Highland Park Elementary’s neighbors learn of its challenges, offer help with solutions: ‘Tell us what we can do’

August 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm | In Highland Park, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 35 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Just before the end of last school year, a member of the Highland Park Elementary School PTA made a pitch to the nearest community council, the Highland Park Action Committee.

Peter Weiss told HPAC’s May meeting that he wanted to organize a 5K to bring the PTA and the school not just money but awareness. HPES, he explained, is the lowest-performing elementary school in the entire district.

That was jaw-dropping news to many, if not most, in the room. Just supporting an event would not be enough. A community conversation was called for.

The conversation began in earnest this past Tuesday night.

Though most community groups skip midsummer meetings, HPAC and the HPE PTA set a date, issued an invite – and the room was full.

We counted more than 50 people.

At the front of the room, along with Sol Mendez from the HPE PTA and HPAC co-chairs Carolyn and Billy Stauffer, were school and city leaders – among the former, new HPE principal Chris Cronas and the district’s regional executive director of schools Israel Vela; among the latter, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

More questions than answers emerged. But it was one of those events where the event itself was the triumph, for starters, rather than any single declaration or promise made.

“One of the bigger ideas we’re trying to push here is community involvement in the schools,” in addition to and beyond the PTA and others with direct links, Billy Stauffer explained toward the start. “We’re curious to see the ways the broader community can come together … to help a failing school.”

“We want a lot of people who care from different corners of our neighborhood to come together and have a voice,” added Carolyn Stauffer. The school and its students and staff have multiple challenges to conquer. Academically, for example, only 33 percent of third graders are proficient test-wise, compared to 79 percent district-wide, and there is high teacher turnover because of a contract they were required to sign. She also mentioned high bullying rates. “They need more help.”

New HPES PTA president Mendez asked participants to avoid using polarizing language – not us vs. them, “what happens to one kid happens to all kids … we should all be cohesive and collaborative in taking care of all our children.”

“It’s going to take a community to be able to partner together to go where we want to go,” echoed Israel Vela, who is executive director of schools in this area for the district, which means, among other things, that West Seattle/South Park schools’ principals report to him. Vela recapped how Highland Park (see its official “report” here) got to be “an intervention school” and what kind of plan exists for elevating it out of that designation. Explaining what “intervention school” means, Vela mentioned that the state applied for a No Child Left Behind waiver to get to implement its own way of evaluating schools’ status – replacing the “AYP (Step 1-5)” status, there is a Segmentation 1-5 designation, with 1 meaning lowest performing. In 2009, 18 schools were in that category; by 2013, only four qualified, “which tells us that as a district … we are moving in the right direction in terms of improvement,” Vela said. HPE is not alone in Segment 1, he added. For the coming school year, it’s one of two district-wide (along with Emerson) designated as an “intervention school.”

Vela described the “re-commitment letter” that was circulated among staffers, and said that it wasn’t meant to come off as a “commitment letter.” It allowed teachers to be “displaced,” and 12 teachers at HPES “decided to displace,” he said, so hiring has been under way since June to fill the positions they vacated. A few teachers were in the room, Vela noted at that point. He added that substitutes are a role that they have trouble filling, for the southwest and southeast regions, not just this school.

Then new principal Chris Cronas introduced himself, coming from Wedgwood Elementary, “an incredibly successful school” but not always that way, he said, because of an “unhealthy climate” that he worked on, with changes that “weren’t popular with all families,” he said. 98 percent of its fourth-graders according to preliminary data he said, have met standards in writing, which he called “unprecedented.” Cronas also mentioned that he has been dealing with family challenges – not just the challenges of raising two kids under 3, but also his wife being seriously ill.

Back to his new school: He said Highland Park has a few positions left to hire. Safety/security changes, he said, will be made right away, as a result of what he described as “what’s working/not working” conversations he’s had with key people. “We have a plan for that, and it starts day one,” he said. Those changes will include how kids line up, how they move throughout the building, avoiding shoving 400 kids through two doors, language regarding behavior, teaching kids about boundaries. “This is not going to happen overnight – this is going to take time,” Cronas stressed. “The first month is going to be a little bumpy,” but once routines and procedures are set, that “bumpiness” will ease,” he said.

