West Seattle Blog... » West Seattle school closure http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:30:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 In court today: Cooper challenge; Admiral assault sentencing http://westseattleblog.com/2010/01/in-court-today-cooper-closure-challenge-admiral-assault-sentencing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2010/01/in-court-today-cooper-closure-challenge-admiral-assault-sentencing/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2010 15:22:13 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=27210 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.”

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Update: Cooper School closure lawsuit ruling – motion denied http://westseattleblog.com/2009/07/cooper-lawsuit-ruling-motion-denied/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/07/cooper-lawsuit-ruling-motion-denied/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2009 21:03:11 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18407 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.

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West Seattle land-use notes: 2 mixed-use projects; 3 closed schools http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/west-seattle-land-use-notes-2-mixed-use-projects-3-closed-schools/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/west-seattle-land-use-notes-2-mixed-use-projects-3-closed-schools/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2009 18:03:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18168

wholelink.jpg

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.

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Tears and hugs on the last day of school at Cooper Elementary http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/tears-and-hugs-on-the-last-day-of-school-at-cooper-elementary/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/tears-and-hugs-on-the-last-day-of-school-at-cooper-elementary/#comments Sat, 20 Jun 2009 00:30:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18005

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.

Most of the students, except for the special class for autistic children, will be scattered to schools throughout the city. Pathfinder K-8 students will move into the Cooper building next fall; their previous home, the closed-once-before Genesee Hill building, will close again.

“It’s a crime,” said kindergarten teacher Elizabeth McCullough Guevara, who has been at Cooper since 1991. “The heck with Pathfinder, I will never feel good about them being here. I love them, but I just don’t get why they need to be in our school.”

She will continue to teach, at Loyal Heights Elementary, but she will always feel something is missing. “This is the most beautiful school in the city,” she said.

As the last students left, Jennifer Outhouse, known as “Ms. O” to her special education students, sobbed uncontrollably.

She was comforted by Micky Popovich, part of the after-school teacher program, also in tears.

“We are such a team, such an amazing mix of good people,” said Popovich.

Shelley Williams, a former Cooper Elementary student, now a Cooper parent and tutor, was almost too angry to cry. She is part of the lawsuit filed against the district to try to stop the closure.

“I have been fighting for this school for the last four years,” she said. Williams is hopeful the judge in the case will announce a decision in favor of Cooper before June 26, the day teachers have to pack up and go.

“I want to know who in this city is their brother’s keeper? This is just so wrong,” she said. Williams says she is convinced the school board is guilty of racism in its closure decision. (Editor’s note: According to the demographic summaries in each school’s “annual report” for the school year that concluded today, Pathfinder [report here] had 35% students of color and 35% students who qualify for free/reduced-price lunch; Cooper [report here] had 77% students of color and 71% free/reduced-price lunch.)

While a few parents said the change will work out okay for them, with their children moving to schools closer to home, most parents we spoke with were bitter.

Some started to cry when asked where there children will go next year.

“I don’t know where my youngest will go,” Lashana Coe said of her second grader. “I’ve been in West Seattle for 12 years. I have always lived at High Point. I am very disappointed. I don’t know what will happen to my daughter; this could affect her whole academic career.

“We’ve been so happy with Cooper, it has a lot of resources to offer students. The teachers know them all,” said Coe.

For the few who will be staying at Cooper, the last day was bittersweet.

“It’s hard to think that all these kids won’t come back to this beautiful location,” said Janelle Hargesheimer, an instructional assistant who is staying at the Cooper building with the autism program. “I try to stay optimistic, but it still feels like a very sad thing to happen.”

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Cooper Elementary closure challenge hearing: No ruling today http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-closure-challenge-hearing-topline-no-ruling-today/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-closure-challenge-hearing-topline-no-ruling-today/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2009 19:13:59 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=17791

(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 Courtgavel.jpg 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:

After the hearing, we spoke with some key players, first school district lawyer Shannon McMinimee:

Responding to that, Charita Dumas:

In court, dozens of people watched:

Judge Canova:

No timetable for the ruling, but court-watchers say it’s likely to come in before the month’s out.

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Federal “compliance review” of Seattle Public Schools closures http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/federal-compliance-review-of-seattle-public-schools-closures/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/federal-compliance-review-of-seattle-public-schools-closures/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2009 17:39:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=17775

View Larger Map

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:

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Cooper Elementary court fight: Bus schedule set for court support http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-elementary-court-fight-bus-schedule-set-for-court-support/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-elementary-court-fight-bus-schedule-set-for-court-support/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2009 18:44:08 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=17683 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.)

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Followup: School district response to Cooper legal challenge http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/followup-school-district-response-to-cooper-legal-challenge/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/followup-school-district-response-to-cooper-legal-challenge/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2009 18:03:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=17520 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.

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Cooper Elementary supporters not giving up without a fight http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-elementary-supporters-not-giving-up-without-a-fight/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/cooper-elementary-supporters-not-giving-up-without-a-fight/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2009 02:17:19 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=17411

Court fight, in this case. At Delridge Day this past Saturday, our spot in the Youngstown Arts Center parking lot was a few tables over from the booth you see in the photo above – with the “Save Cooper” theme. You might wonder, as we did, what’s the “Save Cooper” theme now, since the Seattle School Board vote to close the Cooper Elementary School “program” and move Pathfinder K-8 into the Cooper building in Pigeon Point happened four months ago, and a Cooper closure event is scheduled for this Sunday. Turns out, they were raising money for a legal challenge that continues, with a potentially pivotal hearing scheduled next week, headed by Cooper parent and PTA member Joy Anderson, aided by longtime school-closure opponent Chris Jackins. We spoke with both Anderson and Jackins at the event; read on to see what the Cooper challenge is about, and what happens next:

What’s happening right now is a motion for summary judgment; the hearing for that is now set for a week from Friday — June 12th.

