In addition to what’s on the WSB West Seattle Events calendar for today, the King County Courthouse is the site of two court hearings of note:
(From left, Charita Dumas, Joy Anderson, Shelly Williams in court last June; photo by Christopher Boffoli)
COOPER CHALLENGE: According to anti-school-closure activist Chris Jackins, three parents’ challenge to the closure of Cooper Elementary School will be argued at 1:30 pm before Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas in courtroom W-965. In the last round of school closures, Seattle Public Schools closed the Cooper program along with the Genesee Hill Elementary building, moving the Pathfinder K-8 program – long “temporarily” housed at GH – into the Cooper building. Judge Greg Canova denied a motion for summary judgment in the case last summer (WSB coverage here); that meant it would go to a full hearing. Cooper parents Joy Anderson, Charita Dumas and Shelly Williams (shown in the photo above from last June’s hearing on the summary-judgment motion) contend the school was closed without a proper hearing; the district said state law only required hearings for school buildings that were closing, not school programs that were closing in buildings that would stay open.
ADMIRAL ASSAULT CASE SENTENCING: Three months’ work release is the recommended sentence for 23-year-old Jedidiah Doyle. He’s the man arrested after the August Admiral assault (reported here), a pistol-whipping in which Doyle’s gun (for which court documents say he had a concealed-weapons permit) went off once. He pleaded guilty last month to one count of assault. His sentencing is scheduled for 2:45 pm today in Superior Court courtroom E-955. The victim recovered, but according to court documents, he suffered a broken nose and broken facial bones and was left with “stitches in his face that extended from his chin to the top of his head.”
Just received from King County Superior Court Judge Gregory Canova – the “motion for summary judgment” filed by opponents to the closure of Cooper Elementary School has been denied, three weeks after the hearing, two weeks after the emotional last day of classes. That does NOT mean the end of the case. More in a moment, and we’ll upload the document too. ADDED 2:16 PM: Here’s the two-page ruling. Excerpt:
The Court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact as to the issues presented for summary judgment which precludes the Court from concluding that plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law …
In addition to this lawsuit, closure opponents also had filed federal civil-rights complaints, which as we reported the same day as the King County Superior Court hearing, have been consolidated into a “federal compliance review.” We have requests out for comment and will add whatever we receive. 4:32 PM UPDATE: Just talked with district lawyer Shannon McMinimee, who says, “We are pleased with the outcome of the summary judgment proceedings. We intend to proceed to defend this case and the other cases that were filed related to closure, which could include filing motions to dismiss all the cases over the course of the summer.” 11:19 PM UPDATE: Heard briefly from plaintiff Joy Anderson, who says, “This just means we have to go to court in the fall” – but also says she’ll likely have more to say tomorrow.
LAND USE PERMIT FOR “LINK”: In the Triangle, the mixed-use building Harbor Properties plans to build at 38th/Alaska (on the site that’s been home to West Seattle Montessori School [WSB sponsor] and a former Huling auto shop) has received its land-use permit; we’ll be checking with Harbor to find out its newest plans for a construction timeline (those permits are still in the pipeline). ***Added 1:42 pm: Harbor’s Emi Baldowin tells WSB that Link construction is expected to start in early fall; they’re still securing financing but “it looks good.”**** (back to original report) Westward into The Junction:
DESIGN REVIEW MEETING SET FOR 4532 42ND SW: Three years after its first design-review meeting, and 7 months after the big old house on the site was demolished, this mixed-use project in The Junction still has at least one more Southwest Design Review Board meeting to go, and the date for that is now tentatively set for July 23 (time TBA) at the nearby Senior Center of West Seattle.
THREE CLOSED SCHOOLS: From this morning’s city Land Use Information Bulletin – a long list of “notices of interpretation” regarding closed Seattle Public Schools buildings around the city, including three in West Seattle – Fairmount Park, E.C. Hughes and the newly re-closed Genesee Hill. The text of each notice goes like this:
The issue raised, subject to Land Use Code Interpretation, was whether the (school building in question) may be converted to certain other uses permitted in the Single Family 5000 zone, without convening a School Use Advisory Committee. The Department has concluded that the school building may be converted to any of the following institutional uses, regardless of conformity with institutional development standards, without going through the SUAC process: Child care centers, public or private schools, educational and vocational training for the disabled, adult evening education classes, nonprofit libraries, community centers, community programs for the elderly or similar uses. The building also may be converted to any other use permitted outright in the SF 5000 zone, as listed at Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.44.006, without going through the SUAC process.
Anyone who disagrees with that interpretation has till July 9th to file an appeal. The notice for Fairmount Park is here; the notice for E.C. Hughes is here; the notice for Genesee Hill is here. We have a question out to Seattle Public Schools to find out if there’s any particular reason these “interpretations” were pursued for these and five other properties citywide. 3:19 PM UPDATE: From school district spokesperson David Tucker: “Nothing has changed regarding the buildings’ status.” He says this is a move made to enable “expanded usage in the future,” possibly so that community organizations could rent the buildings for usages beyond church, school or day care: “It’s to the district’s benefit to have community organizations in these buildings — they help maintain the buildings” and step up security. He stresses that any change in the buildings’ status would have to be approved by the School Board, and he doesn’t expect anything to be proposed until the rest of the Student Assignment Plan is finalized.
Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The sweet promise of summer vacation was tainted by tears Friday as students, teachers, parents and volunteers slowly and regretfully left Cooper Elementary School for the last time.
Students emerged from the building to walk through the “goodbye path” lined by teachers and tutors offering hugs, best wishes, and occasionally some final words of advice.
But as the kids headed for the sidewalks, jumped into parents’ cars, and as the last school bus drove away, teachers found it impossible to hold back their tears or their anger at Seattle Public Schools for ending the Cooper Elementary program.
(From left, Charita Dumas, Joy Anderson, Shelly Williams, pursuing legal action against the school district; photo by Christopher Boffoli)
We’re back from the hearing at King County Superior Court on the challenge to the Seattle Public Schools closure of the Cooper Elementary “program” (the building will remain open as the new home to Pathfinder K-8, whose longtime “temporary” home at Genesee Hill will be closed). Topline: Judge Greg Canova said he would not issue a ruling today. Lawyers for both sides argued the points they’ve been making – for the closure opponents, that Cooper is a school, not a “program,” and should have received its own closure hearing; for the district, that it followed proper procedure and that this was the School Board’s decision to make, so anyone who doesn’t agree with it should vote against them in the next election rather than going to court. More details, plus photos/video, to come. 2:55 PM UPDATE: Adding some additional photos and video: Click to read the rest of Cooper Elementary closure challenge hearing: No ruling today…
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As the court hearing for the Cooper Elementary School (Google Street View above) closure challenge is about to get under way at King County Superior Court (we’re there and will update you when it’s over), we have word from closure opponent Joy Anderson of another action under way in connection with the entire Seattle Public Schools closure process last fall/winter: A federal “compliance review” by the U.S. Department of Education, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Anderson explains that Shelley Williams, who is one of the other two people pursuing the court challenge that’s being heard today, “organized and helped people file about 200 civil rights complaints to the Department of Education. Since they had so many, and it would have been really time consuming to act on each one, the DOE dismissed the individual complaints and has initiated one BIG COMPLIANCE review.” We have asked Seattle Public Schools for comment. Meantime, the letter to Williams that explains the review can be seen after the jump (as provided by Anderson) – we have cut off only the letterhead which has the Education Department logo and Williams’ personal address: Click to read the rest of Federal “compliance review” of Seattle Public Schools closures…
As we’ve reported in coverage of the upcoming court hearing on the challenge to the Cooper Elementary School closure, those who’ve brought the case are asking for supporters to join them in court this Friday. Joy Anderson just sent their flyer with information on two buses that have been arranged to offer transportation downtown – see it here. The hearing on the “motion for summary judgment” is at 10:30 am Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Greg Canova‘s courtroom. (Previous stories, with links to legal documents from both sides, are here and here.)
As reported here earlier this week, there’s a key hearing next week in the legal challenge to the impending closure of Cooper Elementary School in Pigeon Point: The closure opponents have made a motion for “summary judgment” (read it here) and this week, Seattle Public Schools filed its document opposing the motion. The district provided us with a copy; you can read the entire 27-page document here. One of the main points of contention in the legal challenge is that there was not a formal “closure hearing” at and for Cooper, because the district considered it a “program” instead of a school; the district’s rebuttal to that includes:
Appellants claim that not treating a programmatic change as a school closure resulted in impacted persons not getting notice or the opportunity to be heard. What Appellants fail to acknowledge to the Court is that they all actually provided testimony at public hearings and School Board meetings related to the decisions they are challenging.
Appellants had not only ample notice and opportunity to be heard, they were actually heard. However, the elected School Board, after consideration of thousands of pages of documents and the input of hundred of citizens, made a choice that the Appellants dislike. That is not the proper basis for a legal challenge, particularly when considering the substantial deference that must be afforded to the School Board in making administrative and policy decisions.
…With respect to the recommendation to close the Genesee Hill building for instructional purposes, a site-specific hearing was held at the Genesee Hill building on December 16, 2008. … Numerous speakers at this hearing identified themselves as being affiliated with Cooper. … In fact, all three of the Appellants in this case, Shelly Williams, Charity Dumas, and Joy Anderson actually provided testimony at the December 16, 2008 hearing.
Their challenge also takes on board votes to change policies enabling both the relatively rapid adoption of the school-closure proposal last January and enabling Cooper to be considered for closure; the district’s document contends “legislative bodies like the School Board are always free to amend their own polic(i)es and procedures …” The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 am Friday, June 12, before Judge Greg Canova in King County Superior Court. Meantime, Cooper is having a “closing celebration” at the school at 2 pm this Sunday.