He went through some of the assignments, who will handle “support outside the classroom.” That includes the return of CityYear, he said, whose members will be “painting the numbers” on the classroom to help movement, among other tasks.

At that point, Carmela Dellino stood up toward the back of the room – you might recall, she preceded Vela as this area’s executive director of schools, after serving as Roxhill Elementary principal, and now works with the city’s Families and Education Levy, as “think partners” with schools like HPES that receive levy money. Last year was the first year of that funding, Vela pointed out.

One attendee, identifying herself as a teacher who has taught at HPES, wanted to know what specifics are planned to meet the social/emotional needs of students.

Cronas said some staffers underwent training known as RULER this summer. A teacher explained, at another attendee’s request, that it’s a “social/emotional curriculum to create a conversation … about feelings, and being able to express themselves openly, and de-escalate.” It creates a space “in a council environment” to discuss those feelings, the teacher said. It includes languaging that will be universal throughout the school, and ways for families to understand the language so they know what their kid(s) are talking about.

Vela said 10 schools in the district are “embarking on RULER.” It takes trust, communication, and time, said the teacher, “and you guys should be aware of that.” An attendee said they were concerned that it would just be “we sent the teachers to this training” and not an integrated part of the full school day.

The HPE PTA leader Mendez said she wanted to be sure there weren’t just “popcorn” conversations. After that, a question bounced back to history rather than future. An attendee said, “My concern with our neighborhood school … though my child doesn’t go there …” she pointed out that only 56 percent of the population in the boundaries go to that school. I want to know, why are our families not choosing to go to the neighborhood school?”

Shortly thereafter, someone else pointed out that while HPES has an ethnically diverse population – as shown on the school report – she looked around the room at the meeting and saw mostly white faces, so, how would the school engage families of color too?

Vela suggested ELL (English-language learner) parents weren’t there because of lack of district outreach: “We need to bring them to the table.” Cronas vowed that, “My intent is to reach out to specific families and subgroups.”

That outreach also needs to include referrals for services at the school when needed, said another person identifying herself as a therapist at HPE and a community resident who has seen primarily English- or Spanish-speaking families, though that’s just part of the school’s population.

Yet another attendee said RULER isn’t known for excellence in the race/equity area, so, she suggested, complicated race and cultural-compentency training would be needed.

One person said RULER is not great with race and equity, so there’s going to have to be race and cultural competency training. It’s complicated work, she pointed out.

Another touchy topic erupted at that point – the school’s EBD (emotional/behavior disorder) population. One former HPE teacher now at another school suggested that it doesn’t belong at the school, “because a lot of the kids already come from very fragile homes.” She also recalled that the school had tried a variety of outreach and programs, from home visits to positive discipline to Love and Logic, cultural competency and “courageous conversations,” but leadership challenges, she suggested, kept them from succeeding.

Another attendee shortly thereafter suggested that chlidren be taught that diversity – not just ethnic diversity – is a blessing, in all its forms.

David, saying he had a kindergartener there last year spoke next. “I’m clearly a middle-aged white guy… but we live 2 blocks from the school … friends, community ..so we’re there. … Maybe it’s leadership, maybe it’s test scores, maybe it’s state not funding schools … there’s something going on … continuity matters.” While he expressed optimism for the new HPE leadership, he stressed, “to really move forward, we need to know WHAT HAPPENED? and who could have done something about it?”

Principal Cronas then said that it won’t be just a matter, for example, of his leadership, or any small group of people in charge. At his former school, for example, things went well even while he was out last year on leave because of his wife’s illness. “Heroes don’t exist … it takes a community, it takes strong leadership, and I hope I am the right guy for this, because I choose to do this, I was asked to do it, and I said yes … can I [alone] sustain it? Nope, but I can do everything I can to make sure the pieces are in place so that it becomes sustainable.”

Conversation turned back to the EBD program, with a question about how HPE became a regional program host for it – why doesn’t the school have other major programs too, such as STEM or Spectrum?

Vela said he was too new to the district to have been present for such decisions “but I can find out.”

