Topline from tonight’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting, which just wrapped up at Highland Park Improvement Club:
HOW CAN COMMUNITY GROUPS & NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATIONS HELP LOCAL SCHOOLS? That question led to the guest appearance of James Bush from Seattle Public Schools. Chair Mat McBride, for example, said that while he tends to compartmentalize “community stuff” and “school stuff” in his mind – he’s an SPS parent – “they’re the same stuff.”
Bush was with the city for more than 20 years, including the Parks Department and Department of Neighborhoods, but joined SPS last year and works for the district as school/community partnerships director. He works with a variety of organizations, such as parent/teacher organizations, and also a program called The Creative Advantage that helps bridge the gap in arts education, especially for children of color. And he manages the district’s interaction with the city Department of Education and Early Learning (the voter-funded preschool initiative) as well as working with the county’s new Best Starts for Kids (also voter-funded).
He visits schools to find out what’s happening there – earlier this week, for example, he said, he visited Pathfinder K-8 on Pigeon Point.
The district has hundreds of partners, so if there’s a need in a school somewhere, his team gets to evaluate who and what might be the right match to help – though it’s a principal’s final decision about who partners in their school, he said.
One challenge in this area, Bush was told by a DNDC member, is that not every school has a strong PTA, so you can’t rely on that organization to get involved at every school. Can Bush’s team help cover some of those gaps? He said that his team has a grand total of five people, but they do look at innovative, different ways to get things done – maybe bring multiple PTSAs together, for example.
You can find out more about what his department does via this section of the district website.
The conversation meandered and at one point turned to the education-funding crisis; he reiterated where the SPS budget stands (same thing you can see here).
And then it went back to some of the private funding that’s involved in partnerships, including a Seattle Housing Authority-linked program. And it assists the entire family, he explained, for example, helping parents with job searches while their children are at after-school programs.
Discussion that followed brought out information about other programs such as ones that help combat attendance problems by offering support instead of throwing out threats, and suggestions that intervention programs which are deployed in South Seattle could be useful in some West Seattle schools too. Bush talked about how they determine where support and intervention programs go. He said they just finished building a “community-engagement toolkit” that’s part of what they will be using to help make those decisions.
How does the district evaluate a specific school and how does Bush’s team engage with it? He gave an example from North Seattle, at a school that serves many low-income-housing communities. They talk with the principal to see if they are working with the managers of the housing communities.
In general, when they go into schools, it’s not intended to be punitive, but to work with principals, Bush said.
Are principals the only people that community members can approach? One attendee said he was trying to support a local school by donating books, and the principal had rejected them, but he then managed to work with teachers who accepted the donations.
Bush also talked about cultural-competency-related programs, such as one in partnership with the Somali community.
Finally, McBride asked the big question – how can the DNDC and the people in its members groups form deeper connections with local schools? “If nothing else, one of the things we can offer, is that we have a pretty good track record of hosting meetings like this.” (Reps from at least three PTAs were here, including Concord International, which is part of the Southwest area – “our kids go to Denny and Sealth,” said a rep.)
WHAT THE DNDC’S WORKING ON: DNDC is still working on a central access point for online information, something they never even got from the city before ties were cut. … They’re also looking at setting up subcommittees, while being mindful of the fact that, as McBride put it, “everybody here is already a member of something else already.” … And with the city’s tie-cutting removing the DNDC role in vetting grant applications, McBride talked about brainstorming a new role for the DNDC, maybe even proposing projects, definitely helping encourage them, working on an overview of the area’s needs, putting together a list of grant opportunities that isn’t just limited to what the city’s offering, and more. … Pigeon Point’s Pete Spalding wondered about looking at levy-related spending for accountability on whether what was supposed to be spent in this area of the city really is getting spent here … The council took a step toward forming subcommittees to focus on specific areas, and discussed potential formats for future meetings, potentially, like tonight, having a first-hour guest to focus on a strategic goal.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: We missed the first few minutes of the meeting but here’s what we heard on arrival: Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council has Councilmember Lisa Herbold as a guest at their March 7th meeting (6:15 pm at Southwest Library) … The Camp Long Advisory Council invites you to its meetings, but there soon won’t be a CL-only advisory council, Mat McBride says, as the Parks Department’s three Environmental Learning Centers will have one advisory council-type group for all three. …
Jump in and help out! Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meets third Wednesdays, 7 pm, currently at Highland Park Improvement Club (12th SW/SW Holden), possibly rotating locations later in the year.