Drawing a line: West Seattle parents air school-boundary concerns

November 8, 2009 at 6:30 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 40 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“You’re taking something that’s actually working and breaking it.”

That critique of the latest proposed Seattle Public Schools attendance-area maps came from one of the two dozen-plus people who attended School Board rep Steve Sundquist‘s community meeting Saturday afternoon at High Point Library.

Sundquist has this type of meeting monthly, as do other members, with no agenda except Q/A with whomever shows up, but he’s made them more frequent as the board approaches a scheduled vote on the attendance maps (and in fact his next one is just hours before that vote).

Several in the room Saturday afternoon wanted to discuss the concern reported here Friday night – the observation that the newest revision to the West Seattle attendance-areas map seems to draw a sharp line largely following West Seattle’s north-south economic divide, with the feeder-school list for Denny International Middle School and Chief Sealth High School dominated by those with more students from lower-income families, while the feeder-school list for Madison Middle School and West Seattle High School is dominated by those with more students from higher-income families.

And another major concern emerged:

Gatewood Elementary parents protested the decision to add their school as a southern appendage to the north zone, saying Gatewood has been an unofficial “feeder” for Denny and Sealth for several years, with much inter-school involvement in ongoing efforts such as Project Earth Care (here’s a tree planting we covered with all three schools involved).

Here’s another look at the original version of the maps, released in early October, with Gatewood feeding to Denny and Sealth (as well as the non-alignment of Denny/Sealth zones):

Gatewood is now feeding to Madison MS and West Seattle HS, while Sanislo Elementary has switched the other way, feeding to Denny and Sealth instead to to Madison and WSHS – here’s the newest map:

Sundquist indicated one major factor in the change was that the feedback from Sanislo families was “almost universal (that they) identified” with southern West Seattle more than northern West Seattle: “If we’ve got a community that appears to be solid in their identity issues, we should at least consider that.”

The fact the West Seattle maps changed between the October release and the November update was no surprise; at a meeting organized by three PTSAs shortly after the first versions came out, Sundquist revealed (WSB coverage here) that the district had made a mistake by not synching the Denny and Sealth attendance areas, given the fact that the two schools will be sharing a campus within two years. But as one attendee pointed out today, changes to the first round of maps were done by district staff, fixing errors and considering feedback, no vote needed — but now, changes are only going to be made via amendments approved by a majority of board members when they vote on the boundaries at their next meeting November 18th.

One thing that Sundquist made clear in his opening statement at the meeting – there’s no going back; the new School Assignment Plan, including the attendance-area designations, is “in the context of a larger strategic plan” that he insists will “assure that at each of our schools our principals and teachers are being asked to teach all our kids at the same high level … today, that’s not the case.” And, he said, school leaders will be held accountable if new “assessment technologies” do not show that happening. He also said feedback has been “broadly … supportive” regarding switching from choice-based attendance – where families are free to choose any school in the district – to a geographic plan.

Along with the boundaries themselves, the matter of “sibling grandfathering” also came up several times – in other words, what accommodation the district will make for families whose children would be attending different schools because of the switch from choice-based assignment to neighborhood-based assignment. One attendee was on the verge of tears while telling the story of driving her son daily to Lafayette Elementary because it’s a safe place for his severe allergies, so her younger daughter has visited the school almost every day of her life – yet, without sibling grandfathering, because of where they live, she would have to attend some other elementary rather than the school she’s become so familiar with.

If siblings are grandfathered into schools, some wondered how long that would last – if they have a preschooler now, for example, will it last long enough for the younger child to get into the same elementary school her/his older sibling attends? Sundquist said it’s too soon to say: “The judgment call is how long should we stay in a complex world of a geographic system and a choice-based system … every dollar we spend on transportation (for sibling grandfathering that might involve longer-distance busing) is money we can’t spend in the classroom.” No decisions on grandfathering are likely before January, Sundquist said, saying the district has to finalize the attendance maps first, then see how many families will be affected.

Back to the issue of the current boundary map: Sundquist noted that while the citywide plan focuses more on having elementary schools feed to middle schools, West Seattle is the only area where the feeder path will follow the entire trajectory from kindergarten to 12th grade, since the peninsula has two close-proximity middle/high school pairs, with the southern pair – Denny and Sealth – co-locating as of 2011. (Here’s the district info page for that project, if you haven’t been following it.)

As for the rationale behind the proposed line between the Madison/WSHS area and the Denny/Sealth area, Sundquist said a more even north/south geographic split wasn’t feasible, because northern West Seattle has fewer children than southern West Seattle. “Even if you look at this plan,” he noted, “West Seattle High School will eventually drop to 750 students, and Sealth will be at capacity.” He acknowledged the boundary appears to create economic segregation, which “has more implications for parental support and levels of parental inolvement … So what do we do about it?” Without offering an answer, he went on to say that the ethnic diversity would not change significantly, according to the district’s latest breakdowns (by the way, the book of data that he referred to, dated this past Wednesday, IS available online – for those at the meeting who wondered – it’s available as a three-part “data book” from links on this page).

