(12:42 am note: Video clips have been added to the coverage below, at the spots relevant to when they were shot. Also: Here’s the official district news release)
8:34 PM UPDATE: It’s all over – including the shouting. Just small groups talking, hugging in the hallway (video clip above, added 8:47). Topline to everything below: The closure plan passes largely as-is, with Cooper Elementary‘s program to close, Cooper’s building to become the new home of Pathfinder K-8, the once-closed building that has housed Pathfinder for more than a decade – Genesee Hill – to be shuttered. All this takes effect as of the next school year, and planning/transitioning/communicating is to begin immediately.
8:02 PM UPDATE: Bass has said she wishes there were more time, to work out a better plan. The final vote is getting closer. Bass says after this, she wants to speak with anyone and everyone about the assignment plan. She says it’s leadership to stand alone sometimes. She says she wanted to give money to Pathfinder over Sealth (and other things), but “it wasn’t popular.” Final closure vote (with no changes to buildings/programs that were to be changed/closed): 2 no 5 yes. Most of the crowd is leaving and heading out into the hallway, chanting – there was some yelling here in the main room too. Police are hovering. People are shouting hey hey, ho ho, school board members have got to go. You will be able to see that part on the TV newscasts – we’re staying put in case something actually happens in here informationally. (Added 9:15 pm – our clip from the departure of most of the crowd members, before those last pieces of the proposal were voted on)
The voting isn’t over yet – there are policy votes that have to be made in order to facilitate the main motion. There are people in the audience in here saying “Honor the 2006 Board member to the SBOC” (photo added above); now cheering in the hallway. Police and security have not all left the main area here. The chanting in the foyer has moved on to “these closures are racist.” The first of the accompanying motions has passed. Now, the motion that merges what will be the former Cooper reference area into the Sanislo reference area. (“Sanislo is full!” came a shout from the audience, which is true.) Motion passes. Meeting over.
7:51 PM UPDATE: Now, to the final vote on the official plan, which, for West Seattle, now remains: Cooper Elementary program closes (autism programs stay in the building), Pathfinder K-8 moves into Cooper’s building, Genesee Hill building closes. West Seattle APP elementary students would be reassigned to Thurgood Marshall, where approximately half the current APP elementary population will move (the other half remaining at Lowell). The board members are now making their final statements, Chow first, “now is the time” for action; must deal with “brutal facts.” Crowd now shouting. Chow is shouting to some degree, too, particularly the phrase “25-million-dollar deficit.” It’s clear she will vote yes. Sundquist has just made a speech, saying he too isn’t happy about Cooper, but that it’s time to finally move on with getting Pathfinder into another building. (here’s the clip – with heckling throughout)
Now Mary Bass is crying – she says she tried not to lose her composure.
7:41 PM UPDATE: Final amendment of the night before the final vote – Maier proposes granting “priority assignment” to students who, because of the eventual vote, will not be able to attend their current schools next year. By the way, if you’re having trouble keeping score, so far the “final recommendations” have not been altered – the only amendments that have passed affect some of the side effects of the potential eventual vote. And again, Martin-Morris and Bass vote no on this. It’s been a 5-2 split on everything.
7:32 PM UPDATE: Martin-Morris reads his amendment to keep Genesee Hill open and cancel closing Cooper. He says “it’s the right thing to do” and says closing it sends the wrong message: (video added 10:19 pm)
Mary Bass seconds. Sundquist says he won’t support it. Amendment fails, again only with Martin-Morris and Bass voting yes. Sundquist now reading his “reassign Cooper” amendment. “TO WORSE SCHOOLS!” shouted from the audience; Sundquist is called “a patronizing S.O.B.” Audience unruly again. People yelling, “Racist!” DeBell trying to quiet them down. Carr says the decision about Cooper was “the hardest” one to make but thinks Sundquist’s amendment will at least keep some of the students together. Vote on the amendment: everyone yes except Martin-Morris and Bass.
