable access, closing the opportunity gaps and excellence in education for every student." Where's the equitable access here?

"We believe in demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement through collaboration and integrated decision-making." Where's the collaboration here?

"We believe it is our public duty to properly steward District resources through ethical behavior, compliance to the law, transparency of processes and sound fiscal controls." Where's the transparency here?

"We believe community partnerships and family engagement are fundamental to achieving and sustaining student success." Where's the partnership and engagement here?

The City of Seattle is in the process of electing four school board directors. I can think of no question to ask the candidates that is more important than this:
"How will you enforce District policy?"
Old School Music, that comment was deleted for being off-topic. When people throw in random items, not related to the thread, it dilutes the content.

It is nice of you to put back what was there that was pertinent to the conversation but, in general, please do not do that.

What appears in comments is the call of myself or Charlie.
Sun said…
Seattle Public Schools talks a lot about wanting to addressing the achievement gap and how every student is going to learn; yet, there doesn't seem to be support for alternative learners. Middle College at HP teaches and empowers students not served at the big high schools. They need MORE support, good leadership and advocacy. What can be done to save this site for our students in West Seattle?
Anonymous said…
Melissa, my apologies. Thanks for letting me know.

Sun is correct in saying that "Seattle Public Schools talks a lot about wanting to addressing the achievement gap and how every student is going to learn; yet, there doesn't seem to be support for alternative learners".
I am impressed at hearing how students who fell between the cracks in the regular big high schools develop a desire to learn.

Charlie, thank you for the reminder about Policy 2200. The Board has to insist upon accountability or it will happen again.
In terms of transparency, there was no conversation with the students or their families. I am concerned that West Seattle in general and the High Point community specifically did not have an opportunity to speak with Dr. Nyland about the closure of MCHS - High Point. Did Dr. Nyland not think that this was an important thing to do?
That is not right.

--OldSchool Music
Charlie Mas said…
Here is the policy.

Note these parts:
"Prior to making programmatic or service changes, the Superintendent will take the objectives listed below into account, balancing competing needs to achieve the result that is in the best interests of students, all factors considered:
1. Place programs or services in support of district-wide academic goals;
2. Place programs or services equitably across the district;
3. Place programs or services where students reside;
4. Place programs or services in accordance with the rules of the current student assignment plan, and as appropriate, equitably across each middle school feeder region;
5. Engage stakeholders in a timely and publicly visible manner by informing, involving, and/or consulting with them as appropriate, and consider their input in the decision-making process when feasible;

6. Utilize physical space resources effectively to assure that instructional and program space needs are equitably met across the district;
7. Ensure that fiscal resources are taken into consideration, including analyzing current and future fiscal impacts; and
8. Analyze the impact of any decision before it is made, by using data, research and best practice

So... let's ask:
Are the Middle College program sites placed equitably across the district? No. They are not.
Are the Middle College programs placed where the students reside? No. They are not.
Are the Middle College programs placed equitably across each middle school feeder region? No. They are not.
Were stakeholders engaged in a timely and publicly visible manner? No. They were not.
Is there any data or analysis to support this change? No. There is not.

Will the Board step up and enforce this policy? No. They will not.
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