That number is not the only measurement of results of the proposed line, insisted several of the parents there. “People know the success of a school rests on what the parents of students who go to it contribute to it,” said Susan McLain. “The decisions being made right now are going to impact the success of Denny-Sealth. I’m sending my kids to those schools and I’m excited about it. … I would urge you strongly to consider not basing the (West Seattle) boundary line on elementary attendance areas. I think in terms of greater social and educational issues in West Seattle, basing it on those just doesn’t make sense … (it) is a big mistake that’s going to have a big impact on the future.”

Sundquist countered that he’s heard other concerns about “income segregation” and has brought it up with the district’s top leaders, regarding the issue of creating “a school that can deliver a high (level) educational program in a high poverty area … they say … it can be done. … We understand that as school leaders we don’t have a lot of legislative tools to deal with the fact that the income is unequally distributed.”

McLain countered, “There IS a legislative tool to deal with ‘redlining’ – one of those tools is to draw the line right, and not in such a way that exacerbates that.” She suggested community support could be mustered in an attempt to support Sundquist if he chose, as she put it, “to make the stand that I think you know you need to make.”

What’s at stake, others insisted, is a potential decline in parental involvement at Denny and Sealth because, they said, it’s at a low level in most of the proposed feeder schools; one woman who identified herself as a Concord Elementary student’s mother said the PTSA there has only five members, while another said West Seattle Elementary doesn’t even have a PTA/PTSA. Gatewood, they countered, has a “vibrant” level of parental involvement that has among other things raised $175,000 for playground improvements and money that has enabled the school’s staff to have an extra teacher, to help bring down class size.

“I think now as we’re looking toward the future, we need to look at the reality of the next few years, when budgets are down … and schools need parents to step in and (offer help) … and the way the map is drawn now, that all goes north. We’ve been working so hard to get that changed down here, getting Gatewood, Denny and Sealth working together, and (they are) on a feeder path – nobody even KNEW we were on our own little path.” That attendee contended the proposed boundary would take away “everything we have been working for as a parent community the last four years,” if Gatewood was no longer feeding into and working with Denny and Sealth.

Passion about Gatewood’s existing unofficial feeder path also was voiced by Kay Yano, who noted she’s the Gatewood PTA president but stressed she was “only speaking for myself. We’ve participated in a flight probram with Denny and Sealth for many, many years, we’ve shared staff with Sealth; not only did we raise the playground money but also funded an additional teacher for at least the last five years at Gatewood. … Schools need parent energy to thrive. Parent participation in all the groups slated for Denny is not as vibrant in many of the schools. Denny would benefit from having Gatewood parents participate in its future. You have to be in that culture of participating … that would be vital to maintaining (the improved programs at Denny and Sealth) … four years ago I would no way have ever wanted to send my child (to Denny), now I am excited about sending my child there, I want her to go there, but if you take all that parent involvement away from Denny it’s going to destroy the improvements, you’re going to wind up with a subpar school, I don’t care how much enthusiasm you have from the staff … My proposal is that West Seattle Elementary, which has historically been a cross-cluster school, that the line dip down at West Seattle Elementary for it to go north, and for Gatewood to go to Denny. … With the current map, Madison winds up being a very white school. I think both (Madison and Denny) would benefit from the diversity of that line switch.”

That suggestion sparked murmurs of support around the room.

A similar point was made by High Point resident Kathleen Voss, who said, “You can’t draw a blind eye to the socioeconomic realities of this map. … If you (have to move another school into the northern section), why wasn’t it West Seattle Elementary?” She talked about that school’s predominance of students from lower-income families, and asked, “what I don’t see in the plan is, what’s the plan to balance the inequity? It’s great that schools are going to teach the same thing, but schools are (filling out) their needs with PTSA funds.”

Sundquist took sharp issue with that, calling the money raised by PTSAs and other such efforts “a tiny tiny sliver of the funding” schools get, while suggesting that perhaps conversations between north and south end PTAs/PTSAs, and involvement with “organizations like the Alliance for Education,” might “realign those monies.”

“It’s human capital (too),” interjected McLain, and Sundquist said he couldn’t argue with that, though he contended throughout the meeting that individual schools themselves would rise to the challenge, with even staffers recognizing “we really ARE going back to neighborhood schools, I’d better be sure my school has the programmatic supports. You will see programmatic responses in individual schools, to make sure the community keeps coming to those schools.”

One parent did take issue with the neighborhood concept, though that is not up for debate, saying he is the parent of a Madison student who is choosing to attend Chief Sealth: “That’s a very good thing for a child to go through in ninth grade, to have a choice … in turning these kids into adults who are going to make choices in a democracy.”

Those students may still have some choice under the new plan, Sundquist noted, with a reminder about the 10 percent “choice seats” that are to be set aside at the district’s comprehensive high schools. Some at the meeting suggested the boundary challenges might be lessened if that percentage were increased for West Seattle.

