Seattle Schools Evicts Native Youth Program from Robert Eagle Staff MS

 Update 2: Director Pinkham was at the rally at RESMS last night in support of UNEA.

end of update

Update: story from Crosscut.

end of update


A Native youth program with a record of boosting graduation rates and cultural enrichment for Seattle students has been evicted from Robert Eagle Staff building, echoing the heartbreak of broken agreements with local Native Americans over centuries.

On Friday, June 4th, Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) was sent notice by Seattle Public School Area Director Jon Halfacker announcing the Partnership Agreement will be “terminated”. This termination has been decided without due process, dialogue, or foundation in fact.
“The abrupt termination of the ‘Partnership Agreement’ with our successful Clear Sky tutoring, mentorship, and cultural Education program ‑ along with the Native Warrior Athletics basketball program ‑ will have reverberating impact on hundreds of Seattle Public Schools’ Native learners, families, volunteers, Robert Eagle Staff and Licton Springs learning community and our intertribal urban community”, stated Sarah Sense‑Wilson (Oglala), Urban Native Education Alliance Board of Directors Chair.
Clear Sky’s youth programming holds 11‑year record of 100% graduation for involved Native youth K‑12, and stands as a recognized model for improving Native student academic and personal youth outcomes. Clear Sky served 97 Native students, 62 volunteers, 61 Native Warrior Athletics student athletes, and over 811 combined community members, volunteers,students and allied programs in the past school year.
“Dispossessing our Native learners is an intentional decision to erase our presence and visibility at a school that we successfully campaigned for naming after Robert EagleStaff”, Elder Tom Speer.
Robert Eagle Staff building is located on culturally‑significant sacred land (Licton Springs). Thissacred site is where both Seattle Clear Sky and UNEA birthed as a grass‑roots community‑driven organization. Our connection to this land transcends time and is a sacred relationship. The spirit of this partnership was made visible through verbal and written agreement as well as symbolically through meaningful gifts that were received with gratitude in ceremony by SPD such as; traditional Star quilts, Robert Eagle Staff memorial bronze sculpture and other items of cultural importance, as an exchange of good faith and mutual support to honor and make tribute to the memory of Robert Eagle Staff and the Urban Native community's connections and roots to the sacred site of Licton Springs.

UNEA requested the immediate reversal of the decision and establish a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Superintendent. SPS needs to comply with their own policies on Educational and Racial Equity Policy #0030 , and SPS Strategic Plan for eliminating the achievement gap, and its Racial Equity Analysis Tool to ensure equitable access.

Instead of using policies to terminate and further marginalize communities of color, they should be applying their own policies for parity, equity and building bridges for common and shared interests of our entire Seattle community. While the district’s data and outcome for Native students continues to reflect cultural incompetence, and disproportionate statistics, our comparative outcomes are in stark contrast. As a community we need to protect our children and uphold our collective responsibility to improve and create pathways for their holistic wellness.

Please contact Seattle Superintendent at and Seattle School Board to express support for our efforts to re‑establish our original partnership with SPS.
District Public Testimony is on June 26th, 2019, call‑in (206)252‑0040 (must call on Monday, June 24th, @ 8:00am).

Editor's Note:

The district promised Licton Springs K-8, which has a Native focus, space at the Robert Eagle Staff building and yet somehow, LS K-8 got less space than promised. Then, because the district drew boundaries incorrectly RESMS is overcrowded and now the district wants LS K-8 to go somewhere else.

And now, again in the Robert Eagle Staff building, the district summarily kicks out Clear Sky youth programming that successfully serves Native youth. Folks, this group has so many events weekly (!) like basketball, crafts, Native history, etc. I find it hard to accept that there was no discussion about this decision with Clear Sky or the UNEA.

It feels very much like decisions are being made without Board knowledge or input OR community knowledge or input.

And this with not one, not two, but three Native Americans in senior leadership.


Z said…
Retaliation for speaking out against Amplify adoption?
Man, Z, I hadn't even thought about that. I'll say probably not.
Anonymous said…
This would be a great time for the district to exercise some transparency and tell us their side of the story, which I am absolutely sure is different than UNEA's.

I doubt it is in retaliation for the Amplify situation; this is not the first sign of trouble with the UNEA relationship to Eagle Staff.

- Neighborhood Mom
Anonymous said…
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Another Parent said…
I attended a meeting on Overcrowding at Robert Eagle Staff in the Fall that was led by SPS Chief Academic Officer Michael Tolley and Head of Enrollment Planning Ashley Davis.