Court fight, in this case. At Delridge Day this past Saturday, our spot in the Youngstown Arts Center parking lot was a few tables over from the booth you see in the photo above – with the “Save Cooper” theme. You might wonder, as we did, what’s the “Save Cooper” theme now, since the Seattle School Board vote to close the Cooper Elementary School “program” and move Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building in Pigeon Point happened four months ago, and a Cooper closure event is scheduled for this Sunday. Turns out, they were raising money for a legal challenge that continues, with a potentially pivotal hearing scheduled next week, headed by Cooper parent and PTA member Joy Anderson, aided by longtime school-closure opponent Chris Jackins. We spoke with both Anderson and Jackins at the event; read on to see what the Cooper challenge is about, and what happens next: Click to read the rest of Cooper Elementary supporters not giving up without a fight…
It’s been almost two years since we took the photo at left, with crews clearing out Fairmount Park Elementary School (map) in summer 2007, after the Seattle School Board voted to close the building and merge its “program” with the former High Point Elementary School (the two together, in the HP building, are now known as West Seattle Elementary School). Seattle Public Schools‘ communications team has confirmed to WSB something we got a tip about recently – the Fairmount Park building is being reopened for summer school this year. The district had confirmed last year that the building would be kept for “inventory” rather than being put up for sale any time soon. No details so far on exactly which dates, or for which programs, the building will be used. We asked district spokesperson David Tucker why a closed building like this is being reopened for this purpose – his reply:
Using the building for summer school means not disrupting an already existing classroom at another school and also reduces the risk of vandalism during the summer with the building now occupied. So it is not a matter of lack of available space, but keeping the building in operational condition while limiting impacts on other schools. It is the first time the building is being utilized since being closed two years ago.
By Charla Mustard-Foote
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Seven people with a vital interest in West Seattle public schools got together with West Seattle’s Seattle School Board rep Steve Sundquist at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction this morning, to discuss issues ranging from proposed new staggered school start times (to accommodate a dual busing schedule) to a redefinition of the statewide definition of Basic Education.
It was Sundquist’s first “coffee hour” since the board’s controversial vote on school closures/changes, but that wasn’t the top issue on the mind of attendees — who had ties to Center School, Pathfinder, Garfield, and Washington Middle School — all were passionately concerned about the effects of state and local budget deficits on the content and quality of Seattle educational programs.
Two weeks after the Seattle School Board voted to close the Cooper Elementary program while moving Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building on Pigeon Point, the reality of looming transition is settling in for hundreds of families. Last night we reported a Pathfinder update, including the start of meetings for its design team. That process apparently has not started yet for Cooper, according to this open letter to the community from Molly Usry of the Cooper PTSA:
To Concerned Community Members -
Now that we have had nearly two weeks to digest the School Board’s vote to discontinue the Cooper Program we are all trying to figure out what is next. Lawsuit? Help with the transition? Stay in denial that the Seattle School Board could vote yes for such a blatantly racist and classist recommendation?
I am personally choosing to focus on putting pressure on the District to provide for the kids whose lives they are disrupting. We need to anticipate that these kids are going to be going through the grieving process of losing their school and being separated from their friends. With this in mind we need to demand from the District that they provide us with extra counseling support for our students. They have created this mess, now they better be ready to supply us with extra resources to be able to continue to teach, parent and have the kids learning to the best of their ability through these trying times.
During a meeting with (school board member) Harium Martin-Morris yesterday, Harium mentioned he wants all the kids being displaced by the School Board’s vote to be tracked closely for at least the next 2 years with quarterly reports brought fourth on each students academic performance. I not only think this is a brilliant idea but I also think the District has a responsibility to be paying very close attention to the effects of their recommendations and votes on our children. The district should be designing a system for tracking the thousand of kids that have just been displaced immediately.
I also want to bring to everyone’s attention that design teams need to be implemented at Arbor Heights, Gatewood and Highland Park, the schools where Cooper’s kids will be assigned. It was my understanding yesterday at the meeting that design teams have not been formed at those schools. This shows a complete lack of regard for our kids when I am well aware of the fact that design teams for other schools like Pathfinder have already been meeting and planning. Please don’t let our Cooper kids fall through the cracks.
Everyone please write to our district, board and representative members to put pressure on them to ensure success for our kids during this trying time.
Molly Gras-Usry, Cooper PTSA Vice President
Board contact info is here; West Seattle rep Steve Sundquist‘s next community gathering is at 9 am next Wednesday at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction. One more note: We received e-mail today from someone else saying there’s a meeting at Cooper for the school’s families at 5:30 tonight, but have not yet been able to officially confirm that. Tonight also is the next school board meeting; no closure-related items are on the official agenda, but they might come up in the regular update from Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson that always begins the meeting after about an hour of public comment. 3:15 PM UPDATE: The district has confirmed tonight’s meeting at Cooper but stresses it is ONLY for parents/guardians.