Another question involved why international schools such as Concord Elementary and Denny Middle are not considered “option” schools, meaning they can be all-city draws, but also can have geographic tiebreakers; Sundquist said he’d wondered about that too and had asked the district’s chief academic officer to study it.

He also said one section of the map that he was questioning involved the “notch” (take another look at the map – it’s toward right-center):

One man said the border is drawn in a way that will assign his children to a school that is 14 blocks away, rather than the closest one: “I bought a house three blocks from a school on purpose,” he said. Sundquist said he’d be personally checking out some of the areas that he’d heard about it in what he described as a copious quantity of e-mail and other correspondence he’d received about the proposed boundaries. But he did not commit support to any proposed changes – saying he’d be “a fool” to do that at this point – and also saying that there will be an inevitable amount of upheaval once the new system really kicks in: “Once the geographic shift starts to happen, the city is going to go crazy for a while as everybody starts to reset their lives. I don’t think we can predict all the ways in which the world will change when we see what happens.” In West Seattle, he added, it’s believed the population growth projections suggest there may also be more than the 10 percent guaranteed setaside at the peninsula’s high schools for “choice.”

But he also noted a number had changed – while they used to project 59% of babies born in Seattle would turn up in the district when it was time to start school, now, he said, that number is up to 67%.

Whatever your concerns or comments are, Sundquist said, make them known now: “I’m listening … as are my colleagues.” The official public hearing is Monday night at district HQ, 6 pm. Scroll down this page to see how to sign up to testify, if slots remain (and note that same page has information on how to sign up to speak at regular board meetings, including the one on Nov. 18th when the boundary maps are to come up for a final vote; Sundquist’s informal meeting that same day will be 10-11:30 am at Delridge Library).

Contact information for all board members is listed here; as noted earlier in the story, Sundquist also stressed it’s important to make sure your comments reach newassign@seattleschools.org.

Other coverage: Seattle Times (WSB partner) report on district informational meeting earlier Saturday in Rainier Beach

40 Comments

  1. I LOVE the idea of keeping Gatewood in the south cluster and adding W Seattle to the north. We live in Fauntleroy, and I was disappointed when they switched the map, and moved my son’s friends north (we are south of the divide). I think shifting the Gatewood border northward is a mistake, as it splits the Fauntleroy/Lincoln park neighborhood. I agree strongly with Kay Yano’s suggestion. It makes loads of sense.

    Comment by VBD — 8:56 am November 8, 2009 #

  2. I’m very happy with the newly proposed boundaries, and I’ve spoken to several other families that are as well.

    No matter how they decide to draw the lines on a map, there are going to be people that get upset. And it’s those people that are going to be the most vocal. That’s just the reality of a situation like this.

    Comment by quiz — 9:50 am November 8, 2009 #

  3. “Swapping” Gatewood for West Seattle Elementary on the middle school/high school map like a game of chess might “balance the demographics” more for Madison/WSHS, but it would NOT solve the projected enrollment decline for the north end (both down 35% approx. from their capacity by 2015). This is a major problem being put on the north end (Madison/WSHS) schools, and a critical inequity that needs to be addressed.

    “Swapping” Gatewood for WS Elementary on the maps would also considerably change the demographs for Denny/Sealth (i.e. less diversity- Sealth loves to say they are 25% each) and bring substantially less district and state funding to Denny/Sealth because of the drastic lowering of F&RL funding that Gatewood would bring (Gatewood with the new elementary boundaries will have only 20% F&RL, whereas WS Elementary will have almost 80%).

    There are obvoiusly very strong voices from Gatewood parents wanting to send their kids to Denny/Sealth now (with both strong Spectrum & IB), as the more rigorous academic choice. Madison/WSHS do not have these strong academic programs. This, as well as historical “school flight” out of the north should send a message to Madison/WSHS, the school board, and the district that they need to listen more to what parents want & need.

    No one is speaking up for the West Seattle Elementary students- what do those parents want? Sanislo parents spoke up and said that they would identify much more with the south end Denny/Sealth communities. What about West Seattle Elementary families (just settling in after the school closures/consolidations)? The Gatewood parents seem to not consider that, willing to send “someone else’s” kids up north like pawns on a game board to the “trade schools” up north, in order to free up coveted “college prep” seats for Gatewood kids to go to Denny/Sealth.

    Comment by western — 10:05 am November 8, 2009 #

  4. I agree with quiz and hate that every Seattle school decision has to result in a school vs. school battle. It’s very divisive to the community.

    Comment by Oliver — 10:12 am November 8, 2009 #

  5. How is it divisive to state the obvious? The new boundary makes a HUGE dip to the southwest. The original map was much better, in terms of both it’s geographic and demographic split.

    Obviously there will be some happy with the new proposal and some with the old and others with neither. The BEST way make tough decisions like these is to discuss and revise the plan as legitimate concerns and ideas are brought forth. It’s certainly not constructive to accuse those with concerns as being “divisive” when the plan looks the way YOU want it.