The program is just somewhat draining for school leadership to deal with and still meet other students’ needs, suggested Jim, a 20-year resident with four kids who says his family “chose Highland Park when it wasn’t popular to,” since they live a block away and saw value in attending the nearest school. Over the span of 2002-2012, he said, someone in his family was an HPE student. He also offered advice for school and community leaders: “What brings families together is events, not meetings.”

Standing up from the audience next was Jonathan Knapp, president of the citywide teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, saying he was there because he lives in Highland Park too. He spoke of the value of collaborating with staff and community, and the importance of funding. HPE got funding, “but the collaboration around that wasn’t there … money alone doesn’t make that happen,” he warned, even though, he added, our state’s School Improvement Grant recipients make more gains than recipients elsewhere in the country. And Knapp added a pitch for state Initiative 1351 (still in signature-gathering mode), aiming at lowering class sizes.

“What as a community can we do to be more involved?” asked an HPAC leader, Nicole Mazza. The group has visited the school for volunteer reading, but, she said, she could envision more, since, for example, she does STEM-education volunteering through Boeing but has never seen an opportunity to do that in her own neighborhood.

“That’s because there’s no system to make it happen,” Cronas said. He’s been talking to other principals, to figure out how to set one up, he said. Before the meeting ended, he also warned that test scores will look worse before they look better, because of the nationwide shift to new types of tests related to the Common Core. He said the first states to roll it out, including Kentucky and New York, “saw 30- to 40-point drops in test scores the first year, across demographics … (So) when we see improvement, it’s going to look different, the numbers are going to look different …”

Throughout the meeting, the city leaders on hand had been mostly quiet, listening. Deputy mayor Kim spoke, finally, saying, “We’re not silent because we’re shy, but because this is a conversation your community needs to have with your school leadership.” She said Mayor Murray has recognized income inequality as an issue, “the gap between the haves and have-nots,” and that he “fundamentally believes in a holistic approach.”

Though time constraints were bringing the meeting to a close, one attendee declared, “I don’t want to be here in another year, fighting again … I don’t want to leave without something tangible, I want to make a different in this community. Tell us what we can do.”

The meeting ended, before attendees broke into informal small conversations, with a vow of collaboration, a request for community members to get into the schools, a recognition of its dedication to help find solutions, and a promise that school-community leaders will come back for more conversation.

35 Comments

  1. Thank you so much Tracy, for this detailed report of the meeting.

    I look forward to sending my son to HPES in three years when he enters kindergarten. I’m excited that Cronas now at the helm and he seems to have a strong plan.

    Until people that live in Highland Park start sending their kids to Highlsnd Park School, things are not going to change. Currently, my neighbors with school age kids go to STEM and Pathfinder. Though I respect their choices, I know that the our neighborhood school would be a better place if their kids were students there, and the parents went to HPE monthly PTA meetings.

    Good luck, Principal Cronas, and good luck to all of the staff, parents and kids for this next school year. Thank you again for covering this meeting so closely, Tracy!

    Comment by HP Gal — 11:16 pm August 17, 2014 #

  2. Thank you WSB for this great coverage of the HPE/HPAC meeting!

    Like HP Gal, I am excited to be sending my little one to Highland Park Elementary in three years. Although the school is at a low point right now, the community interest (you rock HPAC!), incoming Principal Cronas, and a visionary PTA have me confident that HPE is going to turn around.

    I am a part of an assemblage of families with toddlers here in the Highland Park neighborhood that founded the “Future Parents of Highland Park Elementary” this past May. Our goal is to build community and excitement around our neighborhood school. Although we initially organized the group to be focused on families with children likely to attend HPE, we are opening up the group to welcome anyone who has an interest in Highland Park Elementary.

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/FPoHPE/
    http://www.futureparentsofhighlandparkelementary.blogspot.com

    I also want to mention a few of the exciting projects I know the HPE PTA is working on: Girls On The Run, a new playground, and a 5K. I am so impressed and inspired by the committed folks who make up the HPE PTA. If you want to contribute to the success of Highland Park Elementary, keep an eye on the events organized by the PTA this school year and volunteer/donate/participate any way you can.