6:19 PM UPDATE: According to the “superintendent’s update” that is posted online as part of tonight’s School Board agenda, a Cooper design team has been formed and met today – here’s an excerpt from the presentation (see it here in its entirety) that is to be made at tonight’s board meeting:
Teams from the discontinuing programs or schools met this afternoon (Weds)
○ Cooper, Meany, TT Minor, Summit and AAA
□ These teams are working on addressing four needs:
1. Enrollment questions and issuesincluding an outreach plan to help affected families
understand their school and program options; and planning for and supporting visits
to primary receiving schools for affected families
2. Emotional support to the school community
3. End of year celebrationsto recognize that school community (these celebrations will
also be supported for Van Asselt, Genesee Hill, Mann and SBOC @ Old Hay as
4. Document and archiveschool and program artifacts and school records.
Thanks to the tipster who pointed out new information on the Pathfinder K-8 website, regarding preparations for the Pathfinder transition into the Cooper Elementary building: The post (see it here) mentions that the Pathfinder “design team” is having its first meetings this week, and discusses who’s part of it:
The formation of the Pathfinder K-8 Design Team is mostly complete. Members represent all stakeholders in the school and community. Members thus far include: David Dockendorf, Principal; Linda Thomson, Secretary; Janet Osborn, K-1 teacher; Tim Hayes-McQueen, 7th-8th grade teacher; Lisa Clayton, Head Teacher and parent; Rita Garton, Director of Blazing Trails; Rose Rapoza, NAB member and parent; Beth Bakeman, Compass Editor and parent; and Jennifer Giomi, PTSA President and parent. There will also be a teacher from Cooper’s Autism Program on the Design Team.
(The Cooper autism program is remaining at the Cooper building and becoming part of Pathfinder.) The first meeting of the design team was today; next one is coming up Thursday afternoon, 3:30 pm at district HQ. The district has posted an online FAQ about what it’s now calling the “program design teams”; see it here. The statement on the Pathfinder site that includes the team details also notes:
This is a very difficult time for the Cooper School community and we respect the challenge and grief that they are facing as part of the Board decision. We ask that current and prospective Pathfinder K-8 families please not call or visit the Cooper building. There will be time in the next several months to learn about the building and to understand what this move will look like for the Pathfinder K-8 community. In the meantime, as the community has throughout this long and difficult process, please continue to exercise restraint and compassion for all involved.
And one more note for West Seattle-area families with Seattle Public Schools concerns/questions – local School Board member Steve Sundquist has scheduled another of his “coffee hour” conversation opportunities, 9 am Feb. 18 at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction.
Two notes in the wake of Thursday night’s vote approving a plan for closures and changes including the end of the Cooper Elementary “program,” the shutdown of the Genesee Hill building, and the Pathfinder K-8 move into the Cooper building:
MEETING VIDEO: Thursday night’s meeting in its entirety is archived on the Seattle Channel website. Note that the cameras don’t have full audience views, so most of the heckling, booing, and other tumult is off-camera, but it can be heard, as can the rest of the proceedings (in some cases, more clearly than it was heard during the meeting, since the audio feed for this recording comes through board members’ microphones, meaning the audience interruptions don’t sound as loud as they did for those of us who were in the room; our video clips are incorporated into our coverage from Thursday night).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Many questions remain, particularly for the families whose schools are involved in the plan; the district has promised an “updated FAQ” on its “capacity management” (closures/changes) page “within a few days.” Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson said at the Thursday night meeting that the families who would not be able to go to the same schools next fall will get “individual assignment letters” in the coming week. Those letters are supposed to stipulate whether Cooper students (outside those in the autism program, which will stay in the building) will be assigned to Gatewood, Highland Park, or Arbor Heights, per terms of West Seattle school-board rep Steve Sundquist’s board-approved amendment.
If the 60-year-old Genesee Hill campus closes this fall as approved by board members (the only remaining “if” would involve legal challenges, which have been mentioned by various citywide groups), that will be its second shutdown. The first one lasted from 1990 to 1994, according to this district-written article; 1994 is when it was reopened so Pathfinder, then known as Alternative School #4.
(12:42 am note: Video clips have been added to the coverage below, at the spots relevant to when they were shot. Also: Here’s the official district news release)
8:34 PM UPDATE: It’s all over – including the shouting. Just small groups talking, hugging in the hallway (video clip above, added 8:47). Topline to everything below: The closure plan passes largely as-is, with Cooper Elementary‘s program to close, Cooper’s building to become the new home of Pathfinder K-8, the once-closed building that has housed Pathfinder for more than a decade – Genesee Hill – to be shuttered. All this takes effect as of the next school year, and planning/transitioning/communicating is to begin immediately.
8:02 PM UPDATE: Bass has said she wishes there were more time, to work out a better plan. The final vote is getting closer. Bass says after this, she wants to speak with anyone and everyone about the assignment plan. She says it’s leadership to stand alone sometimes. She says she wanted to give money to Pathfinder over Sealth (and other things), but “it wasn’t popular.” Final closure vote (with no changes to buildings/programs that were to be changed/closed): 2 no 5 yes. Most of the crowd is leaving and heading out into the hallway, chanting – there was some yelling here in the main room too. Police are hovering. People are shouting hey hey, ho ho, school board members have got to go. You will be able to see that part on the TV newscasts – we’re staying put in case something actually happens in here informationally. (Added 9:15 pm – our clip from the departure of most of the crowd members, before those last pieces of the proposal were voted on)
The voting isn’t over yet – there are policy votes that have to be made in order to facilitate the main motion. There are people in the audience in here saying “Honor the 2006 Board member to the SBOC” (photo added above); now cheering in the hallway. Police and security have not all left the main area here. The chanting in the foyer has moved on to “these closures are racist.” The first of the accompanying motions has passed. Now, the motion that merges what will be the former Cooper reference area into the Sanislo reference area. (“Sanislo is full!” came a shout from the audience, which is true.) Motion passes. Meeting over.