    Comment by VBD — 10:33 am November 8, 2009 #

  6. Take a deep breath VBD – I am not accusing any person of being divisive and the map actually does not look the way I would want it to. I would prefer to be in the Denny/Sealth feeder pattern but am trying to rise above that in support of the original goals outlined for the change (predictability, neighborhood schools, etc).
    My comment was about the decision process being divisive to West Seattle as a whole. Instead of coming together in support of all schools in our community, the process creates a system in which schools that are effected one way have to advocate AGAINST another school. For example, the proposed closure of Arbor Heights resulted in campaigns against other schools such as Cooper. Now, the issue is being framed as Gatewood vs. West Seattle Elementary or Gatewood vs. Sanislo. I just think that is too bad that it happens that way, I meant no offense to any individuals.
    I only hope that all of our schools are so good that we don’t have to find fault in others to better our own.

    Comment by Oliver — 10:48 am November 8, 2009 #

  7. To solve the declining enrollment issues in the north end of WS, the school board must make some changes and maybe exceptions.
    In the earlier postings, Que wrote, “West Seattle Elementary, which is historically a “cross cluster school”…would balance Madison’s ethnic/cultural/economic diversity problem so it was suggested to send them north, and send Gatewood kids to Denny/Sealth. But, Gatewood also has been a “cross-cluster” school.
    What about changing the feeder patterns for the north half of BOTH Gatewood & WS Elementary, sending the north half at the MS level to Madison and the south half to Denny? (I know this would be an exception to the SAP’s guidelines, but something has to change this problem for WS).

    This would help preserve the neighborhood concept geographically, as well as balance some of the inequities demographically. It would also help to balance some of the projected declining enrollment problems which will plague the north end if something isn’t changed with this plan. With the current maps, Denny & Sealth will both keep close to their functional capacities, while Madison & WSHS will shrink by 35% in the next 5 years. This imbalance needs to be corrected.
    The whole idea is to have ALL of our neighborhood schools equitable, not just some of them.
    I totally agree with Oliver on this.

    Comment by western — 10:51 am November 8, 2009 #

  8. I’m the “Concord Parent” that was at the meeting and I need to clarify my statement. Currently the PTA at Concord has more than 5 members, so I misspoke.

    I am a kindergarten parent and I come from the Coop preschool background. I really want to be involved in my child’s school. Concord was my second choice but I love the school. It is a vibrant school with a very unique set of problems.

    One of the problems is parent involvement and it doesn’t work the way you would expect. My impression is there are a lot of parents that would like to be involved. There’s just not a strong pathway in.

    The PTA started growing at the same time the dual language program started at Concord (3 years ago). This great program drew parents that had the skill set to understand what PTAs can do for a school and they enthusiastically began the process to improve our playground and start having after school PTA sponsored classes. The same parents are handling the fundraising. Amazingly, they are doing fantastic despite being such a small group. You can check out the plans for the new playground at CONCORDPLAY.COM, this fall we have a small set of after school classes available and we just finished a successful fund raiser. All this in 3 years.

    At the same time, new parents like me have attended PTA meetings and filled out the volunteer survey forms and would love to be involved. The reason it’s difficult for us is that there isn’t the organizational structure that more mature PTAs have and the current “very active” members have as much as they can handle with their very important projects. They don’t have time to do the on-the-job-training it requires to get new PTA members up and running as volunteers.

    I think this is relevant to current boundary discussion because it shows the difficulty of creating a functional PTA in schools that currently lack them. The know-how in PTAs exists in the parents and without a base of knowledgeable parents to train the new ones, new PTAs struggle. Not because parents don’t want to be involved, but because it is so dang hard to find a way in.

    I knew this coming into Concord and chose it because it has a lot going for it and I plan to do what I can to help build a self-sustaining PTA. This is somewhat where income matters. My history includes a lot of people and project management experience, it makes it possible for me to walk into the volunteer coordinator position (as of last week) and create a plan that can reach out to the other parents and get them involved. Low-income jobs don’t tend to give you that skill set. They also don’t tend to get you emailing your school disctrict directors or getting involved in school policy debate. A functional PTA can give low income parents that skill set.

    Concord did what the school district is proposing, it took a low-income school and created a unique program that serves the local community very well AND draws in parents from other areas that are highly committed to the program. It’s got the potential to bring more parents into the process (a key to school success).

    For the larger discussion, I think it’s legitimate to ask what effect having so many schools with struggling PTAs all feeding into Denny will be. Arbor Heights and Sanislo have strong PTA’s.

    During the meeting it was suggested that PTAs over-all effect on schools was mostly through fundraising. PTAs contribute only a small amount of the over-all budget for a school compared to the school district and therefore the schools without PTAs are not that disadvantaged. I would argue that the effect PTA’s have on the success of the school has more to do with their ability to build community and train parents to advocate for their programs.

