No Charter Cheerleaders in SPS

Dear Directors,

I learned from the West Seattle blog that Gatewood has a new principal, Kyna Williams.  She's a former charter school principal.  That's okay.  She was in TFA.  That's okay.

What's not okay is proselytizing in SPS for charter schools.  Apparently, the principal at Arbor Heights - who is married to noted charter supporter and head of a Washington State ed reform group - is counseling parents to consider charter schools.

And now we have an actual former charter principal heading a school.

I would suggest that when the district knows that incoming staff have ties to charter schools that it be made clear to those staffers that their job is NOT to counsel/cheerlead for charter schools. 

I would suggest that when the district knows - as in the case of the Arbor Heights principal - when there are strong connections to charter schools, that it be made clear that their job is NOT to counsel/cheerlead for charter schools. 

While SPS is struggling to support the students it has, SPS staff should not be supporting the growth of charter schools which will - in the end - undermine our district.  If you need any supporting facts about the loss of dollars to a district, go ask Tacoma.  Or ask me and I will deliver story after story to you about how charters are hurting districts across the country. 

Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog


joanna said…
Ugh--thank you for the alert!!
mirmac1 said…
I find the Arbor Heights principal to be a traitor. Her brand new school is 6 short blocks from a phony Summit charter in our established neighborhood. She should lose her job if she's pushing our neighborhood kids to some untested, test-prep mill out of an old storefront. She is conflicted with her personal relationship and her professional life.
Anonymous said…
Wow! Well, Nyland picks the principals and the board picks the superintendent, so we can't assume a letter to the board will make a difference.

Sandy Ears said…

Thank you for this forum. I've learned a great deal over the years from it. I do, however, wonder what basis in fact you have for these allegations and am troubled they would be published as heresay. If such actions are occuring, then I would much appreciate your forwarding me details to my school board address @

With respect to new Gatewood Principal's Charter School and TFA background, it is my understanding that the parents were significantly involved in this hiring decision. I know many teachers who continue to teach in our schools who got their start in TFA but have embraced the public school model.

I am NOT a fan of charters or TFA, do not believe there is a distinction between "public" and "private" charters and find the contracts with private management of so-called "public charters" to be misleading, non-accountable to the public and take funds from our public schools.

I do request we do not slander our SPS staff.


Leslie Harris
SPS Director, District 6, VP
Chair Audit & Finance
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I appreciate Director Harris' remarks. I will say that my source is very good but no, I cannot reveal it. I will strive to see if I can get these parents on record but I doubt that is possible.

I did not say I was against the Gatewood hire and, in fact, said it was okay that she was past TFA and charter school administrator.

I did ask the Board to consider asking the Superintendent - as more of these administrators/teachers come into SPS - to make it clear that recommending charters to SPS parents is inappropriate and hurtful to the district. I'm not sure how that's a problem.
Anonymous said…
It's refreshing to know an SPS employee is imparting knowledge to parents of students who a charter environment might be more appropriate for their students success.

Thousands of families for various reasons leave SPS for alternatives.

I suppose you would rather see these children fail?

SPS Reality
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Washington's charter law is a bit like a walking dead: a zombie that although should be dead (you know, because of what our Supreme Court ruled about it being unconstitutional) yet is somehow not quiet dead. In the immortal words of Monty Python, "I'm not dead yet! Merely a flesh wound!".

It takes 50% +1 vote to turn a school into a charter. A pro-charter principal in a building could be wily enough to hire ONLY freshly minted teachers (i.e., teachers who have zero years into their Collective Bargaining Agreement, and therefore little to loose because they are paid so little to begin with) and woo them with alluring promises of academic freedom, the bedeviling Danielson framework smashed on the rocks, and a pony for all. How hard is it to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of disgruntled or naive teachers and parents and say "That glass palace in SoDo is in flames, we all hate their (fill in the blank) edict: let's get out of Dodge, oh, and take our shining new building with us! Yahoo! Then, we will NEVER be overcrowded! Let's do it, we could control our own enrollment, we could control our own bell time, we could control our class sizes, we could show the district how much smarter we are than them!"

