West Seattle school-closure fight: School board updates

December 17, 2008 at 5:55 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle school closure, West Seattle schools | 9 Comments

We’re at district HQ for tonight’s school board meeting, where speakers during the public-comment period are scheduled to include people on behalf of Cooper Elementary, Pathfinder K-8, and Arbor Heights Elementary, the three West Seattle schools that have been involved in the closure proposals so far. Also, Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is scheduled to present an update on the process; that “update” at the meeting two weeks ago yielded the first official word that the possibility of closing the Cooper “program” was being studied. We’re not going to post minute-by-minute updates of this meeting, since you can watch live on TV (cable channel 23 26 per district staff), but we will post periodic notes about what happens, particularly once the superintendent presents her report.

6:02 PM UPDATE: Meeting has begun; Cheryl Chow is the only board member not here. Standing-room-only group like two weeks ago. (Added post-meeting: We took two photos of the room quickly between the Pledge of Allegiance and the public-comment period – directionally, as the board faces, we were sitting in the front row on the right, to get the seat next to the speakers’ podium for better video, and so had a straight-ahead view of that side, with an angled view of the left side of the room – first photo is right, second photo left.)

CLICK AHEAD TO READ THE REST OF OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE:

6:15 PM UPDATE: Two West Seattle parents have spoken so far: April Bolding on behalf of Arbor Heights, saying they are open to growing the school to take “entire cohorts” from any other schools that are closed, and advocating for a South cluster Spectrum program (one year accelerated – right now the only real Spectrum program in either West Seattle cluster is at Lafayette Elementary, and it’s routinely waitlisted); Brittany Abbott on behalf of Cooper (Arbor Heights’ Eric Iwamoto was scheduled for the slot but ceded it), asking that the board not close Cooper’s program, particularly since it appears the students would be dispersed to programs that are not doing as well academically as Cooper.

6:29 PM UPDATE: Molly Gras-Usry has spoken on behalf of Cooper, saying that she should be at the podium telling the board about the school’s successes, rather than begging them to keep the program open. She suggested that Boren or Denny (once its new building at Sealth is done) would be appropriate homes for Pathfinder, if it could not get its own new building, or have the current one upgraded. P.S. If you are looking for minute-by-minute updates on the meeting, there’s liveblogging under way, of all speakers, at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com. No further West Seattle speakers are on the schedule but could appear from the waitlist or from someone ceding time; the Center School’s possible move off the Seattle Center campus, and the proposal to close the Montlake Elementary building and move its “program” to Lowell (cohoused with half of APP), are drawing a significant number of speakers (as with all regular board meetings, people signed up to speak by calling or e-mailing at 8 am on the Monday morning preceding the meeting).

7:06 PM UPDATE: The public comment period has ended. Board president Michael DeBell says “this feels like democracy” and says “we’re feeling your passion up here as well.” Now, the superintendent’s update. Issues to be updated: The budget, high-school-closure recommendation(s), the program design team concept, special education, and functional capacity.

7:23 PM UPDATE: “Comprehensive high school” closure is definitely off the table for this year, says the superintendent. Center School supporters who are here break into applause. But it might come back, she says. That means Aki Kurose/Rainier Beach combo proposal and Center School closure/move proposals are both out of this round of the closure process.

7:34 PM UPDATE: Looks like tonight’s meeting will NOT include any new info or updates regarding the schools involved in the West Seattle closure process. Chief academic officer Carla Santorno says that special education student assignment info will be ‘released in the final capacity management [closure] recommendation on January 6,’ for the special ed families who have been asking about that. “Functional capacity” — figuring out the REAL capacity of each school, not the theoretical “planning capacity” that has been used previously — will not be finalized till January 13, according to researcher briefing now (that would be a week after the proposed final closure recommendations are out?). As part of this briefing, the researcher says ultimately this isn’t about how many students can be in a building (elementary or K-8) but class size – the result could be “increase enrollment in classes below 25″ and “decrease enrollment in classes above 25″ – 25 seems to have been identified as the ideal class size in the district for those grades.

8:07 PM UPDATE: The superintendent’s report is over and the board is taking a break. That’s the end of potential discussion of the closure process for the night. The superintendent’s presentation is now available online (including the items mentioned above, which featured long sub-briefings by the finance and research directors, on the budget and “functional capacity”) – so we’ve uploaded it here if you’d like to read it. If you’d rather access it directly from the district website, it’s a PDF linked within a PDF, so follow this link to the agenda, and then click on the underlined “Presentation” link.