    Comment by Kathleen — 11:05 am November 8, 2009 #

  9. I am one of the parents angered by this line. One of the reasons I choose to buy a house in West Seattle is because of it’s diversity and now my children will not benefit from that at school. This line is so clearly drawn between the families with money vs. the families with less – the line for West Seattle HS even extends down along the waterfront into the south region. Why didn’t they extend that line on the east side of the boundary? It seems like such a blatant division of money vs. poor. I can’t believe that in 2009 we are still dealing with these issues.

    Comment by Anna — 11:15 am November 8, 2009 #

  10. EVERYONE needs to make sure that they are emailing their opinions to all the members of the Seattle School Board to get their opinions heard by the people making decisions.

    Comment by Que — 11:31 am November 8, 2009 #

  11. Anna,
    That’s why maybe a line for middle schools/high schools that is further south than it is now, extending all the way on a east/west direction (through the north ends of the Gatewood & WS Elementary but not including Sanislo) makes more sense. That way, both the north & south secondary schools would include the economic & ethnic “diversity” that so clearly runs on a east/west pattern (ie how far from the water it is).
    A full line further south also would help the enrollment issues, to balance out these inequities. If Denny is projected to be fully at capacity in 5 years, it gives no wiggle room to the neighborhood which might need it, and is especially absurd when Madison would be down from capacity by 35%.

    Comment by western — 12:14 pm November 8, 2009 #

  12. There is a real need to keep neighborhoods intact. One good reason I see for including W Seattle Elementary in the north half is because of the natural barrier of the cemetery, green belt, and Highpoint park/water tower. It makes a really nice boundary path that would not disrupt much neighborhood continuity. To the north, houses are together between 35th & Fauntleroy all the way past Alaska. Take a look at Google maps (satellite view) and you can clearly see how a natural line makes sense, even though is looks too close to the school as viewed on a map.

    Also, the area is dense with kids and is growing. The north half would benefit from the increase in enrollment.

    Comment by VBD — 12:34 pm November 8, 2009 #

  13. I too as at the meeting yesterday and was one of the vocal supporters for aligning Gatewood with Denny/Sealth. It is unfortunate that issues such as this (as well as the rounds of school closures) do pit schools against each other, with the more vocal majority often coming out ahead by being the squeakiest wheel.

    More than the “statistics” being given by the SSD, the only rationale given to the swap of Sanislo and Gatewood on the current map is that “We heard from a LOT of Sanislo parents and took that feedback into consideration.” I was not aware that Gatewood was needing to defend itself against the boundary plan.

    We were all shocked when the new map came out as our impression was that the SSD was adjusting the boundaries so the Middle Schools overlapped the High Schools, fixed walk zones, worked around landmarks that you can’t see on maps, etc. Had we known that there was a need for feedback, we’d have mobilized and made sure our voices were heard.

    As far as a “straight line” that could devide the elementary school boundaries into both middle/high school zones… will never happen. I think it is an intriguing idea, but the politics involved as well as setting a precedent that others will want to follow will swiftly kill the notion. It was made quite clear in yesterday’s meeting that any sort of unique solution will be soundly shot down.

    I do feel that the move to neighborhood schools will ultimately be a good one, unfortunately it does affect the families that are currently in the system. There is no easy way to make this sort of change, and inevitably there will be both favorable and less-than-favorable outcomes.

    As mentioned previously, please direct your communication to ALL of the school board members as well as the “new assign” SSD email address. Also, no matter what your own situation, it is good that we all are taking an interest and gettting involved in our kids’ education.

    Comment by sw — 12:36 pm November 8, 2009 #

  14. I think the income levels that fall within the boundaries are far less important than other factors and the fact that both the Sanislo parents and many Gatewood parents have lobbied to get into the Denny/Sealth group indicates those are perceived as successful schools even though they’re supporting the “lower income” populations. Is the concern that if we draw these boundaries the schools will suddenly fail?

    Comment by Kathleen — 12:43 pm November 8, 2009 #

  15. I am most curious if anyone has read and/or has a link to the superintendent’s strategy plan. If the strategy is to level out the quality of instruction at all schools, then I’d love to better understand how the boundary lines redistricting (or whatever the proper term is) supports it.

    Comment by ArborHeightsMom — 12:53 pm November 8, 2009 #

  16. ArborHeightsMom

    You might try reading/posting at http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/ regarding the superintendents strategy – there is a lot of information on that site.

    Comment by yumpears — 1:09 pm November 8, 2009 #

  17. “Sundquist took sharp issue with that, calling the money raised by PTSAs and other such efforts “a tiny tiny sliver of the funding” schools get..” Really? He knows how much PTSA money is raised in every single school? And how much is raised by school foundations (yes, some schools have them) and booster groups? It’s a LOT of money. Likely more than he would like to admit. How does he think the Roosevelt and Garfield Jazz bands exist? The district? Please. Those programs exist because of the fantastic directors who are aided by the time and resources of parents (for decades). Also (and sadly), because this district spends so little on basic maintenance, PTAs are starting to pay for maintenance that should be under the district’s domain but hey, great if parents pay for it.

