That’s Molly Gras-Usry, one of two Cooper Elementary parents who spoke to the Seattle School Board Wednesday night during the public-comment period that started the board’s regular meeting. Tonight, Cooper has its own meeting with a district official (7 pm @ Cooper) – but Wednesday, it was a chance to address the board. The other parent to speak was Brittany Abbott, who hadn’t been on the speaker list but got the chance when an Arbor Heights Elementary parent yielded his spot. She too spoke about how, as the theme of the school’s anti-closure campaign goes, Cooper works:
One Arbor Heights parent did speak, April Bolding from the AH PTSA. Though AH is not currently on the list that’s being actively considered for closure, the two-plus-week scare jolted that school’s community into brainstorming ways they could help with the West Seattle South cluster’s capacity imbalance, and that’s what Bolding focused on:
In comments following our as-it-happened report on the board meeting, Paul Dieter pointed out other West Seattleites were there on behalf of another school that was under consideration as a candidate for closure or consolidation, The Center School, a nontraditional high school that leases space in the Center House at Seattle Center. One speaker said 17 percent of TCS students are from West Seattle. (That would be about 50; the school’s website says it has about 300 students.) That school, as it turned out, is involved in the only change that was revealed tonight regarding the proposed closure list — Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson said that changes involving high schools were off the table for now, for at least a year. (The Center School and Rainier Beach High School had been the only high schools mentioned in the process.) That was the only change she announced; other than that, what she announced last week (summary here) stands, including the proposal to close the Cooper “program,” disperse its students, and move Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building, closing the old Genesee Hill Elementary building where the alternative school’s long been housed.
Also at the meeting: District watchdog Chris Jackins of West Seattle – who speaks at almost every meeting – again implored the district not to close any schools; district financial boss Don Kennedy recapped his recent budget report, again saying the district may wind up $37 million in the red, depending on what’s in the governor’s budget for education (she announces her budget this afternoon); chief academic officer Carla Santorno explained the “design team” concept that has come up more and more often (including in the superintendent’s radio appearance Tuesday) as the plan for helping students and staffers transition to new schools once the closure plan is finalized – the jargonistic bullet points are in this PDF of her presentation
The last section of the “superintendent’s report” was a long and fine-print-laden presentation by researcher Brad Bernatek. He is crunching numbers on “functional capacity” — which means how many students a school can REALLY hold, not just how many it should THEORETICALLY be able to hold — in a study that started just last month. Some asked at the time, shouldn’t that study have been done before district leadership started declaring some schools underenrolled and some overenrolled? Meantime, Bernatek said the data will all be ready by January 13th, leading board member Harium Martin-Morris to point out – that’s a week AFTER the final recommendations are to come out, how are we supposed to make the decision without the data? Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said there would be lots of time (16 days, to be precise, before the final vote; 9 days before the final public hearing). Again, the entire presentation can be read here.
WHAT’S NEXT: The district-organized meeting at Cooper at 7 pm tonight (listed on this page along with all other remaining community hearings); the announcement of “final recommendations” on January 6; School Board meetings Jan. 7 and 21; final public hearing (for the entire plan as it stands then) January 22; special board meeting to vote on the plan, January 29. Public comment is still being accepted by e-mail at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.