Seattle School Board Meeting; 2016 Growth Boundaries

I'll do the School Board meeting in two parts because even though the Growth Boundary amendments were the big show, many other interesting things were said at the meeting.

But to the Growth Boundaries.  HUGE thank you to Kellie LaRue who sat thru the whole thing (something like 6+ hours; I wimped out at 4 hours) and reported back on the votes.

 I'll pause here to submit that there seem to be things that people always disagree on:

- separate classes for gifted students versus everyone in the same class
- grandfathering students at current school versus full roll-out at a new school
- neighborhood enrollment versus choice enrollment

Folks, the district cannot ever make everyone happy or even satisfied.  Parents bring their own values and beliefs into these processes and all the Board can do is listen to ALL groups via any manner of communication, examine costs, ask hard questions, compare and contrast and then make the best decision they can.

I will also point out the courage and thoughtfulness of the entire Board last night.  That they listened to the input of communities means that yes, YOU can make a difference.  In fact, Director Geary gave praise to the far north-end communities who answered a question - with community input and data - that she had asked at the last Board meeting two weeks ago. 
As I previously reported, there had been some additional amendments added with a sheet at the meeting that staff had created on possible issues/outcomes for some amendments.  They had suggested voting first on Amendment 11 which was transportation for grandfathered students and which would influence other amendments.

So the Board did address Amendment 11 first.  Ashley Davies, head of Enrollment, said that there was an equity issue because if the grandfathered students without transportation, some students would not be able to get to school without district transportation, leaving only the students with other means of transport to go the school they started at.  

One of pleasures/annoyances of being an old-timer to this district is that when there are a large number of amendments, that the Board hauls whoever is the head of Legal (in this case, the adorable Noel Treat) to explain Robert's Rules of Order.  So Mr. Treat went over how they could vote on amendments in any order, could pull amendments but only before there was no discussion, otherwise, the Chair would have to do it if it was requested after discussion of an amendment.  (I say Mr. Treat is adorable because at the end of his careful explanation, he said, "Good luck" and the room burst into laughter.  He also noted he had brought his full copy of Robert's Rules of Order.)

From Kellie LaRue's reporting:

Amendment 11 passed. 6-1 (I believe with Director Blanford voting against because of worries over the budget which is valid reason.)

Amendment # 1B passed, so the areas attached to Greenlake elementary stay in Greenlake elementary. This also directs staff to do a more extensive review of Greenlake's boundaries prior to next year's vote.

Amendment #2 passed, so Greenlake will go to Eckstein for middle school, not Hamilton.

Amendment #3 passed, area 126 stays in West Woodland and Hamilton.

Amendment #4 passed. Area 124 stays in West Woodland and Hamilton.

Amendment #5A passed and 5B was removed. Cedar Park is now an option school. This is a huge victory for community engagement. A few months ago, I thought it would be impossible to roll back a plan that re-segregated the entire north end and geo-split 800 students, who are mostly FRL and historically underserved.

Amendment 6A passed and 6B was removed. This changes means that all of the original school boundaries will be maintained related to the opening of Cedar Park as an option school.

Amendment #7, regarding area 117 was removed.

Amendment #8, regarding grandfathering 4th and 5th graders was removed. Amendment #8 was removed because all of the previous amendments reversed the 800 elementary students who were scheduled to be geo-split.

Amendment #9 is being deferred to the Student Assignment Plan vote. This amendment would have grandfathered all rising 8th graders at their current middle school.

Amendment #10 was also deferred to the Student Assignment Plan.
Amendment #12 was modified to remove the mitigation priority for Whitman and Washington. This is so that the mitigation conversation is done as a whole and not piecemeal.

Amendment #12 now simply clarifies that the HCC pathways are Hamilton, Eagle Staff and JAMS as per the 2013 Growth Boundaries and the Student Assignment Plan that will be introduced at the Ops Committee tomorrow.

Amendment 12 passed. So HCC families can plan on Eagle Staff as their new location.