At the meeting, the district offered three “options” to address overcrowding at Robert Eagle Staff and gave the community a month to “choose”. The problem was that the “three options” were not really “three options” because to solve the overcrowding problem, as defined by the district, required picking at least two of the three. And of the three options, two required changes to the Licton Springs Native American Program at Eagle Staff; (1) the district gave the Native Community the choice of either completely moving out of the building; or (2) shrinking the Native Program from a K8 to a K5.

It was a heart-wrenching one-month ultimatum to the Licton Springs Native Community, wrapped in the district’s standard obfuscation and excuses.
During the meeting, at which several Native students stood up to testify about having to attend class in the hall, there was a loud vacuum cleaner running. When a parent asked if the janitor could move elsewhere, Robert Eagle Staff Principal Dr. Marni Campbell said no.

Over the years, I attended several board meetings that discussed the Native American Licton Springs K8 program being co-housed in the Robert Eagle Staff building. There were concerns about building overcrowding years ago, and the school board voted to place the program in the Eagle Staff Building anyway. From my viewpoint, District Staff never wanted the program there, but our elected leaders placed it there. The board made promises. The idea that the district wants to break those promises, given the history of broken promises to the Native Community in this country, is heart-wrenching.

Within this context, when the district has clearly and publicly stated its desire to have the Licton Springs program out of the building, no matter the excuses given, it’s no surprise that the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) has been kicked out.

Anonymous said…
The ink is barely dry on the Strategic Plan, and SPS is already violating their pledges in the "Theory of Action":

"Directly and consistently working in partnership with families and communities who represent students of color who are furthest from educational justice; and

Making clear commitments and delivering on them"

How can this can be justified?

Anonymous said…
Licton Springs K-8 was co-located with Eaglestaff with the intent of being on in a location that has cultural significance. However to be clear although the school is native focused in programming, the actual native student make-up of the school's students I believe was quite small. They make up only around 7%. out of 177 students so that is about 12-13 native kids.

This program being kicked out is not a school, but provides support services for the school. They need to make some decisions as it is not fair to all the kids to be in an over-enrolled school. They really messed up with the boundaries.

I am thinking what would be logical would be to redraw boundaries, so that some kids go to Whitman as that school if I remember was left under-enrolled. They could also move the HCC program to Whitman, I don't know why that is not an option. Licton Springs program and support services that are affiliated logical place is all together at the Robert Eaglestaff location which should have a native focus.

A Parent
Anonymous said…
Licton Springs is a joke. What exactly makes it “Native.”? Nobody can really say. Evidently, there are very few kids who actually identify as native according to OSPI. That is, 20 or less, in 9 grades. Kids run wild throughout the building. Attending class is optional for all of them. The principal is nowhere to be found. Classes, should kids bother to attend, are held in the hallways. Other kids walk through any time. There’s no respect shown teachers. Unsurprisingly, staff turnover is sky high. Special ed is parked in this school, but all the teachers have quit and haven’t shown up for eons. There’s no gym. There’s no music. Does any of that make it Native? If Juneau is unimpressed, it’s because it’s unimpressive! If there’s no story, why would she support it? Why would anyone? PC police shouldn’t keep something going if it isn’t viable. Not in that building or any other.

Be Done
Unknown said…

You see why I'm often so satirical when it comes to "equity" and "centering" "those furthest from educational justice."

It's almost as if SPS does things like this so they can maintain the gaps that they complain about in order to get and maintain their power--if there were no sick people, there'd be no doctors, etc.

That site has been focused of Native American education, community, and support for as long as my 40 year old self can remember, and the data on Clear Sky speaks for itself.

This looks like more hypocrisy from the district. I wonder what they have to say for themselves.

Halfacre? Tolley? Juneau? Please speak to the readership of this blog and justify this decision.

Ed said…
Oh but the superintendent is native....
Anonymous said…
My cousin went to Licton Springs K-8, graduated, and is now at Hale. He is Native American and this was a wonderful school for him. He is also a part of the Clear Sky's program and is pictured in some of their pictures. Again, this has been a great program for him and has helped him feel connected to his heritage and helped him focus on school. I believe that Clear Sky was at Hale until Eaglestaff opened and then they moved there to be nearer Licton Springs which is a sacred site.

Anonymous said…
Sheesh, Be Done. If you're going to criticize a school, at least put some truth into it. I counted at least eight blatantly false statements in what you wrote.

Be Done, just a little over-the-top on Licton Springs (which isn't even the focus of this thread). There is no way all that is happening (and I hear from parents at RESMS and never heard all that).

"Special ed is parked in this school.."

Very disrespectful to Sped families.

Anonymous said…
Stop with all the "sacred site" speak. I'm sure there is room at the JSCEE for the school to move in there. Once there, Juneau can keep a close eye on it and possibly teach a few classes.