    Also, he said that “no decisions on grandfathering are likely before January, Sundquist said, saying the district has to finalize the attendance maps first, then see how many families will be affected.” The attendance maps will be final by vote on November 18th. The first time we see a transition plan will be December 16th at a Board Work Session. That’s where it will be revealed how much, if any, grandfathering of siblings will happen. The transition plan will be approved in January but we will see outlines of the transition plan in December. (This was verified at the recent Roosevelt meeting on the new boundary maps held this past Thursday. Steve was in attendance and this question was asked and answered.)

    Comment by westello — 1:37 pm November 8, 2009 #

  18. ArborHeightsMom-
    The Strategic Plan is on the SPS homepage, link on the upper right.

    Comment by western — 1:53 pm November 8, 2009 #

  19. While I understand that there will never be a map drawn that everyone agrees with, it is the arbitrary notches that have appeared in the November map (that are referenced in the article above) that many families in our community are trying to understand. Our family lives on one small portion of 47th Ave SW between Lander and Stevens that is now being excluded from the Lafayette reference area.

    This is perplexing as we are the only block of 47th between the northern most point of Admiral and Hanford, which is actually south of us, that is being omitted. Our block, that is less than .2 miles (3 blocks) away from Lafayette, has now been assigned to Alki elementary. While I know that Alki is a great school and that we are lucky to be surrounded by several great schooling options, it is no longer in walking distance from our home and will split our children (our son already attends Lafayette) between two schools and two communities.

    Our family and several others families being impacted are seeking to understand the rational behind this late change.

    Comment by Meg — 2:51 pm November 8, 2009 #

  20. The District needs to divide the attendance areas in a straight east-west line. Why would our school board representatives choose to support a wandering boundary that divides east from west, rich from poor? Sure, the schools will fare ok for a few years. But for the long run, it is the wrong thing to do, and it will impact our whole community.

    Thank you to all the great community people and parents who have started to make these schools great.

    Unfortunately, it looks like our family will have to fight to get our kids into these schools even though we live less than one mile away in Gatewood.

    Comment by Flintick — 6:00 pm November 8, 2009 #

  21. This assignment plan map is more than screwed up!

    Historically, Roxhill’s western boundary has been 35th Ave SW – the new border line has moved to 30th Ave SW. What’s wrong with this picture? Roxhill is ON 30th. A child who lives less than 50 feet from Roxhill’s front door will now be bused to Arbor Heights.

    If, as Director Sundquist states, one of the goals of the new plan is to save on transportation costs then how can this be achieved by sending kids already within close walking distance of Roxhill to another, more distant, school?

    Comment by Gene — 6:32 pm November 8, 2009 #

  22. I am in the Gatewood area, but chose to send my daughter to Alki, where we are very happy. (We are one block from the Alki lines as they are currently drawn, near the very north of the Gatewood area.) For us, Madison and WSHS are closer to our home, and so they make sense to me based on proximity. Maybe it makes sense to have Gatewood split down the middle, north and south?

    The new map suits our family better than the old one because of proximity issues. I am hopeful that it continues to work out for us…but find it more than unfortunate that no matter what is done, inevitably, the change will cause problems for some families.

    Comment by rykrite — 8:00 pm November 8, 2009 #

  23. I think providing choice in schools is essential. I think this neighbhorhood based plan is a way to implement a caste system. I think whenver we see areas where there are greater concentrations of poor folks, we are courting disaster, in terms of creating systems that will not provide equitable and quality education.

    I’ve been displeased with Seattle Public Schools and have chosen to go with independent schools. I don’t see us sending our children to the public schools if this plan continues.

    Comment by West Seattle Mom — 8:49 pm November 8, 2009 #

  24. Geez folks – not good to assume everyone is of a certain income level because they live in a certain zip code. Caste system? Really?

    Comment by homesweethome — 9:46 pm November 8, 2009 #

  25. My biggest concern with the recent district re-boundering in the “unbalance” it creates within West Seattle. I recently read a book titled, “Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh” by Gerald Grant. One way Raleigh has been able to achieve good schools across the board is by creating socio-economically “balanced” schools. A “balanced” school is considered a school that has 40% or less of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch. When schools become “unbalanced” changes are made to maintain that ratio. Still 80% of the students in the district go to their neighborhood school and several “option/magnet” schools are available to provide additional choice.

    Given the most recent proposed re-boundering, we now have the 4 schools with the LOWEST F&RL percentages in WS feeding to the same middle school and high school (Madison/WS) while the schools with the 5 HIGHEST F&RL percentages feeding to Denny/Sealth. Studies have shown that when middle income students are in classrooms with lower-income students (as long as it’s not disproportionate) the middle income students do not perform any different than if they were in a class with all middle income students, but when lower income students are in classrooms with middle income students they preform better than if they were in a class with a majority of lower income students. If we want to create the strongest community we can, I don’t think the balancing issue can be ignored.