7:51 PM UPDATE: Now, to the final vote on the official plan, which, for West Seattle, now remains: Cooper Elementary program closes (autism programs stay in the building), Pathfinder K-8 moves into Cooper’s building, Genesee Hill building closes. West Seattle APP elementary students would be reassigned to Thurgood Marshall, where approximately half the current APP elementary population will move (the other half remaining at Lowell). The board members are now making their final statements, Chow first, “now is the time” for action; must deal with “brutal facts.” Crowd now shouting. Chow is shouting to some degree, too, particularly the phrase “25-million-dollar deficit.” It’s clear she will vote yes. Sundquist has just made a speech, saying he too isn’t happy about Cooper, but that it’s time to finally move on with getting Pathfinder into another building. (here’s the clip – with heckling throughout)
Now Mary Bass is crying – she says she tried not to lose her composure.
7:41 PM UPDATE: Final amendment of the night before the final vote – Maier proposes granting “priority assignment” to students who, because of the eventual vote, will not be able to attend their current schools next year. By the way, if you’re having trouble keeping score, so far the “final recommendations” have not been altered – the only amendments that have passed affect some of the side effects of the potential eventual vote. And again, Martin-Morris and Bass vote no on this. It’s been a 5-2 split on everything.
7:32 PM UPDATE: Martin-Morris reads his amendment to keep Genesee Hill open and cancel closing Cooper. He says “it’s the right thing to do” and says closing it sends the wrong message: (video added 10:19 pm)
Mary Bass seconds. Sundquist says he won’t support it. Amendment fails, again only with Martin-Morris and Bass voting yes. Sundquist now reading his “reassign Cooper” amendment. “TO WORSE SCHOOLS!” shouted from the audience; Sundquist is called “a patronizing S.O.B.” Audience unruly again. People yelling, “Racist!” DeBell trying to quiet them down. Carr says the decision about Cooper was “the hardest” one to make but thinks Sundquist’s amendment will at least keep some of the students together. Vote on the amendment: everyone yes except Martin-Morris and Bass.
7:24 PM UPDATE: Martin-Morris’s update that would break Summit (which otherwise is closing) into K-8 and 9-12 at other sites, is now being considered. Summit families yell “We don’t want it!” It almost went without a second, then Bass seconded it. Martin-Morris’s update to cancel the Cooper program closure will be next (technically it would cancel the Genesee Hill building closure, which then would keep Pathfinder there, and Cooper in its building). By the way, besides us, several others are covering this meeting live via Twitter – twitter.com/phylfletch and twitter.com/sableverity among them. DeBell says he has been sorely frustrated by his inability to “find Summit a home.” From the audience: “Find us a home.” DeBell says Summit is “caring” and has been “pushed out to the edge of the district” but “some of the tough facts we are facing in the district right now fall heavily on Summit K-12 .. the K-12 model is very difficult to fit into a building unless it is a secondary school, and we have very few (of those) now.” He also says the transportation costs are challenging. Summit vote: Martin-Morris and Bass are again the only yes votes, it fails.
7:15 PM UPDATE: Vote on Mary Bass’s amendment for Central Cluster changes to the closure proposal is coming up. Sundquist says he will not support it. Martin-Morris says he will. DeBell says he will not. Shouts from the crowd. DeBell: “There is too much capacity in the Central Cluster.” Bass, Martin-Morris are the only yes votes; amendment fails. Boos from the crowd. This means among other things APP at Lowell will NOT be kept together – West Seattle APP students will be going to Thurgood Marshall (unless the final motion fails). The amendments failure triggers a Carr amendment regarding letting students who live in the Lowell walk zone to attend APP at Lowell. That amendment passes with all yes votes except Martin-Morris and Bass.
7:00 PM UPDATE: Now they are moving to the vote. Sundquist is reading motions. Then each member gets to read his/her amendment. Mary Bass reads hers first and is explaining at length why she proposed changes to the Central Cluster plan. If it goes the way that we’ve been told, each amendment will be voted on individually before a final vote – anything that is approved, becomes a change to the plan in the final vote. Now Cheryl Chow is recounting the history of the African American Academy, which is proposed for closure. “Unfortunately,” she says, “the program is and has been underenrolled .. and the school is not succeeding as all would want. Even if (it is closed),” she says, she believes the “Afrocentric” culture will continue in the building. Chow says the building will still be called the African American Academy unless the board votes to change it; much shouting ensues from the crowd. DeBell now says, please stop interrupting the meeting.