7:24 PM UPDATE: Martin-Morris’s update that would break Summit (which otherwise is closing) into K-8 and 9-12 at other sites, is now being considered. Summit families yell “We don’t want it!” It almost went without a second, then Bass seconded it. Martin-Morris’s update to cancel the Cooper program closure will be next (technically it would cancel the Genesee Hill building closure, which then would keep Pathfinder there, and Cooper in its building). By the way, besides us, several others are covering this meeting live via Twitter – twitter.com/phylfletch and twitter.com/sableverity among them. DeBell says he has been sorely frustrated by his inability to “find Summit a home.” From the audience: “Find us a home.” DeBell says Summit is “caring” and has been “pushed out to the edge of the district” but “some of the tough facts we are facing in the district right now fall heavily on Summit K-12 .. the K-12 model is very difficult to fit into a building unless it is a secondary school, and we have very few (of those) now.” He also says the transportation costs are challenging. Summit vote: Martin-Morris and Bass are again the only yes votes, it fails.
7:15 PM UPDATE: Vote on Mary Bass’s amendment for Central Cluster changes to the closure proposal is coming up. Sundquist says he will not support it. Martin-Morris says he will. DeBell says he will not. Shouts from the crowd. DeBell: “There is too much capacity in the Central Cluster.” Bass, Martin-Morris are the only yes votes; amendment fails. Boos from the crowd. This means among other things APP at Lowell will NOT be kept together – West Seattle APP students will be going to Thurgood Marshall (unless the final motion fails). The amendments failure triggers a Carr amendment regarding letting students who live in the Lowell walk zone to attend APP at Lowell. That amendment passes with all yes votes except Martin-Morris and Bass.
7:00 PM UPDATE: Now they are moving to the vote. Sundquist is reading motions. Then each member gets to read his/her amendment. Mary Bass reads hers first and is explaining at length why she proposed changes to the Central Cluster plan. If it goes the way that we’ve been told, each amendment will be voted on individually before a final vote – anything that is approved, becomes a change to the plan in the final vote. Now Cheryl Chow is recounting the history of the African American Academy, which is proposed for closure. “Unfortunately,” she says, “the program is and has been underenrolled .. and the school is not succeeding as all would want. Even if (it is closed),” she says, she believes the “Afrocentric” culture will continue in the building. Chow says the building will still be called the African American Academy unless the board votes to change it; much shouting ensues from the crowd. DeBell now says, please stop interrupting the meeting.
READ THE REST OF OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE
6:55 PM UPDATE: Mary Bass says she was going to comment later but will do so now instead: “I want to make it clear, I am in favor of closures. It has been a sticky wicket about who gets displaced … I hope you realize that I don’t want to let you down … all those who are looking at me to be a voice for a minority viewpoint, it may not have landed as securely as I would have liked, or you. … I hope we will see something joyous on the other side .. and I am asking for all of you to have that belief.” She says she wishes an assignment plan could have come first, but at least “we are finally getting to that .. we will get on with that as well.” She apologizes rather poignantly. “Closing schools has many foes, and few friends,” DeBell says, following her. “We are seeking the best of all children in the district, and acting on behalf of Seattle Public Schools … we have to stay together as a district …” The crowd now shouts, “VOTE NO!” DeBell again says the crowd must be quiet. Now they are beginning to vote.
6:45 PM UPDATE: Carr says it’s important to have a “strong leader, and we are fortunate to have such a leader in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.” Some in the crowd hoot and boo. Harium Martin-Morris says, “It is time for us to take action to remove the excess capacity in the district” but adds that he doesn’t agree with all the proposals. (He is the one who has proposed an amendment to maintain the status quo for Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder K-8; the amendments will be voted on, we have been told, before the final vote. He says, “Cooper has been working with one of the most difficult populations we have in the city … high level of free/reduced lunch, high level of ELL, highly mobile population, and in spite of all of that, we have seen gains in the performance of our students at Cooper, and an increase in enrollment at the school …and with not a lot of support.” Cooper’s Shelly Wiliams yells “THANK YOU” in response from the audience. Peter Maier says “I believe we must close schools to have a more sustainable system. … Closing any school is painful … (but) We have too many buildings overall.” He also mentions the maintenance backlog and the capital backlog. “With fewer buildings that are nearly empty, we can focus our resources on (the other buildings/schools).”