    Comment by EAO — 11:20 pm November 8, 2009 #

  26. I am happy that SSD is making this change. I grew up in Bellevue, and there was no choice- you went to the school that you lived closest to. And it wasn’t bad. I only hope that the money saved on transportation costs is going to go to the classrooms now.

    Also, since I am a proponent of attending the school closest to home, I’ll be a bit mad if WS Elementary is moved to the Madison/WSHS zone since I live 1/2 mile from Denny/Sealth and child will attend WSE. Years ago I wasn’t happy about the Denny/Sealth situation for our house, but I did some research and am now looking forward to my child going there.

    Comment by swimcat — 9:10 am November 9, 2009 #

  27. The one thing I can’t ever see them doing – or at least they shouldn’t – is dividing a feeder school with a boundary. Would you really like to see Gatewood students split up, going to a different middle school than their friends because of a boundary? That just seems crazy to me.

    Comment by GenHillOne — 9:34 am November 9, 2009 #

  28. The big picture goal here is to set-up all schools for success. The post by EAO describes the issue beautifully. Issues of balance and equity are defining, historic issues for our schools. Our school board members must rise above the fray and address this issue!

    Continuity between middle school and high school is important academically and socially. Keeping elementary school kids together is optional. Remember, we don’t keep elementary school peers together under the current system.

    Comment by Westsidey — 11:01 am November 9, 2009 #

  29. Westsidey ~ Those 6th–8th grade years are so impressionable. Having the strength of a solid peer group around you makes a huge difference on our kids’ success and choices at that age. Continuity from elementary school is certainly *no less* important than from middle school to high school, and I would argue even more important.

    Comment by Matt K. — 12:20 pm November 9, 2009 #

  30. I’m a Sanislo parent who left feedback on the first round of maps, including how strongly this community is tied to the Southern cluster of West Seattle, rather than the Northern. I was delighted to see that our concerns had been heard when the second maps came out. I hope that our children won’t be forced across town in an ill-conceived effort to balance demographics at the expense of their continuity and sense of community.

    Because Sanislo is a strong, healthy, mixed-income school, it’s a great example of what our South Cluster schools can be–sending one of our strong schools to the North is more polarizing, rather than less.

    Comment by Vanessa S. — 1:07 pm November 9, 2009 #

  31. I don’t understand why the boundaries have to be so linear. Why can’t there also be a circle drawn for each school, with a diameter of a mile perhaps, for additional student eligibility. Then those who are actually in walking distance could actually walk to their schools. I have been remiss in not paying more attention to this, but I will forward my suggestion to the school board.

    Comment by 35th ave mom — 2:08 pm November 9, 2009 #

  32. Kathleen, thank you for your clarifying information on the Concord Elementary PTA. I wish you and your fellow parents well in extending the PTA’s work!

    I would love for my preschooler to have the option of beginning school at Concord. I’ll be interested to know if Concord is reclassified as an “option school”.

    Comment by Jenny — 2:11 pm November 9, 2009 #

  33. I totally agree with the comments made by Oliver and Western on this and I do hope they are coming to tonight’s meeting to speak.

    Comment by mg — 2:27 pm November 9, 2009 #

  34. The changing of the boundaries will change everything. People will move to different places, kids will meet different kids, old programs will end and new ones will begin. While considering old programs and relationships, the preservation of these relationships can’t override reasonable boundaries.

    Sanislo is farther from Madison than both Gatewood and WS Elementary. I don’t see how you can justify putting Sanislo up at Madison before the two of them.

    That said, I’m among the Delridge crew that got really messed up…our elementary kids are being bussed the farthest (I think, pardon me if wrong), up to Lafayette. So I don’t think we’ll be “close to home” in any case.

    dave

    Comment by dave — 3:00 pm November 9, 2009 #

  35. While I am not happy about the North/South divide and the socioecomonic impact of it. The new map does provide for more consistency between middle and high school. The way the original maps were drawn there was 1/2 of Gatewood students that would go to Denny for middle school and then WS High, and 1/2 of Sanislo and West Seattle Elementary students who would do the opposite. So while the map may not be perfect it at least aligns the middle and high schools much better. Don’t try to pit one school against one another but asking what better line exists. Would the original high school lines make sense for both middle and highschool (thus changing the kids out of Elementary patterns) or is it better to keep the schools aligned all the way through. Besides with school choice currently being what it is there are plenty of folks currently at Sanislo (like my sons) who would now be at Gatewood. So please stop pitting these two schools against each other and look at the map as an attempt to get rid of the middle school/high school swap that the first map created for the entire middle section of West Seattle students (Sanislo, Gatewood and WS Elementary alike).