Problem solved
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
I would like to hear what both Burke and Pinkham have to say about this. It's sadly ironic given on all the grandstanding over native history at the last school board meeting. Not a peep form the board's vacuum chamber. Just another reason to boot out the board president (Harris) come January.

Rubberstamp board
Anonymous said…
Come on, why are you all so anxious to have Melissa shut up?

Anonymous said…
Because we know it's NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. She's too invested in this Save Seattle Schools blog and BTW the title dosn't make sense.

I'm just teasing her, besides there is so much corruption and incompetence going on in SPS to walk away from.

Come on

Anonymous said…
I could have said special ed is “dumped” at Licton Springs, because that is actually the truth. But I figured “parked” was more respectful. In fact, so much special ed is dumped there people have file complaints and won when their kids were dumped. That isn’t an observation of disrespect, it’s how the district does placement. For everyone who didn’t file a complaint,Eg almost all of them, they have to stay in that building dedicated to anything but education. And the special ed staff is actually checked out, leaving, not coming back. Why show up now either? Makes discipline a real bitch.

You can call me disrespectful for pointing it out. It’s actually way more disrespectful not to point out the truth. Wink and nod, when education isn’t delivered. Evidently you haven’t spent much time there, or you would know. Juneau has, and she’s not impressed either. The “we’re Native, so don’t look closely what we’re doing” line isn’t cutting it, especially when it’s so obvious that practically nobody willingly enrolls. What is the “Native focus” in the school? The school itself is unable to answer.

Be Done
Anonymous said…
I've found the UNEA people to be pretty antagonistic in their messaging all year long. It really wouldn't shock me if they were bad partners but it would be nice to get a documented list of problems and a timeline of what occurred.

I'm assuming that SPS knew what would happen if they kicked this beehive and they have some defensible facts they can supply.

Anonymous said…
@Be Done What did Burke say or do about the dumping? How about Geary, she's the SPED lawyer turned Board member? Did they agree to fix those problems or like you say is it business as usual?

Anonymous said…
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seattle citizen said…
I wonder what on earth could make the UNEA people antagonistic.
I wonder if it's the time the Seattle tribe, the Duwamish, were denied a reservation promised them in the Treaty of Point White (ALL the settlers, the incoming whites, wrote a letter to Washington asking that the Duwamish not be given a reservation.)
I wonder if it's the time in 1867 when Seattle's first charter included a law excluding Native peoples from within the city limtis?
Maybe it was when their longhouses on Alki were burned?
Perhaps the Dawes Act, in 1887, when their land was sold to settlers?
Maybe the long wait until 1922 (just six years before my father was born) when Native peoples were finally given citizenship?
I wonder if the District's decision to destroy Indian Heritage High School ten years ago had anything to do with it?
Maybe the lack of Native presence in district curriculum and instruction is a problem for Native peoples, here on their land (for it IS still their land - broken treaties are abrogated treaties...)
Or is it, now, the promise of space for a school on their original site (Wilson Pacific - near the sacred springs at Le?qtid) now withdrawn - the rubbing out, yet again, of Indigenous peoples by a callous and uncaring conquering power?

I wonder why the Native community might be angry.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Be Done, the topic is actually something else. Get back to that. We're not debating Licton Springs K-8.

I remind readers to keep a civil tongue and stay on topic.
LM said…
Maybe UNEA could run at North Seattle College?
Unknown said…
KUOW is reporting an SPS representative saying it's because UNEA didn't have their paperwork in.

Seems like a weak excuse to dump a program that was using the site in off hours. They were contributing to the education of children in the form of homework help and arts and language opportunities and athletics.

All of those contribute to the core mission of any school.

Anonymous said…
This is not about Licton Springs school.

Don't conflate
Anonymous said…
Yes please district. Tell us your side of the story and show proof. I don't trust you and I don't trust Sense-Wilson.

Miss Apatos
Anonymous said…
Of course it is about Licton Springs. Robert Eagle Staff has exactly 2 Native students as identified by OSPI. The only reason to host a program for Native students is to serve Native students. It makes no sense to have such a program for 2 students. Everyone knows Licton Springs k-8 is on the chopping block. That happens to be where there are a dozen or so more Native students. Also not many, but maybe interesting to some provider. Without these students, what would be the point of an after school program for them? The failure of the Licton Springs school to become a viable entity means the district may not see value in continuing its relationship with an outside group for service. And don’t kid yourself. Liston Springs won’t last long as a k-5 either. Connect those dots. The “something else’s” line up.