Wouldn't it be hilarious if given the generalized feeling of malaise, one of the SPS buildings ups and revolts, spurred on by a double-agent principal with connections to those who know how to get the onerous paperwork done? Will Alki go first, or, Arbor Heights? I'm surprised Queen Anne Elementary didn't think of this back when their principal got skewered. How about Gatewood or Cedar Park, or maybe Thornton Creek? Wouldn't it be funny if one of these communities figured out they could cut-off SPS at the knees, and take their building and run their own show? They'd still get their slice of the levy pie, and, they would have their facilities...

At this point, can anyone really say what will happen? And while Charters may not be what is in the public interest, the worst of them may be nothing more than a money scam that harm children, in the Seattle context, I could see a very resourced community looking at a charter proposition as a way to pull up stakes and quit the unresponsive bureaucracy. There are tonier charters back east, where you have to appear at a country club on a certain day to get an application in order to apply. They use their charter like a gated community. Nothing public about it.

I'm saying Dr. Nyland can't keep *not* meeting the needs of the 'gen ed' kids, who after all, are the majority of kids in his buildings, and expect it to go on like this forever. Perhaps it will, but then again, maybe it won't. I was told that for every Lakeside application accepted, 250 were turned away. I'm sure those folks would be thrilled with a "public charter".

Looking 4Exit

For years, parents have had to jump through astonishing hoops to apply to the popular Green Woods Charter School in Northwest Philadelphia.

Interested families couldn't find Green Woods’ application online. They couldn't request a copy in the mail. In fact, they couldn't even pick up a copy at the school.

Instead, Green Woods made its application available only one day each year. Even then, the application was only given to families who attended the school’s open house – which most recently has been held at a private golf club in the Philadelphia suburbs.

SPS Reality, you suppose wrongly. I would like SPS to be fully-funded so struggling schools have the resources they need to do better. I would like to see charters not drain away dollars from those struggling schools, thereby making things worse. I would like to have employees that support the district that employs them.

Looking4Exit, you are mistaken about the law. That 50%+1 is not part of the current law.

"I was told that for every Lakeside application accepted, 250 were turned away. I'm sure those folks would be thrilled with a "public charter"."

If you think most charters are like Lakeside, you haven't visited Lakeside. That one you cited is not the norm.
Anonymous said…
I really have a hard time believing SPS is not fully funded. I've seen where Jill Geary mentioned on her FB page that SPS budget is 1.1 billion dollars. I also see it documented that SPS is allowed to take money and has taken millions 70-120 million out of the BEX funds for general expenditures. So I see no clear delineation between the funds therefore technically they're commingled. I also don't see any evidence that any of the BEX funds or technology funds borrowed(?) have been returned.

Maybe SPS could try spending its money more effectively. Get someone to drive efficiency or just do more with less.

Other wealthy districts seem to be doing just that, why can't Seattle?

MJ, it's a long story but yes, the district can take money out of BEX/BTA for certain things, yes, they do pay it back and yes, the budget is quite large. SPS is the largest district in the state.

Could they be more transparent and effective? Sure, but for the needs of schools, the money they currently have is not enough.
Anonymous said…
If SPS is borrowing(?) millions of dollars from the BEX fund and SPS consistently claims not to have enough money then tell me where does SPS get the money to repay the BEX funds?

What about the missing technology levy funds?

I'm skeptical funds are ever returned once they're loaned.

Ann said…
Hi Melissa,

I am a parent at Arbor Heights. I like your blog, but I am concerned about this post. I have to wonder if it is really parents who have reached out to you. I don"t agree that a public forum is appropriate for an accusation like this.
There are a lot of families in the AH boundary that don't want to send their kids to Denny. Many families choose to ferry their kids to Vashon rather then send them a few blocks to Denny. Summit is now an alternative right in the backyard. I personally am very much on the fence about charter schools. I voted against allowing them in SPS, because I do have concerns about private sector involvement and funds being taken away from existing schools. All that said, I have a child that attended Denny and it over all was not a positive experience. The teachers were great, but the discipline was non existent and so it was not the right learning environment for my child. I have another child entering middle school in two years and I am dreading even thinking about where she will go. West Seattle, in particular the Denny zone, was ripe for Summit. I am curious to see how the first year works out. I wish this wasn't the case.


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