    Comment by Connie Wolf — 1:28 am August 18, 2014 #

  3. I think you are correct HP Gal, but that’s a really tough sell to your neighbors. “Send your smart kids to the worst school in the district so that hopefully some of it rubs off on the kids that make it the worst!” I’m not in that school’s boundary, but I wouldn’t send mine there if I was. If I have to choose between doing the best for my kids and using them as pawns in some sort of social experiment, I’ll choose the former every single time.

    Comment by Jeff — 7:20 am August 18, 2014 #

  4. thanks to HPAC for organizing this meeting and getting us all together to help our school. And to any negative posters – I challenge you to come to the school and volunteer to make it a better place.

    Comment by Christie — 7:28 am August 18, 2014 #

  5. I have to agree with HP Gal. If the parents in the neighborhood all sent their kids to HP instead of being scared and sending their kids somewhere else it would be a better school. And to Jeff, I have to say that it’s parents like you who help cause part of the problem. Personally I don’t think there should be a STEM or Pathfinder. Send your kids to your neighborhood school and make those schools better.

    Comment by WSMom — 7:32 am August 18, 2014 #

  6. I have several friends with kids entering kindergarten this year who live in the HPE boundary. Not one of them is sending their child to that school and I don’t blame them.
    I respect very much what the groups and new principle are trying to accomplish. The reality is that the school will not get better though until PARENTS of existing students step up and take responsibility for their children at that school.
    The school and the PTA can not hold all the responsibility for low test scores, unexscused absences and bullying. I hope those of you who have commented about sending your kids there in 3 years have more families like yourselves planning to do the same.

    Comment by Lolapop — 7:48 am August 18, 2014 #

  7. WSMom, why do you think there should not be a STEM or Pathfinder? Do kids with parents who want more options for theory children not deserve those options just because you don’t think it’s fair??? Not all children learn the same. Having choices for how our children learn is essential.

    Comment by Lolapop — 7:55 am August 18, 2014 #

  8. Blame away! I’ll take that over deliberately disadvantaging my own kids.

    When it’s better I’m sure there won’t be trouble getting local parents involved. The analogy is a stretch, but pioneers get the arrows, settlers get the land.

    Comment by Jeff — 8:42 am August 18, 2014 #

  9. If I lived in the boundaries of HPE I would not send my child there either. Why would I choose to put my child in a school that has a publicly known bullying problem? Why would choose to send my child to a school that has high teacher turnover? Luckily it’s not a decision I have to make. But I have several friends in te boundaries for that school and they are not sending their children there.
    I get that some of you think that if more good families send their children there it will improve the school. And that may be true. But you would need enough involved parents to out number the amount of parents that do not take responsibility for their children to make a difference and I don’t see that happening around there. Sorry.

    Comment by Lolapop — 8:52 am August 18, 2014 #

  10. to Lolapop – if you don’t live in the boundary of HPE how do you know there is a bullying problem? or that there isn’t involved parents that go to the school everyday to help out (my husband is one of them) – and just because we have some parents that can’t volunteer at school why would you say that they are not responsible for their kids? HPE has a high population of ELL (English Language Learners) and special needs kids and we need all the help we can get – so instead of making statements that you or your friends would never send your kids here – Help the school get better by volunteering – or donating school supplies, or coming to the events.

    Comment by Christie — 9:29 am August 18, 2014 #

  11. Eeven though my son goes to STEM I am very much concerned about this school and I would do what I could as far as fund raising is concerned, since it is still our neighborhood. It’s not like I magically stopped caring.

    Comment by NotOnHolden — 9:33 am August 18, 2014 #

  12. I agree with Lolapop and Jeff! Enough with the social experiment. Everyone needs to step up to create a better society and if they don’t? well….many will go elsewhere to give their kids the best.

    But I DO hope that things improve for HP! and the community!!

    Comment by BMC — 9:44 am August 18, 2014 #

  13. My son did attend HP for two years and it quite frankly was terrible. K5 STEM seems to provide a much better environment for my son and I haven’t got one call yet about my son getting beat up by other kids. I am sure the lower test scores have some relationship with parents choosing option schools over there neighborhood schools but that is surely only one factor. I also do care about HPE and I hope the community and district can get it turned around

    Comment by Nick — 10:15 am August 18, 2014 #

  14. How do I know there is bullying? It was in the above story. Also, I know parents are involved because of the high absence rate of the school. All information you can find online. Schools with high absence rates are because parents don’t care enough to even get the kids to school, let alone volunteer.

