Open letter from Cooper parent: “Put pressure on the district”

February 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle school closure, West Seattle schools | 23 Comments

Two weeks after the Seattle School Board voted to close the Cooper Elementary program while moving Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building on Pigeon Point, the reality of looming transition is settling in for hundreds of families. Last night we reported a Pathfinder update, including the start of meetings for its design team. That process apparently has not started yet for Cooper, according to this open letter to the community from Molly Usry of the Cooper PTSA:

To Concerned Community Members -

Now that we have had nearly two weeks to digest the School Board’s vote to discontinue the Cooper Program we are all trying to figure out what is next. Lawsuit? Help with the transition? Stay in denial that the Seattle School Board could vote yes for such a blatantly racist and classist recommendation?

I am personally choosing to focus on putting pressure on the District to provide for the kids whose lives they are disrupting. We need to anticipate that these kids are going to be going through the grieving process of losing their school and being separated from their friends. With this in mind we need to demand from the District that they provide us with extra counseling support for our students. They have created this mess, now they better be ready to supply us with extra resources to be able to continue to teach, parent and have the kids learning to the best of their ability through these trying times.

During a meeting with (school board member) Harium Martin-Morris yesterday, Harium mentioned he wants all the kids being displaced by the School Board’s vote to be tracked closely for at least the next 2 years with quarterly reports brought fourth on each students academic performance. I not only think this is a brilliant idea but I also think the District has a responsibility to be paying very close attention to the effects of their recommendations and votes on our children. The district should be designing a system for tracking the thousand of kids that have just been displaced immediately.

I also want to bring to everyone’s attention that design teams need to be implemented at Arbor Heights, Gatewood and Highland Park, the schools where Cooper’s kids will be assigned. It was my understanding yesterday at the meeting that design teams have not been formed at those schools. This shows a complete lack of regard for our kids when I am well aware of the fact that design teams for other schools like Pathfinder have already been meeting and planning. Please don’t let our Cooper kids fall through the cracks.

Everyone please write to our district, board and representative members to put pressure on them to ensure success for our kids during this trying time.

Thank you.

Molly Gras-Usry, Cooper PTSA Vice President

Board contact info is here; West Seattle rep Steve Sundquist‘s next community gathering is at 9 am next Wednesday at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction. One more note: We received e-mail today from someone else saying there’s a meeting at Cooper for the school’s families at 5:30 tonight, but have not yet been able to officially confirm that. Tonight also is the next school board meeting; no closure-related items are on the official agenda, but they might come up in the regular update from Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson that always begins the meeting after about an hour of public comment. 3:15 PM UPDATE: The district has confirmed tonight’s meeting at Cooper but stresses it is ONLY for parents/guardians.

6:19 PM UPDATE: According to the “superintendent’s update” that is posted online as part of tonight’s School Board agenda, a Cooper design team has been formed and met today – here’s an excerpt from the presentation (see it here in its entirety) that is to be made at tonight’s board meeting:

Teams from the discontinuing programs or schools met this afternoon (Weds)
○ Cooper, Meany, TT Minor, Summit and AAA
□ These teams are working on addressing four needs:
1. Enrollment questions and issuesincluding an outreach plan to help affected families
understand their school and program options; and planning for and supporting visits
to primary receiving schools for affected families
2. Emotional support to the school community
3. End of year celebrationsto recognize that school community (these celebrations will
also be supported for Van Asselt, Genesee Hill, Mann and SBOC @ Old Hay as
requested).
4. Document and archiveschool and program artifacts and school records.

23 Comments

  1. yes, there is definitely a meeting at cooper tonight, 5:30-8pm.

    Comment by brittany — 2:41 pm February 11, 2009 #

  2. Thanks! Now we are trying to find out if we will be allowed in to cover it – TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:48 pm February 11, 2009 #

  3. I’m sad for the parents whose kids won’t be able to walk to school, but look around you. Someone has to sacrifice, and only so many people can point to the other guy before time is up.
    .
    Yes, the Cooper folks got totally thrown under the bus by the Arbor Heights folks, but I don’t think there’s anyone left for Cooper to throw under there, and time’s kinda up.

    Comment by Michael — 4:23 pm February 11, 2009 #

  4. Lawsuit? Really?

    Comment by cmc — 5:18 pm February 11, 2009 #

  5. I can only imagine how infuriating and disheartening this process has been for the Cooper community. And I’m sure it will take a while for all the affected parties to come to terms with the school board’s decision.