READ THE REST OF OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE Click to read the rest of Seattle Public Schools closure vote, as it happened (video added)…
If you can’t make it to Seattle Public Schools HQ for tonight’s special school board meeting to vote on the closures/changes plans (and the amendments announced yesterday), district spokesperson Patti Spencer just confirmed it WILL be live on cable channel 26 (no live online stream, though; archived video is posted here later). Live broadcasts are not always availabe for meetings held outside the regular first/third Wednesday framework, so we checked. This meeting will NOT include public comment – the board will consider the amendments, then the plan (whether amended or not) and associated policy changes that would be required for certain proposals to be allowed. The meeting starts at 6 pm; we’ll be posting updates live from district HQ (covering the entire plan, not just the WS aspects, since WS families are involved in other elements such as the APP split too).
As first reported during the School Board meeting a week ago, board president Michael DeBell asked his fellow members this: If you’re going to propose any changes to the “final recommendation” for school closure/changes, get them in by yesterday, so they can be made public today (and voted on during the special board meeting tomorrow night). Caveat, board members still COULD propose amendments during tomorrow morning’s meeting, but for now, here are the ones just revealed. They include a proposal to take Genesee Hill off the recommendations, keeping Pathfinder K-8 there, and leaving Cooper Elementary as is; that proposal, included in this document, comes from board member Harium Martin-Morris. West Seattle board member Steve Sundquist has an amendment on the agenda too; it would continue with the move-Pathfinder-to-Cooper plan in the original “final recommendations,” but would set conditions on where the majority of current Cooper students would be reassigned – he proposes splitting them among Gatewood, Highland Park, and Arbor Heights. Of interest to APP families citywide, board member Mary Bass proposes keeping the elementary-level program at Lowell, instead of splitting half (including West Seattle APP elementary students) to another school. The amendments will all be voted on during tomorrow night’s special board meeting, 6 pm, district HQ in Sodo. (In addition to discussion here, there’ll be citywide comment ongoing at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com.)
For those waiting to find out if Seattle School Board members proposed any amendments to the closure/change plan that will be voted on tomorrow night – while the district had been expected to post amendments to its website by noon today, a notice is now posted on the board page saying they’ll be up at 1. We’ll bring them to you as soon as we get them.
GROUNDBREAKING: Work’s been under way for months now on the Chief Sealth High School upgrades that are going in prior to construction of a new Denny Middle School on the CSHS campus – and tonight there’s word of a “groundbreaking celebration” for the next phase of work, set for March 12th. More details later this week, according to the project-management team. The project website has some toplines about what’s been happening this month; see them here.
CLOSURE AMENDMENTS: As reported previously, if any Seattle School Board members plan to make amendments to the “final recommendations” for school closure/changes currently slated for a Thursday vote, they’ve been asked to turn in said amendments by noon tomorrow. We checked with the Seattle Public Schools communications office to ask if any such amendments would be then made available to the media before they’re published on the district website (which is supposed to happen Wednesday). Got the answer this afternoon: No.
Taken a short time ago just after hundreds of anti-school-closure marchers left TT Minor, with full police escort (since they’re marching in the street), headed for Garfield. (We have video in the other direction, to add a bit later [5:28 pm, here it is])
There’s a Cooper contingent in the crowd too – we spotted at least one “Save Cooper” sign. ADDED 3:01 PM: The marchers have just arrived at Garfield – here’s the sign-bearing Cooper reps including Jonah Von Spreecken and Brittany Abbott, who has twin sons at the school:
(added 4:33 pm – closer look at the Cooper reps in this video clip – note the fast-n-furious snow)
(added 11:59 pm – Brittany shared this photo of her sons at the pre-march rally)
(back to 3:01 pm update) And on the right side of this next photo, with the pink sign, is West Seattle-based district watchdog Chris Jackins, who has repeatedly asked the school board to cancel all closure plans:
All the while, snow continued to fall – there’s a little bit sticking on the ground here in the Central District. We’re heading back to HQ to add video. The marchers’ chants included, “School closures/No thanks/Bail out schools/Not the banks.” They’ll be rallying inside the Garfield Community Center for the next few hours. Ongoing coverage at CentralDistrictNews.com. ADDED 8:42 PM: Thanks to Scott at CDNews for sharing his video of Cooper parent/employee Shelly Williams‘s emotional speech at the rally that preceded the march:
In the middle of a rare sunny winter afternoon, a dozen people came to Delridge Library today for one last pre-closure-vote round of Q/A with West Seattle’s school board member Steve Sundquist. And while the phrase in the headline – “This is tough” — came from him, it could have come from anyone in the room, or from any of the thousands of people at the schools around the city that have been mentioned at one point or another in the closure proceedings that started last fall. The timetable has been tough too – with the “preliminary recommendations” announced just before Thanksgiving, hearings and meetings peppered throughout the holiday season, then the “final recommendations” coming out right after school resumed post-winter break. Now, the vote is less than a week away, and no more formal hearings or meetings remain before that vote, so gatherings like this one are the last opportunities for a glimpse into which way board members might go: Click to read the rest of School-closure vote countdown: “This is tough”…
Next Thursday, in a special meeting at 6 pm at district HQ in Sodo, Seattle School Board members will vote on proposed closures and changes. Right now, West Seattle’s Cooper Elementary is proposed for “program closure,” as part of a chain reaction starting with closing the Genesee Hill building that’s been home to Pathfinder K-8 for more than a decade, and ending with Pathfinder moving into the Cooper building. Cooper supporters (whose site is here) have continued to relentlessly press the point that their school should be “a model, not a target” because the academic achievement of its children outpaces area schools with comparably diverse demographics (as detailed on this page).