    Comment by Lolapop — 11:12 am August 18, 2014 #

  15. I’m glad to see HPE getting some much needed attention. If the adults can keep the focus on the children, who are the only reasons that this conversation matters, then I believe that we can make some real progress here.

    I also want to give a special thanks to Carolyn Stauffer for doing the outreach to bring the right people into this early conversation about improving HPE for all of the children who are or will be attending the school!

    Comment by Darryll Wolf — 11:52 am August 18, 2014 #

  16. I don’t understand why if people won’t send their kids to the neighborhood school then why did they move there in the first place?

    Comment by WSMom — 12:11 pm August 18, 2014 #

  17. More general answers to that one, as someone who just finished more than a dozen years as a Seattle Public Schools parent (not in HPark, though):
    .
    1. You might have bought your house before you were a parent or were even thinking about parenthood. (So it went for us; I don’t even remember looking up local schools when we were house-hunting in 1992-1993.)
    2. SPS has changed boundaries in recent years. Your “neighborhood school” when you move in is not necessarily always your neighborhood school.
    3. That indeed happened to us. Chief Sealth was the neighborhood high school – it’s only one mile away, while WSHS is three miles away. However, just as our son entered high school, the boundary changes made WSHS our “neighborhood school.” Our son got into Sealth (from which he has just graduated) to stay closer to home after we applied for an option seat; the district changed its policy about option seats after that first year and I don’t believe Sealth has had any since.
    .
    just datapoints … TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:24 pm August 18, 2014 #

  18. WSMom- I don’t know about you (and I am not in the geo-area for this school anyway), but when we bought our house, SPS was still doing whatever it was before, where they did not assign you to a school based on your neighborhood- you gave your top 3 choices or something and was assigned based on that… I don’t know what it was called as I didn’t have kids back then. since then, we haven’t been in position to ‘just move’

    Comment by sam-c — 12:25 pm August 18, 2014 #

  19. HPE has a free and reduced lunch rate (aka poverty rate) of 81%. There is absolutely no reason why the Highland Park community school should have a poverty rate that is so much higher than the community itself. Poverty is the best predictor of success in school. Children growing up in poverty are likely to not succeed (and rise out of poverty) if they are only learning with other children in poverty.

    Therefore, yes, I hope that parents join together and create change by sending their kids to their neighborhood school. Thanks Connie for sharing the link the the FB page, and I hope we garner many more members.

    Like Principal Cronas noted, needed changes
    will not take place overnight. I especially commend his determination and plan to make the school safer. Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe.

    Thanks again Tracy for bringing HPE into the light!!

    Comment by HP Gal — 12:32 pm August 18, 2014 #

  20. Well, first of all, a lot of the people who live here in HP do not have the latitude to move to whichever neighborhood they think will provide the best schooling. Assuming that all people have the resources to move to more affluent areas is offensive. That being said, we may also live here because we love it, regardless of concerns about schools.

    Also, to people who think we can or should insist that every child go to a neighborhood school–I felt deeply committed to doing this when my first child went to K (not HP, but local, title 1), to contribute my resources to our local community. That changed when I was essentially told that they would not provide the education that my child needed. Unfortunately, trying to accommodate really divergent needs frequently stretches limited resources much too thin to do anyone justice.

    Also, many schools with the highest poverty focus on discipline and/or remediation in a way that many parents will not want for their children. I, personally, don’t think that’s the right way to inspire young learners from any background, but it is certainly not the schooling I want for my own kids. HP is a great neighborhood, and I do hope that HPE will soon reflect the vibrancy we have here.