    I have to believe though that some good may actually come out of it for those kids. They will make new friends. They will learn to like their new teachers and principals. They will get exposed to new experiences that they might have otherwise missed. They will grow from the experience of having to deal with unwanted change.

    I’m not suggesting this is justification for the decision. Just that maybe it’s time to make the best of what feels like a crappy situation.

    More importantly, I hope the kids aren’t being made to feel like victims who arrive at their new school with a huge chip on their shoulder. I can’t imagine how that will benefit anyone.

    Comment by Just a thought... — 5:22 pm February 11, 2009 #

  6. Counseling? Really?

    Comment by Wes — 5:30 pm February 11, 2009 #

  7. I find some of the tone of this to be troubling. The assumption that there is a “complete lack of regard” feels premature to me. This decision was only made 2 weeks ago and I wonder if it may be too soon to know what the processes are going to be or what is taking place at Arbor Hts, Highland Pk or Gatewood to prepare for the Cooper students.

    The students from Cooper have not even been assigned to any of those schools yet. I bet some of these schools are waiting until they know which students are assigned to them before going into full gear, so that they know who they should be working with and the specifics of what will be needed.

    Comment by WSparent — 6:23 pm February 11, 2009 #

  8. To (Overly) Concerned Parent,

    A decision has been made. Deal with it and move on already. It is ridiculous to continue dragging this on. Use it instead as a lesson for your kids – sometimes you get your way, sometimes you don’t. Throwing a fit and making things difficult is not the answer.

    Thank you.

    Most Seattle Residents

    Comment by Luke — 7:58 pm February 11, 2009 #

  9. Last year we fought the district over the switch from a 4-period day to a 6-period day at WSHS and in the end, we lost. We couldn’t get the teachers to protest with us…their jobs were at stake, and some were put on administrative leave for speaking out, and there was even some shady behavior on the part of the school administrators. Then there’s the Denny-Sealth fiasco…the list goes on! I think that the SSD always seems to have plenty of cash to stonewall any action taken against them. I don’t know what the long-term action should be, except maybe to take careful note of how each school board member votes and oust the unreasonable ones come election time. How about a vote of “No Confidence” for the superintendent? In the meantime, my best advice is that each parent be the best advocate for your child that you can…insist that the district fulfill their transition promises and know that you are not alone in your frustration with the less-than democratic way the SSD operates.

    Comment by WSHSparent — 8:40 pm February 11, 2009 #

  10. I think it is the parents that need the counseling not the kids. They are so much more resilent. Move on, lets teach our kids to make opportunities out of change. The move may be truly positive for some (maybe most) kids, think of the possiblity of that.

    Comment by nw — 8:58 pm February 11, 2009 #

  11. lawsut? sure. take more money away from schols with a court batle. who do you thinl pays the district’s legal fees?

    get over it.

    move on.

    gone

    Comment by eric — 9:15 pm February 11, 2009 #

  12. So are you saying they are so much better adjusted when moving to middle school and then high school, counseling won’t be necessary then too? Won’t they have new friends then? I know it sucks, but I agree, kids are more resilient than adults. The need for hand holding is miss directed here. Learn with your children that life does throw lemons at you. Teach them to make lemonade, rather than a handout.

    Comment by mrhineh — 9:51 pm February 11, 2009 #

  13. Unfortunately, the economic situation cannot accommodate everyone in the school system and and make everyone happy. It’s sad to close a school but I applaud the Superintendent for sticking to her guns and making tough decisions. Now, we all must just learn to move on for the greater good of the students in our district and show them a good example of adult leadership and positive attitudes. You know, “when life give you a lemon…”?

    Comment by WS school supporter — 10:09 pm February 11, 2009 #

  14. I really, really agree with Luke. This was a hard decision for this school community but it has been made. Let’s not treat these kids like they need special attention or counseling because of this – really? Come on – kids switch schools all the time – mid-year, beginning of the year, even end of the year – and do fine – kids are resilient, as nw said. They will still be in West Seattle and can still keep their Cooper friends. It just takes a little more effort on the parents to pay attention to their kids transition and nurture those friendships if they are so important. Please, adults, think of the impact your elementary experience had on your life today and get some perspective. Cooper parents, continue to love your kids and be passionate about their education wherever it is!