DISTRICT SUMMARY OF COMMENTS FROM HEARINGS: Posted on a new page at the district Capacity Management (the umbrella term for changes including the closure process) website. (If you want to compare the summaries to the official transcripts, you can find those on this page.)
ANOTHER Q/A/LISTENING SESSION WITH WEST SEATTLE’S SCHOOL BOARD REP: Steve Sundquist will be at Delridge Library (map) 1-2:30 pm this afternoon; it’ll be a session similar to the one he held at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction this past Wednesday morning (WSB coverage here).
CITYWIDE PROTEST MARCH ON SUNDAY: As we reported before the January 7th school board meeting, closure opponents from around the city plan a protest rally and march Sunday afternoon, 2 pm, starting at TT Minor (map). Here’s the official site for march organizers.
NOT TOO LATE TO HAVE A SAY: Though Thursday was the last public hearing on the closure proposals, school-board members have till Tuesday at noon to propose changes to the plan (technically they could propose changes up till the last minute before the vote next Thursday, but board president Michael DeBell requested the Tuesday deadline). So you can still e-mail them with your opinion at email@example.com (or find individual board members’ addresses here).
Jason Gruenwald (assisted by son Idaya) was one of the speakers advocating for West Seattle’s Cooper Elementary School during tonight’s final public hearing on proposed Seattle Public Schools closures, to be voted on by board members one week from tonight. (Clip added 11:04 pm) Said Shekuna spoke on behalf of the Somali immigrants whose children attend Cooper, saying the school is providing them some of what they could not get in that country, so why would the district want to take that away?
Note the signs displayed as he spoke, declaring Cooper (for its academic success) should be a “model, not a target.” Also speaking tonight, Cooper teacher Ruth Solnit, describing Cooper as “a school on an upswing”:
(Clip added 12:37 am) Cooper parent Steve Ball said the school would be fuller if its “reference area” were redrawn – especially given the growth in High Point and along Delridge:
And the board heard from Cooper parent Brittany Abbott (who spoke at the board’s regular meeting the night before, too):
Though there was talk of lawsuits and “no” votes at re-election time, overall, tonight, there were no headlines and no announcements, just a last chance for people to have their say about schools all over the city facing closures and changes. If board members want to propose changes to the current plan (linked from the SPS “Capacity Management” page), president Michael DeBell told them last night that those changes should be submitted to Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson by noon next Tuesday; the vote is scheduled for a special board meeting next Thursday night. West Seattle’s board rep Steve Sundquist told concerned parents at his monthly coffee gathering yesterday morning (WSB coverage here) that he won’t make up his mind till next week; if you would like to speak with him about the closure plan (or any other education concern), he is having another informal gathering this Saturday, 1 pm, at the Delridge Library. All seven board members’ e-mail addresses are here.
From the WSB West Seattle Events calendar: 6 pm tonight, it’s the first South Delridge/White Center Community Safety Coalition meeting of the year, St. James Place, 9421 18th SW (map). 6:30 pm, it’s the Southwest Design Review Board meeting for 2743 California SW (medical/dental-office building going in just north of PCC), West Seattle (Admiral) Library branch. Also at 6:30, at Seattle Public Schools HQ in Sodo, the final public hearing for the citywide closure proposal that involves three West Seattle schools/buildings (archived WSB coverage here). At 7 pm, at the new Duwamish Longhouse, the world premiere of “Angeline,” a documentary film on the life of Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle. Also at 7 pm, the Seattle Parks Board gets an updated briefing on beach fires, park HQ downtown (as reported here yesterday – looks like status quo for this year).
ADDED 12:58 PM: Also just got word that the West Seattle High School music department’s winter concert is tonight, 7:30 pm, WSHS Theater, all welcome – and it’s free!
(added 10:35 pm, Cooper parent Raymond Williams and daughter facing the board)
We’re at district HQ in Sodo, where the School Board is about to start its last regular meeting before next week’s scheduled closure vote (agenda here). No action is scheduled tonight, but at least three of the 20 public speakers in the first hour are listed as speaking on behalf of Cooper Elementary, so we will post quick notes about their speeches and any other major developments regarding the West Seattle closure proposal (or the other programs, such as the citywide APP top-level-gifted program, affecting WS families). For the first time in a while, it’s NOT a standing-room-only crowd (so far). 6:04 PM UPDATE: Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is sharing a few reminiscences from her (personal, board member Cheryl Chow points out) trip to DC for the inauguration – she just returned this afternoon. She also mentioned her phone chats yesterday afternoon (WSB video coverage here) with Highland Park Elementary and Gatewood Elementary students. After that, following the Pledge of Allegiance, board president Michael DeBell – who’d noted it was the first one under the new administration – said, “That feels good.” 6:12 PM UPDATE: The presentation that will be made by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson after public comment (which has just begun) is online; it includes answers to questions raised by board members as part of the closure discussions – one is “Where would Cooper students be reassigned?” See page 12 of the presentation for the full list; highlights: the largest group, 104, would be expected to go to Gatewood, with the second largest, 65, to West Seattle Elementary. The presentation also answers a question about Cooper capacity and whether Pathfinder would fit:
Cooper has 26 homerooms and 1 PCP. After additional PCPs, Special Ed Self-Contained and Resource Room, Cooper has 21 homerooms. Pathfinder requires 2 homerooms per grade for K-8 which is 18 homerooms. This leaves 3 homerooms to expand the special program to middle school as well as provide an additional PCP for middle school and accommodates some of the
Cooper students from the Cooper reference area.