    Comment by vs — 1:19 pm August 18, 2014 #

  21. The failings of this school seem to be the result of the failure of the District to ensure good leadership for the school, and not the fault of the student population, the involvement of the parents, or the surrounding community- as proposed in the comments here. Ironically, the principal is going to STEM, and HPE is getting one of the best principals in the district. I feel confident that Principal Cronas has the skills to make this a healthy learning environment for all students, and that the District understands the needs of the school at this point and is prepared to support it properly. As for the comments here- people that do not live in Highland Park just don’t get what an amazing community we have, and could never imagine that we love it here- it’s not worth arguing about.

    Comment by cs in hp — 3:30 pm August 18, 2014 #

  22. I think we would all like to help our local schools get better, and I sincerely hope the new administration is effective at HPES. Sending more kids to a failing school is not going to help. Making teachers and administrators responsible for those failing schools would help (again, hoping the new administration can turn around HPES). Giving parents choices on where to send their children with vouchers (aka making schools compete) would help as well – if you don’t reward failure, you tend to get less of it.

    Comment by Rich Crenshaw — 3:39 pm August 18, 2014 #

  23. There have been many involved parents at HPE over the years. Many wonderful people helping out in different ways.
    But just because parents aren’t volunteering, or even if they don’t get their kids there in time, doesn’t mean they don’t care about their children’s education. There may be many circumstances in their lives that more affluent or nuclear families would not understand.
    I said it at the meeting and I will say it again. The principal that the district assigns sets the tone at a school. They make the final hiring decisions, they lead whatever sort of discipline the school may or may not use, they set the tone of respect between students and staff. I have seen a strong school fall apart because the district chose the wrong leader. Bullying did happen at HPE but there were also huge anti-bullying programs put into place. Bullying happens everywhere, but sometimes, if the principal doesn’t have a grip (the respect of the kids, etc.) bullying can go unchecked. The thing to remember too folks, is that HPE has more diversity than most other West Seattle elementary schools, and so to teach and lead at a school like that, one has to be aware of how different cultures work; of how to engage families from different cultures who have different ideas about education, about family, about communication, expectations. Finally, I want to say that if, as a parent, you are unhappy with your principal or teachers, SPEAK UP to the Superintendent, the school board, the paper, the blog. Make your concerns known. The squeaky wheel will get the grease. Demand excellence for your children. Not too long ago, that was the district’s mantra…Excellence for all. Find out why they don’t move the EBD program somewhere else, find out why there isn’t a gifted program at HPE (and believe me, there are gifted kids there) find out why they moved him or her to your school, find out why well-respected staff have left.
    Stay on top of what’s going on and demand only the best for all of your children.

    Comment by LD — 3:53 pm August 18, 2014 #

  24. What Rich said. Jeff too. Get involved, donate, volunteer if you believe you can help HPE but don’t send your kids there until it actually improves.

    Comment by Thinking Parent — 4:27 pm August 18, 2014 #

  25. Here’s a link to a report on demographics by school. Highland Park data can be found on page 25.

    73% of the students enrolled at HP last year qualified for Free or Reduced Price Lunch. That statistic was 65% for all of the K-5 students who live in the HP attendance area and are enrolled in public schools.

    Another interesting report tells us where students in the HP area attend school. (See page 3.)

    There were 494 K-5 students in the attendance area last year. The top five schools attended were:

    278 Highland Park
    62 Roxhill
    32 Pathfinder
    26 STEM
    23 Arbor Heights

    Just some data I thought might be helpful in this discussion.

    I do wonder how cs in hp determined that Mr. Cronas is one of the best principals in the district. Wedgwood’s population (10% FRL eligible) would have had high test scores with or without him. The change he made there was dismantling their (popular) Spectrum program.

    Comment by Lynn — 5:04 pm August 18, 2014 #

  26. I would like to thank Tracy for giving such detailed coverage of this story and to Carolyn for organizing the event. I am also in complete agreement with CS in HP. It seems like it is the failure of the district to provide good leadership. In addition there seems to also be the failure of the district to provide needed resources to this school. In particular, although HPE has two populations that require extra help. The student class size seemed toward the higher end of the spectrum rather than the lower.

    I wish time had not run out so I could get clarification on how information is communicated to families in which English is not spoken in the home. It did not appear that the district has an effective means of doing this.

    I am also hoping that the district might follow up with an event at the school.

