Monday, May 31, 2021

Board Meeting on Wednesday Night.

 There’s a regular Board meeting this Wednesday, June 2nd. Reviewing the agenda, I see that more and more items - especially BEX/BTA items - are on the Consent agenda. The Consent Agenda is for items usually reviewed in committee and previously introduced at a Board meeting. Putting multiple items on the Consent agenda for action means the Board won’t be discussing any of them further and the vote is a package deal for all the items. 

When the Board has a particularly lengthy agenda, this is okay. But there are watchdogs like Chris Jackins who pours over these items and frequently has useful comments to make but can’t because those items are on the Consent agenda. 

One BEX item I see there is for a new playground at Green Lake Elementary School. This school is the home for many of the most medically fragile students in our district and has internal space that has specialized equipment to meet their learning needs. From the BAR (Board Action Report):

The Green Lake Elementary Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has initiated a Self Help playground project at Green Lake Elementary that may exceed $250,000. Upon completion, the project will become the property of the district, thus it is a “gift” to the district.

I move to accept Green Lake Elementary PTA’s gift of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible playground ramp and hillside improvements.

The Green Lake master plan was conceived in 2018 with funding from the Department of Neighborhoods and broad community input from school staff, students, families, and neighbors. More than 300 people participated in three community meetings and other forms of outreach. In the summer and fall of 2020, the district's Capital Department, through Building Excellence (BEX) V levy funding, addressed demolition of the nearly 30-year-old play structure and installed new play equipment with an ADA accessible playground turf and the PTA contributed funds to add a few supplementary components.

To date, the PTA has received the Jack Aherns Memorial Fund of $22,797, Garneau Nicon Foundation Grant of $18,340.35, Nesholm Family Foundation Grant of $10,000, and the Harnish Foundation Grant of $150,000. The Green Lake PTA also has raised funds through a direct ask campaign of $91,427.65, a holiday tree sale of $4,870, and a Go Fund Me campaign of $19,766. They also have applied for the Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund grant of $50,000. The cost estimate for this phase of the PTA’s Green Lake Playground Improvements project is between $250,000 and $355,000 dependent on the extent of fundraising. 

Green Lake PTA certainly went above and beyond to find funding for this equipment and its installation. I know it is hard to write all these grants but if the Board believes that some schools benefit from having parents who know how to write them, why doesn’t the Board ask the district to provide that learning for parents? Or why, when Director Chandra Hampson was SCPTSA president, didn’t that group provide learning so parents could learn how to find grants and apply for them? I see nothing at the current SCPTSA site about learning about writing grants.

To note, Director Leslie Harris, several years ago said she wanted to see updated playgrounds, not just for new buildings, but older ones as well to be included in BEX funding. Using the racial equity tool, those BEX dollars would go first to Tier 1 or 2 schools with higher levels of minority populations.

But I hear that when this item was introduced at the last Board meeting,  Director Hampson used an unpleasant tone in speaking of it. I know she dislikes when northend PTAs raise money for their schools but the district is already holding dollars for minority schools for these types of efforts. Special Education students are something of a minority group in the district. As well, this effort benefits community members who have children with ADA needs. 

It would be nice to hear a grateful tone from Board leadership for efforts that help students with special needs, no matter where their school is. 

Bravo to the Green Lake Elementary PTA and its community!


Anonymous said...

It does seem that the Board, and well, the district, overlook the need needs of medically fragile and students with learning disabilities quite frequently, don't they? Public Schools serve a wide range of students, and I rarely see that range really being held in the leadership and the educational service provided.

Law Suits

Another Name said...

Very difficult to watch the board president practically scold individuals for helping medical fragile children.

I'm glad an individual was on the line to let the community know that there is proximately $1m allocated towards playground development.

Anonymous said...

I'm a parent at Green Lake Elementary and I have been involved with the playground project. Green Lake had one of the oldest playgrounds in the district (33 years) and the equipment was falling apart. SPS allocated about $50k of BEX money to buy new play equipment which was installed this fall. The big price tag on the new improvements is due to the steep slope of the site. In order to make it possible for students with physical disabilities to access the new play equipment directly from the school the hillside needs to be re-graded with a series of ramps and retaining walls. The PTA project also includes accessible slides built into the hill and some artificial turf. This has been a parent priority since kids frequently fall and get hurt on the asphalt that covers most of the playground. Parents of a deceased former student kicked this all off with a memorial fund dedicated specifically to replacing asphalt with artificial turf. It is frustrating to see board members disapprove of a project like this. All the kids at the school should be able to reach the playground and play safely. In a better world SPS would have the funding to make these expensive improvements, but given that they opted to replace the equipment alone without addressing the accessibility problems it seems like the board could at least refrain from casting shade at the parents who took this on.

Another Name said...

Green Lake, parent. Thanks for letting us know that parents of a deceased former student kickded off the project. This information exemplifies the need for sensitivity- which was not shown by board President Chandra Hampson.