    Comment by ER — 3:16 pm November 9, 2009 #

  36. I live in an area where my kids are less than a mile from Denny and Sealth, but this map sends them all the way up to Madison and West Seattle. Hey, that is dumb. It does this to keep all the kids at elementary school together. I do not agree with this. I don’t think it is unwise to split up elementary schools to go to middle school or high school. Watching my older kids, I have seen where this actually benifited the kids…. breaks up cliques, allows new friendship and broadens the circle of friends. It’s still West Seattle and the kids still run into each other and maintain friendships. My older kids split up with their friends during middle school and high school, but they still see them and maintain friends with them (Girl Scouts, soccer, church, parties etc.) I think you really need to rework the boundries and not just for those groups who are more vocal than others. Drop the school vrs school and just draw boundries so that kids get to go to school NEAR them.

    Comment by jes — 10:43 pm November 9, 2009 #

  37. What should have gotten a lot more attention is the insane elementary school boundaries. You have this insane cluster of open schools in the northeast (Lafayette, Schmitz Park, and Alki) that make it impossible to draw boundaries that make any sense. In order to fill them, you have to reach far and wide as well as draw lines that end up sending families to schools that may not technically be the closest.
    .
    Then they “close” the only school serving the north-ish west (Cooper). Now you have those kids going to Lafayette? It’s crazy. They should have closed one of the northeast schools. They didn’t. Why? Because wealth and power were behind them and Cooper made an easier target. By closing one of the northeast schools, the boundaries would have made a lot more sense and Pathfinder could still have moved to a larger location.
    .
    Again, looking at the elementary maps, I cannot express how saddened I am by what I gather was both an outcry from a select few blocks and the school districts lack of spine. You will see bizarre little slivers take out of West Seattle Elementary’s lines along 35th. These lines correspond, as best I can see, with homes that now border the new High Point development. I can’t help but see this as “I don’t want my kids going to school with the High Point kids”. How else can you possibly explain a what should be a straight line down 35th that suddenly shifts to 32nd at Raymond?
    .
    What does this decision by the school board say to parents? Yes, it’s justified to not want to go to WS Elem? These homes are currently drawn into WSE.
    .
    Please, help me come up with an explanation that doesn’t have me feeling like WSE is a red-headed stepchild…
    .
    Here is a link to the elementary school maps:
    http://www.seattleschools.org/area/boundarymapr/pdfs/Denny_1103.pdf

    Comment by Confused in HighPoint — 12:24 pm November 10, 2009 #

  38. I find the comments by Western interesting. I looked at every school with similar demographics as Madison(according to western not rigorous enough). Funny, but the data is what drives the superintendent to make decisions and yet I got no response from her when I said that the data shows that Madison might have a 15-20% test score drop if we follow the exact same programs(Spectrum) as Denny, Hamilton, and McClure. People of Seattle…there is no cohesive definition of spectrum in all the schools, the district’s mantra is work one grade level ahead. Yet, in their own audit of accelerated learning students who had similar abilities to students in the APP actually performed better than their peers in APP. Again, the data speaks volumes. Denny and Madison both have honors math which runs the equivalent of one year ahead, what Madison doesn’t have is honors Reading but I think they are working on this. I’ve done the research…look at the OSPI site and compare the schools. In deference to parents who are still convinced otherwise, I will say that if you intend your child to continue with band, then WSHS needs to come up with a solution as they have no program at this point and their band/jazz band/orchestra experience would end at Madison.

    Comment by Pinkydoo — 7:45 pm November 11, 2009 #

  39. Thank you Pinkydoo! If you are going to require that everyone goes to a ‘neighborhood school’ then EACH school should offer the same opportunities: BAND, PE, ART,CHOIR, HONOR classes. Right now Madison has a tremendous band program, WS does not. Why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities as Garfield or Roosevelt. Those programs didn’t get their just because of the parents. It was and internal school decision, supported by the school district.

    Back to the actual boundary issue. What is with the Sanislo kids going to Denny/Sealth and Gatewood not? Drop the school to school tracking and go back to the original map where you actually looked at neighborhoods nearest the schools (get it ===> neighborhoods actually going to their neighborhood school.)

    Comment by jes — 9:55 pm November 13, 2009 #

  40. Agreement with Jes about actual neighborhood schools. Right now the recommended proposal for Roxhill ES, cut s the Westwood neighborhood in two, leaving the high to medium Free-Reduced levels with Roxhill while giving the low levels of FRL to Arbor Heights who’s FRL % is aready less than half of Roxhill’s. BUT the mos illogical part of the recommendation is that the kids living closest to the school will not bee able to go to their neighborhood school. Roxhill PTA & community is strongly requesting that the board reconsider and use the WEstwood neighborhood boundary as the school boundary which make so much more sense than the current rec. boundary.
    I also agree on the unenforced definition of Spectrum (1 full year ahead). While the idea is worth considering, the fact the each school and each teacher really defines what they teach to Spectrum kid despite the 1 full year district definition, rarely do all Spectrum kids get the full benefit of what I would consider a full year ahead program.

    Comment by mayo — 10:53 am November 14, 2009 #

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