They just passed the Bar with all the amendments. It is now done.

The Growth Boundaries plan with amendments was passed 6-1. 

Other LaRue Notes:

As any potential split at Cascadia will be addressed as part of the SAP, any grandfathering issues with Cascadia will be addressed during that time.

There has been community feedback both to support grandfathering 8th graders and to support geo-splitting 8th graders. Accordingly, Dir Peters wanted to allow a little more time for discussion. Therefore, the issue of grandfathering v geo-splitting middle school students will be handled as part of that vote, currently scheduled for Jan 4th.

There is a potential split of Cascadia and whether a second HCC site should be assignment or option. This is another messy one and I would expect that the SAP meetings will get a lot of feedback on this topic.

There are 5 community meetings regarding the Student Assignment Plan, so mark your calendars if you want to express your concerns regarding geo-splits or grandfathering at middle school.  

From North-End Mom
The passage of the School Board-amended Growth Boundaries BAR prevented the reassignment in 2017 of over 800 kids enrolled in attendance area schools, with the largest boundary change areas falling in higher-poverty neighborhoods. These students will now be allowed to stay in their established school communities, without the forced disruption of their educational and socio-emotional supports.

Because of the decisions made last night, school communities throughout the north-end, including several title 1 schools, will be allowed to remain intact.

The amended plan will allow the Olympic Hills community to move, intact, into their new building which was specifically-designed to serve their high-needs population, with its health center, preschool and childcare spaces and small group instruction areas. Olympic Hills added a 4th kindergarten this year, and should have no problem growing into their new building without the need for highly-disruptive geo-splits.

The decisions made by the Board last night will put an option school at Cedar Park, instead of an assignment school. The staff-recommended attendance area boundaries for Cedar Park EXACTLY MATCH the boundaries for Census Tract #1, which has the highest non-white population of any census tract in North Seattle, and includes extremely high-poverty neighborhoods. I have no doubt that the planning principal for Cedar Park is excellent, but it is not best practices to intentionally set up a segregated, high-poverty school when there are other options available.

The decisions made by the Board last night will halt a boundary change plan which would have segregated students of color into Cedar Park, and, to a lesser degree, into Olympic Hills, while gentrifying the surrounding schools (John Rogers, Sacajawea, Olympic View, etc...). For these schools, which highly-value diversity, and work incredibly hard to close achievement and opportunity gaps, this is a very big deal.

After reading some of the comments above, I did some digging. There are 14 students of American Indian/Alaskan Native heritage currently attending schools which would have experienced boundary changes if the Board had not passed amendments 5A and 6A, along with about 900 students who identify as either Black, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander. Would these kids have been re-assigned if the boundary changes had gone through? I have no idea, since we were never provided a demographic breakdown of each boundary change area. Regardless of if they had been reassigned or not, their school communities would have been impacted by the large-scale boundary changes and subsequent re-structuring of both their student populations and school budgets.


Green Lake Parent said…
Correction on the explanation of Amendment 2: With this amendment passing Green Lake continues to split with assignment of the northern half of the attendance area to Eckstein and the southern half of the attendance area to Hamilton. (This maintains the current situation, rather than changing the whole area to feed to Hamilton.) Additionally, the amendment directs staff to note where appropriate in the upcoming 2017-18 Student Assignment Plan that this area would be an exception to the rule that an elementary school attendance area feeds into a single middle school attendance area.
Anonymous said…
While discussing Cedar Park, Director Harris casually described the planned Cedar Park school as a "ghetto school" and was rebuked from the floor for her unacceptable characterization. Director Harris then noted that she was grateful this was brought to her attention. Perhaps if Director Harris hasn't had the chance to offer a more comprehensive public apology for her culturally insensitive public profiling she may consider making such a gesture as the level of her offense was grave and harmful to the community.