Be Done
Anonymous said…
Of course it is about Licton Springs. Robert Eagle Staff has exactly 2 Native students as identified by OSPI. The only reason to host a program for Native students is to serve Native students. It makes no sense to have such a program for 2 students. Everyone knows Licton Springs k-8 is on the chopping block. That happens to be where there are a dozen or so more Native students. Also not many, but maybe interesting to some provider. Without these students, what would be the point of an after school program for them? The failure of the Licton Springs school to become a viable entity means the district may not see value in continuing its relationship with an outside group for service. And don’t kid yourself. Liston Springs won’t last long as a k-5 either. Connect those dots. The “something else’s” line up.

Be Done
Anonymous said…
I don't understand why Scott Pinkham and Rick Burke are not addressing this issue? Dont both claim to represent the school and natives?, Burke as the board rep and Pinkham as a native himself? I was told that Pinkham is not a local tribe member and has been told to keep out of their business.

Scott is that true? Please issue a formal statement on what's going on.

Licton Leaks
Anonymous said…
If the two highest ranking native education advocates in this city are not especially interested in this program....maybe it's time to admit it's not a great program?

I was told that Scott Pinkham attended the rally in support of the Clear Sky program. Sorry, Sorry.
Anonymous said…

Please don't disparage my school after all the years I have fought for it.
It is a one of a kind place,that has helped many students.
We have many students that are not registered as native because Duwamish is not recognized by the federal government.
It has the highest FRL ratio of any option school in the northend.
We have been lied to and stolen from by the district.
There are things happening here that are driven by various tribe's animosity towards each other.

Dead Horse
Anonymous said…
Scott Pinkham actually attends Clear Sky and provides mentorship to youth there. He attended the rally and spoke at the rally.

To the 6/15 commentor, There are FAR more than 2 Native American students who attend REMS. SPS has a known problem with data collection and demographics. Race and ethnicity reporting has a discrete set of federal categories. Many Native Americans are multi-racial. They could be coded by SPS as multi-racial, native american, or any other race/ethnicity they might also identify with. My own child is listed in SPS as "multi-racial." Their student information systems allow a box to be checked by the school registrar if students also identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native. However, this data is not consistently collected, and SPS's reporting tools and queries seem to ignore it. So, the data itself is not entirely reliable, and the data that does exist is not used in the district or state reports.

Anonymous said…
I hope Ms. Sense-Wilson/UNEA will retain a lawyer, because SPS's cause for termination is one they just recently violated on a much grander scale in the science adoption with a well-documented paper and video trail.

The SPS termination letter (linked in Crosscut article) states that UNEA didn't provide evidence of supporting "positive student outcomes" per Board Policy 4265. A closer look at Policy 4265 indicates that outcomes need to be "measureable" and follow an "annual reporting process'.

Yet, SPS didn't supply the disaggregated student outcome data following a 1 and 3 year reporting process as required by Board Policy 2020SP for 20 middle schools.

Situational ethics or just none at all.

Anonymous said…
I know Licton- Springs is not the topic, but I want to say that I am very disappointed at the idea of it being cut back to a K-5. I looked at Licton Springs when my cognitively disabled daughter started kindergarten, and I was very impressed - really the only school I visited that seemed to understand the idea of inclusion, and how to work with kids that are not at grade level (either substantially ahead or behind). Ultimately I did not enroll her there, as we were outside the geozone and I would have had to provide transportation, which wasn't feasible at the time with working and all my kids being quite young. I was definitely considering it as a option when she gets to middle school though, and will be disappointed if that opportunity is not available.

Mom of 4
Linde Knighton said…
This is the latest in a long line of attempts to Remove a Native program, and Native students from a place where they are thriving. By limiting the number of students so that certain programs are closed to them, pushing them from pillar to post,"Losing" paperwork that has already been submitted, and using other time proven corporate tactics, the Superintendent's office is proving that they plan to relocate, or terminate all Native or other ethnic programs proven to help these children succeed in school. It's almost as if they were trying to use the public school to take the Indian out of the child.
Anonymous said…
Mom of 4, if your cognitively disabled child is eligible for special education transportation on her IEP (and she assuredly is eligible), the district MUST provide it regardless of where she goes to school or how she was assigned there. Inside or outside or outside your geozone. Choice or not. Inside or outside SPS, anywhere, including out of state residential placements. Door to door transportation is a federally protected special education related service, like speech or occupational therapy. It is NOT a district transportation issue. Your door to door special education service is NOT under the purview of whimsical district transportation policy. Don’t ever let them get away with foisting transportation on you the parent.

Very interesting post this is my first time visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post! maths tricks in hindi !
Anonymous said…
That's true in general, but the district does NOT provide transportation outside the geozone to OPTION schools, even for sped.

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