    Comment by beatrice — 10:23 pm February 11, 2009 #

  15. a few notes here:

    the “lawsuit” issue is just thrown out there. we’re not in the midst of suing anyone. there will be lawsuits, and i’m sure you realize that the seattle school district has plenty of lawyers on the payroll to handle whatever comes. this is not money out of any child’s classroom budget.

    there is nothing wrong with speaking out against this poorly made decision, even as we register our kids at other schools and help them make the transitions that they will need to make. yes, a decision happened. and more decisions will happen in the future. if you feel the school board is doing a crappy job, let them know. you won’t change what is happening, but you might affect what happens to the next school, and the next.

    where counseling is concerned, molly’s child happens to be in the autism inclusion program. if you think those kids aren’t getting their lives turned upside down, then you really don’t have a clue. it’s not as simple as “they get to stay in their building” or “they will adjust.” we also have a lot of kids in ELL programs who will indeed need extra assistance transitioning. don’t put “counseling” in this little touchy-feely box of “let’s all have a group hug and deal with our sadness.” sometime counseling is actually useful, and necessary.

    this “get over it” attitude is really pitiful.

    Comment by brittany — 7:55 am February 12, 2009 #

  16. brittany, I agree with much of what you say, especially the idea that it is okay to speak out about a crappy decision. However, I and others in this community – some even Cooper families – just feel like now is the time to move forward and stop living in the negative. If we can all agree that kids are resilient and transition often turns out to be okay, then let’s just start to act a little more like mature adults and mostly, like parents and not mad children who didn’t get our way. Kids can pick up on our feelings and we need to have them moving towards their transitions with positive anticipation.

    Comment by beatrice — 8:31 am February 12, 2009 #

  17. Brit, the letter doesn’t say anything about the special needs students, its tone represents the student body as a whole. That is how the respondents are addressing their reactions. Of course special needs students would require extra attention and I doubt anyone would question, or dispute that. But that it NOT what the intent of the letter reads. It was painting a broader brush. We are impacted by the Pathfinder decision, but don’t feel the need to counsel our children about it. I also expect other decisions to impact them over their next 12 years, and we will get through it. I don’t like the SSB as it sits now, but thats the cards I am dealt and I can choose to work with it, or move.

    Comment by brandon — 8:43 am February 12, 2009 #

  18. “The lawsuit issue is just thrown out there” — but why? What would a lawsuit be based on? Public schools having to close and creating an inconvenience?

    Comment by cmc — 9:46 am February 12, 2009 #

  19. I grew up in the military and changed schools at least every two years or less. My parents taught their children (5 of us) to be at the very least, resilient,independent,resourceful,adaptable and many other things. Holding our breath and throwing a tantrum was NOT an option and I believe we all became better adults for it. Sure, it was tough at times but as Mom used to say “Who said life was going to fair?”. Lawsuits,counseling,protests with shouting and screaming? I am concerned for the children of these parents.

    Comment by 56bricks — 11:11 am February 12, 2009 #

  20. I think a lot of people are forgetting the great injustice done to the Cooper community. The district needs to make some tough desicions that require closing a program fine but why did they go after a successful program?! There are lots of programs in West Seattle that are performing well below Cooper.
    Secondly, a large majority of the Cooper kids live at or below the poverty line – 80%, in fact. Where there is poverty there is instability. So here we are interrupting one more piece of their life. And for many of the kids it’s a piece that is going well. NOw it is getting disrupted so yes I believe counseling will be appropriate for some of these kids. BEsides, the district “promised” us this level of support for the transition so I would like them to follow through.
    I do agree that this is the system and this was the outcome and we need to process it and deal with it. So we are doing that and all I am asking is that the district follows through with the ways they “promise” to support our transition.
    For those of you telling us to “get over it” i would like to remind you that everyone processes changes and loss differently so it is not for you to judge how we should be dealing with this.
    For those of you offering your condolences and sympathies, thank you!

    Comment by Molly — 6:00 pm February 12, 2009 #

  21. BTW, Cooper kids have already received thier assignments!

    Comment by Molly — 6:02 pm February 12, 2009 #

  22. Yay Molly! You rock.

    I find it interesting that someone can speak for “most Seattle residents.” How do you know this is the opinion of “most Seattle residents?” You don’t.

    Comment by AJ — 9:27 pm February 12, 2009 #

  23. i would say that it’s not a get over it attitude and more of a get on with it attitude that people are thinking cooper parents should have

    Comment by WS — 7:11 am February 13, 2009 #

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