Anonymous said…
What would be a more PC term for a school with boundaries drawn to capture high-poverty neighborhoods (SHA, section 8 housing, etc...), where too many students - predominately students of color - were to be assigned to a building that was found to be feasible only for short-term interim use, has about half its classrooms in unplumbed portables, and has no library?

Cedar Park as an assignment school was a bad plan. Director Harris called it as she saw it. I took her comments to be as a criticism of the original plan, and not directed at all towards the kids who would have been assigned to Cedar Park.

-reality check
Anonymous said…
reality check

Sure, it was a bad plan. If she is that concerned about abolishing these types of schools as you seem to be, how about looking at all the ones that already exist in
the district and get rid of them.

Then using that term and its implications would be past tense in this district instead of a reality for many current students.

Then it wouldn't be an issue of PC but about justice.

Anonymous said…
Re: deferred Amendment #9 on grandfathering all rising 8th graders at their current middle school, 2 questions:

1. Has the district provided updated middle school projections yet? Projections that reflect not only the new growth boundaries due to REMS' opening, but that also incorporate the HCC students who will go to REMS? Do some feeder schools need to be removed from the REMS boundary in order to make room for the HCC cohort?

2. If they elect to grandfather 8th graders, how will they handle students new to HCC in 8th grade? Say a Whitman 7th grader wants to move to HCC next year--would they be allowed to transfer to Hamilton, which is already overcrowded and isn't their current school (so "grandfathering" doesn't apply). If the SAP says that the HCC pathway for Whitman students is REMS, they'll need to be sure to include a clarification that in 2017/18 it's only a 6th and 7th grade pathway and that the 8th grade pathway is still HIMS.

Anonymous said…
Principal Fauntleroy aptly and matter-of-factly confronted a microaggression. Thank you.

Hoping those CP community planning dates can be posted ASAP so the option school planning can start. Yay!

Anonymous said…
What is going on with Cedar Park? Licton Springs is feeling the pinch at Eaglestaff. Are they going to prioritize growth and take the CP location? Or stay near their spiritual grounds, but risk being too small to thrive and survive?

What does the CP community think about adopting LS? Would they rather start from scratch or bring in a school that is already up and running?

What is next for HCC and Cascadia with this proposal for an option school? Is that going to reduce numbers at Cascadia enough to help?

Loose Ends
Anonymous said…
I can't speak for the whole CP community but the CP parents I know, and for me as well, we have been really excited about planning something new at CP that meets the needs of our community. It would be a total blindside to have a sudden decision where another group, no matter how wonderful, takes over the building for their program. Yet again that would represent one more instance st SPS where families in poverty, families who don't speak English, have their interests placed at the back of the line. Families have been REALLY excited about an option school. I hope the politicking doesn't erase the option. I am going to hope for the best. Still

kellie said…
I am very grateful that this board took the opportunity to create better outcomes for elementary school students. Geo-splitting over 800 elementary students would have moved more elementary students than were moved during any of the closure rounds. I am very grateful this board recognized this level of disruption and made a better plan.

There is still a lot of work left to be done for secondary students and that will most likely happen via amendments to the Student Assignment Plan. So if you have opinions about secondary, be certain to attend one of the community engagement meetings and fill out a comment card.

The middle school feeder patterns for North Seattle are still problematic, with some schools being too full and other being too empty. West Woodland, Viewlands, Broadview Thompson, Olympic View and Greenwood are located right in the center of the imbalance and may very likely find themselves at the center of the re-balance conversation.

High School is also problematic. The Growth Boundaries vote did not set a timeline for creating the boundaries for Lincoln, nor did it make a plan for surge capacity to get us to 2019 when Lincoln opens.

Hopefully staff and the board can handle these items as part of the SAP.
Anonymous said…
It doesn't sound like the community is going to get much of a chance at engagement regarding the type of option school at Cedar Park. The Executive Director is already working on closed door deals, just as she did during the boundary conversations. Community engagement is being completely sabotaged, pitting communities against each other, the district against advocates, and of course undermining district SMART goals re:community engagement.

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