9:20 PM UPDATE: We returned to WSB HQ during the aforementioned break. As we did during the previous board meeting, we recorded video of each West Seattleite who addressed the board, so we are uploading that now for a separate post later with toplines on what happened and what’s next. The next board meeting is January 7th, which will be one day after Dr. Goodloe-Johnson releases her “final recommendations” for school closures.

9 Comments

  1. Those of us with satellite instead of cable can’t watch on TV, darn it. Do they stream online anywhere?

    Comment by litlnemo — 6:18 pm December 17, 2008 #

  2. sorry I just saw this and district staff informs me I had the wrong channel, it was 26. Just checked with district communications staffer David Tucker and he says no, it’s not streamed online. (I suggested they should reconsider that, especially next year when more people may go off cable in the digital transition.)

    Comment by WSB — 8:14 pm December 17, 2008 #

  3. It is streamed online, but not live. You can find the Board meeting videos online on the Seattle Channel website at http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/watchVideos.asp?program=schools.

    Comment by Beth Bakeman — 8:37 pm December 17, 2008 #

  4. The way they are talking about special education students is terrible. Aren’t all students general education students first? Do students who receive special ed services WANT to be reassigned? What choices will they be given? What about continuity — the way that this district shuffles students with disabilities around, you would never know that this is considered to be a very bad practice in terms of these children’s clinical and educational outcomes. So, why is the district talking reassignment instead of continuity of placement? We are hoping the board members will ask these questions and give us some clarification.

    Comment by meebs — 8:46 pm December 17, 2008 #

  5. “Streamed” to me means live, so that’s what I meant by saying it’s not streamed. The address Beth kindly provided is where it’s archived – I’ll check for turnaround later; I remember looking during the closure process two years ago and one particularly tumultuous meeting was turned around for video archiving within a few hours.

    Comment by WSB — 9:30 pm December 17, 2008 #

  6. BTW, not all West Seattle Parents that spoke were speaking about neighborhood schools. there’s about 4 or 5 WS parents just in the foreground of your first shot. One spoke (her back is turned to the camera) and I ceded my spot to another speaker for our school.

    about 17% of The Center School’s student body comes out of WS. You haven’t known this because we’ve been silently going about our business. No more, you will be hearing much more from us from now on and we invite you to include The Center School in your future reporting.

    Comment by PDieter — 9:50 pm December 17, 2008 #

  7. What was really curious is that after the long presentation about functional capacity, Director Martin-Morris noted that the date the Board would receive the data is AFTER the date for the final recommendations. To much applause, he said, “I need to make a data-drive decision so I need…data” Lots of excuses from Dr. G-J but when at least two other directors suggested prioritizing the list so that they do the work for the preliminary schools, well, somehow they just can’t do it that way. Curious.

    Comment by westello — 10:05 pm December 17, 2008 #

  8. PD – When you came up to the podium I thought your name sounded familiar.
    Someone in WS has written me before about TCS and so I did make note (and sent via Twitter) when it was made clear tonight that the close/move possibility was off the table – for now.
    I did hear and make note of the 17% stat mentioned by one of the speakers and it will be in our upcoming report.
    Re: “silently going about (your) business” – I have heard Cooper and Arbor Heights parents both say this as this process proceeded, they wished they had gotten the success stories of their schools out sooner, and perhaps they wouldn’t even have been considered for the chopping block. While in a perfect world those great stories would have been discovered by media “storytellers” and relayed to the world already … the reality, in big news organizations and little ones (I’ve worked in all sizes), is that most stories start with an initial contact from someone.
    Even one line – picking up a Cooper program that was amazing to hear about at a closure-related meeting there, for example – the autism buddy program for which they received a grant – one line to media about something like that could be the start of a story, and stories serve not only to get your message out, but also to inspire others who read/see the story – “Hey! They did that! I didn’t know that was possible, maybe we can try it too!”
    You might send that short note to five newspapers, two online news organizations, four TV stations, three radio stations, and get one or two nibbles, but it’s a start, and sometimes for example, an online or print story will then get attention from a tv station, even a station whose assignment editor hit ‘delete’ when you sent the pitch directly days earlier.
    I realize everyone is busy and no one really has time to become Official Media Rep but if you have one person who can spend a few hours researching contacts, it could pay dividends.
    Sorry to ramble but this is advice we have shared when asked and it also gives us a chance to reiterate, we love to hear school news and publish as much of it as we can (a few things are backlogged right now because of the weather but it’s all in queue).

    Comment by WSB — 10:08 pm December 17, 2008 #

  9. thanks we’re on it.

    I did misspeak though. Our speaker isn’t a WS resident, she co-crafted her statement with a WS resident and much of the whole program was mapped out at uptown in the Junction.

    Maybe you recorded her presentation?

    Comment by PDieter — 10:14 pm December 17, 2008 #

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