    Lastly, I have to comment on the negative comments towards HP. I choose to live in this neighborhood because it has the best neighbors. When times get tough my neighbors do not scatter they step up and help each other.

    And to all my HP neighbors, Why not us….

    Comment by M in HP — 6:17 pm August 18, 2014 #

  27. Since Lynn brought it up, I will agree with her. The principal may change everything.

    However. And this is a Big However:

    Wedgewood area students, many if not most have parents who are UW academics – medical, research scientists, arts and technology people, as well as every other intellectual endeavor known to humanity – is represented in the families of NE Seattle. I know because I lived there and rented their homes in their neighborhood before I moved to Highland Park.

    The new principal did *not* have as tough a house as HPE will be. Doesn’t mean he didn’t work hard or achievements did not matter. Not at all, given his personal family issues especially.

    But, neighbors! Please, be informed and be aware of that distinction because it is fundamental to grasping the calculus here.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t wish the Principal the best or that I don’t have faith he and staff with resources and guidance can get the ducks in a row. It doesn’t mean he failed or was not a good principal before. What it means is Highland Park is not the same game.

    Help him view anew possibilities. He is going to need your courage and strength to negotiate this and I see some of you already are…be fierce with truth and keep it real and believe in that better day.

    Comment by agreed — 11:15 pm August 18, 2014 #

  28. I remember hearing something last year that Highland Park Elementary was going to become and international school with spanish as the language. It was in a WSB article about the boundary changes I believe. However when I went to look up further information on it there wasn’t anything on the SPS website or anywhere else. Is this something that SPS proposed but didn’t follow through with? Is it set so far in the future that there just isn’t anything further on it?

    Comment by Cecelia — 12:02 am August 19, 2014 #

  29. You have a much better memory than me, Cecelia. Here’s that story from 11 months ago:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/2013/09/seattle-public-schools-managers-listen-to-west-seattle-boundary-change-concerns-promising-this-is-not-a-done-deal/
    .
    I haven’t heard a word about it since, either. So the question is whether that was in the final list of program changes …

    Comment by WSB — 12:49 am August 19, 2014 #

  30. The main reason I remember it so well is I have child starting K this fall and we were looking at dual language programs as part of search. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all.

    Comment by Cecelia — 10:49 am August 19, 2014 #

  31. http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2014/08/highland-park-elementary-discussion.html#more

    There’s another discussion going on that forum about this, using Tracy’s article as a springboard.

    Comment by cs in hp — 10:51 am August 19, 2014 #

  32. As a HP resident and a parent who sends her kids elsewhere I’d just like to point out that the creation of neighborhood schools and the lack of available busing to get away from failing schools has only further segregated poorer kids and families. Segregation by income is just as wrong as segregation by race.. The district needs to change the policies that only exasperated the income inequality issues at HPE. If not, parents with the financial means to make other choices will just continue to do so.

    Comment by hp mom — 11:04 am August 19, 2014 #

  33. Thank you to all the courageous parents who send their kids to HP. As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of fear around this topic. You will never feel more vulnerable than being a parent, and we ALL want our kids to be safe and succeed. This is not a social experiment, it is a recognition that we are more than ourselves or our family – we are inextricably a part of our community.

    Comment by mv23 — 10:56 pm August 19, 2014 #

  34. Is there a drop off spot to donate school supplies for the Highland Park kids? Are they needed at all? I’m sure that a few of us would be happy to pick up supplies for the Highland Park kids while we’re doing the annual school supply run for our kids.

    Thanks

    Comment by alkimom — 12:44 pm August 20, 2014 #

  35. HP does not offer any options for students to be challenged that are at or above grade level. All of the resources go to struggling students. Why would a family with a student on grade level choose to stagnate their child’s leraning by sending them to HP?

    The EBD program is recklessly unsuported by the district. There are no teachers hired (as of August) for those classrooms, and both teachers left mid-year last year. This leads to a culture of instability and chaos with students running the halls, cussing, throwing things. It is unsafe. The district needs to own up to the social injustice of placing an unsupported EBD program in a school that is already struggling as it is and re-locate it.
    Then they need to bring in more enrichment if they really want to turn around HP.

    Comment by Amy — 12:20 pm August 25, 2014 #

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