Court fight, in this case. At Delridge Day this past Saturday, our spot in the Youngstown Arts Center parking lot was a few tables over from the booth you see in the photo above – with the “Save Cooper” theme. You might wonder, as we did, what’s the “Save Cooper” theme now, since the Seattle School Board vote to close the Cooper Elementary School “program” and move Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building in Pigeon Point happened four months ago, and a Cooper closure event is scheduled for this Sunday. Turns out, they were raising money for a legal challenge that continues, with a potentially pivotal hearing scheduled next week, headed by Cooper parent and PTA member Joy Anderson, aided by longtime school-closure opponent Chris Jackins. We spoke with both Anderson and Jackins at the event; read on to see what the Cooper challenge is about, and what happens next:
What’s happening right now is a motion for summary judgment; the hearing for that is now set for a week from Friday — June 12th.
In addition to the official legal paperwork – here’s the motion for summary judgment, and here’s an addendum; the district rebuttal, we’re told, is due later this week — Anderson has developed a nine-page document outlining the case from a more personal and detailed standpoint. Read it here.
It begins with the school’s history, including the original Cooper School (the building that is now Youngstown Cultural Arts Center), which made history as the workplace of Seattle’s first African-American teacher, Thelma Dewitty, in 1947. It traces the most recent school-closure process through everything we have covered here – the original preliminary proposal that Arbor Heights Elementary’s “program” be closed so that Pathfinder K-8 could move into that building, then later, the change that recommended closure of the Cooper “program” instead.
“It’s not a program,” Anderson insisted in our conversation at Delridge Day. A program, she says, is some smaller part of what’s offered – like Cooper’s autism program, or an afterschool reading program. She contends the terminology “program” was a convenient way to get around a point of law which she details here:
… Seattle School District broke state law by not following a 1983 state law (RCW 28 A 335 020) which states there are certain procedures that must be followed in order to close a school which includes public participation and a series of separate hearings for each school. At that point the District began referring to Cooper as a ‘program,’ thereby beginning to use their strategy to circumvent the lengthy public closure process. Cooper was denied due process.
The school board then made its own problems by changing its own policies after they had begun the closure process. We believe this was all cynically calculated to reduce public participation, thereby rendering Cooper School powerless to involve itself in the process and properly represent and defend itself against the impending closure of its school.
Cooper did not get a formal closure hearing, although the Genesee Hill building that is being closed because of Pathfinder’s move did (most of the testimony at that hearing focused on Cooper). Though it’s not necessarily a point of legality, Anderson also is upset about the way that the Cooper transition is being handled; she says, “On June 8 … other schools get to ‘pick’ through our library and put their choices on temporary bookshelves to be shrink wrapped and held. Our children will be able to see the books, but cannot use them. Why can’t they wait until the end of the school year so the children aren’t subjected to any more unnecessary stress?”
This Sunday, in fact, is when the school’s “closing celebration” is scheduled – with the invitation reading as follows:
The Cooper Elementary School community cordially invites you to join us for our
Open House/Closing Celebration
Sunday, June 7,2009
Cooper Elementary/1901 SW Genesee St
Arbor Garden tours
Memory Book stations
Old photos and memorabilia on display
Refreshments in the cafeteria
Bouncy Houses on the playground
For more information, please call the Cooper office at 252-8170
While the “closing celebration” is set for June 7, the last day of school for Seattle Public Schools is June 19.
The original legal action was filed in March but the most recent development is the motion for summary judgment, which expedites the case. Anderson and other plaintiffs are hoping for a show of support when the case has its hearing on June 12; they are offering bus transportation from Cooper for anyone who shows up there at 8:30 that morning.
Meantime, information on how to donate to their legal fund is in Joy Anderson’s document (again, here’s that link). We have a followup question out to the district regarding Anderson’s contention that portables are being added to several other West Seattle elementary schools, but have not yet received the answer; we are told there will be more information about the “open enrollment” period results — district spokesperson Patti Spencer acknowledged this morning that, “Enrollment is greater than expected for fall 2009 at the total district level” — at this week’s School Board meeting, which we plan to cover, Wednesday night at district HQ, 6 pm (in a separate issue, it’s been announced that meeting will be preceded by a protest against districtwide teacher layoffs, more than 20 of which are hitting West Seattle schools).