6:35 PM UPDATE: DeBell is now recapping history, since the superintendent’s overview is done and so are accompanying board questions. “Now we face a challenge of balancing our capacity … this is our response to a challenge of demographics.” He says long-ago closure rounds happened when there weren’t as many families in the north end; now, virtually all the excess capacity, he says, is south of downtown, and he says that’s because many schools in the north closed in prior years – so now there is overcrowding in the north and excess capacity in the south. And this dovetails, he says, with a “trough of economic crisis … that requires us to act.” He mentions there are other cuts such as central staff – “real people with real jobs … None of this is easy … We’ve been trying to listen and respond to the community.” (The crowd has settled down.) “The problem is there for everyone to see – we’re not hiding anything.” West Seattle’s board rep Steve Sundquist also has made a mini-speech saying that one-time financial infusions (such as the much-discussed interest money) are not the solution – “a structural problem … requires a structural solution.” (video of his 4-minute speech added 11:59 pm)
Sherry Carr is now speaking and says that, basically, if action isn’t taken tonight, teachers’ jobs will have to be cut. “As painful as closing schools may be, I can’t live with the alternative.”
6:30 PM UPDATE: Superintendent resumes her overview. Says design teams will start work in February if closures/changes approved tonight. Their initial reports would be posted online by March 2. (Note, it’s been said previously that there would be a Cooper design team, if that program is indeed closed, to help work through the transition both of Pathfinder into the building and current Cooper students to new schools for next year.) Whatever happens tonight, letters will be sent to all district families next week, assignment letters would go to “affected students” next month.
6:24 PM UPDATE: Crowd still chanting in foyer. Sounds like “the school board is racist/these closures outrageous.” Almost all the TV cameras have headed out into the lobby for the protest action. Hope you don’t mind if we stay here for the information. DeBell has just said it’s OK for NAACP director Bible to return to the room but he has to stand against the wall or take a seat, nobody can stand in the aisles, “We’re just trying to maintain an orderly meeting.”
6:16 PM UPDATE: A man has just been escorted out. One person says it was the president of the NAACP. (video clip of the ensuing turmoil added 11:30 pm)
DeBell agrees to find out why he was taken out. The crowd settles down, for now. Staff has resumed answering a question about middle-school capacity. Sounds like unruliness continuing in the foyer outside. West Seattle rep Steve Sundquist is asking if there has been any new studies of how many more students are expected because of growth in the High Point area. District staffer says phase 1 construction complete, phase 2 has 180 units completed, 80 being completed, expect to be completed by April or May (original schedule was June), but says they don’t have statistics on how many families may move in. Hollering outside makes it hard to concentrate on what’s happening in here. Now they’re chanting in the foyer. Based on Phase 1 stats, the staffer continues, could be up to 50 additional elementary-age children coming into Phase 2 development, but says it’s tricky because they don’t know how many might be living somewhere else in West Seattle now.
6:10 PM UPDATE: First slide – excess capacity review. Current recommendations, she says, will result in “West Seattle North excess elementary capacity almost eliminated … still more than 300 seats in West Seattle South.” She says “future consideration of whether to close a high school (somewhere in the city) remains on the table.”
6:06 PM UPDATE: The crowd is rowdy as the superintendent speaks. She says this is the right thing to do. She says to those who will be disappointed by closure votes, she is committed to their children’s education. The crowd jeers. A guy stood up and yelled, “Let’s hear it for the status quo” and momentarily got the crowd riled up. DeBell says the man will be asked to leave if he doesn’t quit disrupting the meeting. The man continues to yell, “Who agrees with me that this is economic fascism?” Security moves toward him. Finally, he stops. The superintendent resumes her presentation. (Video added at 11:14 pm; you can hear some of the heckling about one minute in)
6:00 PM UPDATE: The meeting has begun. Michael DeBell says, “This culminates a process that began in October …” At the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, after “…and justice for all,” a voice from the back calls out, “For some.”
We’re at Seattle Public Schools headquarters, where a rally of school-closure opponents is wrapping up outside and there’s a standing-room only crowd inside. The meeting that will include the closure/change vote will start shortly. We’ll update – with the newest information atop this entry as we add it.
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