6:55 PM UPDATE: Three Cooper advocates have just spoken – Raymond Williams (video atop this post), and Molly Usry (first clip below) and Brittany Abbott (second clip below).
They reiterate the point: “Cooper does not meet the criteria for closure.” It is the main theme we have heard in meetings at and about Cooper, and on the CooperSchoolWorks.com website: Cooper is doing well academically, compared to schools with similar demographics, and shouldn’t be broken up, they say. They were preceded by a speaker who got a standing ovation, a Summit K-12 student named Jacob Looke, who testified against the proposal to close his school, struggling to get through tears, after explaining that he had been a social outcast most of his life, until he started attending that alternative school. 7:18 PM UPDATE: The superintendent is now running through her presentation, which starts with a list of actions to close “education gaps.”
8:35 PM UPDATE: The closure discussion is almost done for the night; board president DeBell says that if any board member has a change to propose to the superintendent’s final recommendations, they should get it to her in writing by noon next Tuesday, then it will be posted to the district website by noon next Wednesday. (The board vote is a week from tomorrow, during a meeting at which there will be no public testimony, since the last public hearing – with 40 speakers signed up, and the list now full – is tomorrow night, as DeBell reminds all.)
We’re at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction, with West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist and more than a dozen people who are listening – and talking to – him about the school-closure process that will culminate in a vote a week from tomorrow. While Sundquist opened the meeting by saying he has not made up his mind yet on the closure proposal that’s on the table now, and won’t till late next week, he also has reiterated, he believes “we need to close schools.” He also says, “We are in a financial situation where we have not yet found the bottom.” More to come.
9:28 AM UPDATE: So far, Sundquist has been asked multiple questions about the proposed breakup of APP – the district’s top-level accelerated program – no questions yet about the proposed program closure at Cooper Elementary.
9:51 AM UPDATE: Sundquist has just finished the first discussion about Cooper. He acknowledges district staff and board members are struggling with the fact that closing its program would disperse a program that appears to be doing a good job serving children of color (and those facing economic challenges). He says Boren would not work as a home for Pathfinder K-8 because, for one, it’s not available next year – and the district’s financial challenges are immediate, so they have to have a solution they could implement NOW.
10:57 AM UPDATE: The event wrapped up just after 10:30 am as planned. We’ll add more to this shortly – including a video clip of Sundquist laying out where he believes the “West Seattle situation” stands — one thing to pass around now: Sundquist said he expects the district to do an audit on alternative education soon, like the ones that have been done for APP and other district-wide programs.
ADDED 11:52 AM: Video of Sundquist giving an overview summarizing the “West Seattle situation” — why Cooper is a candidate for closure, why Pathfinder needs a new home, and why the district/board are (as mentioned above) concerned about breaking up a good program at Cooper, plus his view on where the district assignment plan is going, all in about eight unedited minutes:
Tonight is the final regular School Board meeting before next week’s closure vote, 6 pm, district HQ in Sodo, with at least three people scheduled to speak to the board about Cooper; we will be there to cover it (and you can watch live on cable).
This morning at 8 am, sign-ups open for the 20 always-coveted public-comment spots at the start of Wednesday’s Seattle School Board meeting (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-252-0040). It’s the last regular meeting for board members before they vote a week from Thursday on school-closure recommendations that currently call for Cooper Elementary (photo left) on Pigeon Point to be disbanded so that its building can become the new home of Pathfinder K-8, which operates in the former Genesee Hill Elementary building that the district’s been trying to close for years. As even Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson (who by the way is in D.C. for the presidential inauguration) has said, the proposal — which includes several other changes around the city — could change before the final vote. The School Board meeting at 6 pm Wednesday isn’t the last chance to have a say, though; this Thursday, 6:30 pm at district HQ, it’s the final formal public hearing on the proposal; the 40 public-comment spots at this meeting already are spoken for (see the list here – three people are identified as speaking about Cooper, and we recognize at least one more Cooper-linked name elsewhere on the list). P.S. Before these two meetings, West Seattle School Board rep Steve Sundquist has another one of his coffee chats – 9 am Wednesday, Coffee to a Tea in The Junction. And the Cooper community continues to add to the information available on its anti-closure website, CooperSchoolWorks.com.
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