In addition to the official legal paperwork – here’s the motion for summary judgment, and here’s an addendum; the district rebuttal, we’re told, is due later this week — Anderson has developed a nine-page document outlining the case from a more personal and detailed standpoint. Read it here.

It begins with the school’s history, including the original Cooper School (the building that is now Youngstown Cultural Arts Center), which made history as the workplace of Seattle’s first African-American teacher, Thelma Dewitty, in 1947. It traces the most recent school-closure process through everything we have covered here – the original preliminary proposal that Arbor Heights Elementary’s “program” be closed so that Pathfinder K-8 could move into that building, then later, the change that recommended closure of the Cooper “program” instead.

“It’s not a program,” Anderson insisted in our conversation at Delridge Day. A program, she says, is some smaller part of what’s offered – like Cooper’s autism program, or an afterschool reading program. She contends the terminology “program” was a convenient way to get around a point of law which she details here:

… Seattle School District broke state law by not following a 1983 state law (RCW 28 A 335 020) which states there are certain procedures that must be followed in order to close a school which includes public participation and a series of separate hearings for each school. At that point the District began referring to Cooper as a ‘program,’ thereby beginning to use their strategy to circumvent the lengthy public closure process. Cooper was denied due process.

The school board then made its own problems by changing its own policies after they had begun the closure process. We believe this was all cynically calculated to reduce public participation, thereby rendering Cooper School powerless to involve itself in the process and properly represent and defend itself against the impending closure of its school.

Cooper did not get a formal closure hearing, although the Genesee Hill building that is being closed because of Pathfinder’s move did (most of the testimony at that hearing focused on Cooper). Though it’s not necessarily a point of legality, Anderson also is upset about the way that the Cooper transition is being handled; she says, “On June 8 … other schools get to ‘pick’ through our library and put their choices on temporary bookshelves to be shrink wrapped and held. Our children will be able to see the books, but cannot use them. Why can’t they wait until the end of the school year so the children aren’t subjected to any more unnecessary stress?”

This Sunday, in fact, is when the school’s “closing celebration” is scheduled – with the invitation reading as follows:

The Cooper Elementary School community cordially invites you to join us for our

Open House/Closing Celebration
Sunday, June 7,2009
2:00-4:00 pm

Cooper Elementary/1901 SW Genesee St

Classrooms open
Arbor Garden tours
Memory Book stations
Old photos and memorabilia on display
Refreshments in the cafeteria
Bouncy Houses on the playground

For more information, please call the Cooper office at 252-8170

While the “closing celebration” is set for June 7, the last day of school for Seattle Public Schools is June 19.

The original legal action was filed in March but the most recent development is the motion for summary judgment, which expedites the case. Anderson and other plaintiffs are hoping for a show of support when the case has its hearing on June 12; they are offering bus transportation from Cooper for anyone who shows up there at 8:30 that morning.

Meantime, information on how to donate to their legal fund is in Joy Anderson’s document (again, here’s that link). We have a followup question out to the district regarding Anderson’s contention that portables are being added to several other West Seattle elementary schools, but have not yet received the answer; we are told there will be more information about the “open enrollment” period results — district spokesperson Patti Spencer acknowledged this morning that, “Enrollment is greater than expected for fall 2009 at the total district level” — at this week’s School Board meeting, which we plan to cover, Wednesday night at district HQ, 6 pm (in a separate issue, it’s been announced that meeting will be preceded by a protest against districtwide teacher layoffs, more than 20 of which are hitting West Seattle schools).

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Closed Fairmount Park Elementary is reopening (temporarily) http://westseattleblog.com/2009/04/closed-fairmount-park-elementary-is-reopening-temporarily/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/04/closed-fairmount-park-elementary-is-reopening-temporarily/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2009 22:39:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=15633 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.

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Money woes in the spotlight at Steve Sundquist’s “coffee hour” http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/money-woes-in-the-spotlight-at-steve-sundquists-coffee-hour/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/money-woes-in-the-spotlight-at-steve-sundquists-coffee-hour/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2009 01:45:21 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=14354

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.


A major issue, crossing subject boundaries, was the point at which parents and others should get involved to make sure their input was heard. Since final school budget approval is scheduled for early June, Sundquist urged parents to express their opinions now, while the debate is ongoing.

For example, at least two groups have proposals to redefine basic education: two bills, Senate Bill 5444 and House Bill 1410, are supported by the Seattle School Board. They redefine and fund basic education across schools. You can learn more about the bills at www.fundingwaschools.org. An alternative bill, SB5607, is the proposal of Washington State Education Associations and Unions, along with some other local school administrations.

The definition of “basic education” determines education requirements for schools across the state. In times of drastic budgetary constraints, this is where the bar is set. Parents present were concerned that schools provide programs to attract and retain all students; limiting funding to “basics” at the expense of art and sports programs can sharply cut into attendance, even though the budgetary issues are obviously important.

Issues of transportation and “bell times” are also in the forefront of school planning now. Using the same “yellow buses” for two trips per day can cut back on transportation costs. Determining start times for younger students, versus high school students is of critical interest to many parents who have to coordinate bus times with their own work transportation issues. Again, parents were urged to get involved and express opinions early in the process to get the most attention.

Parents expressed concern about rumors that Deans, who identify at-risk students at Pathways High School, will be retained but teachers who work with the students may be laid off. Sundquist acknowledged that these are difficult trade-offs, but they may be required by the drop in available funding. An across-the-board concern was that these drastic cuts will mean that fewer kids graduate from high school — and, ultimately, their work opportunities will be limited by short-term budgetary constraints.

Many critical school issues piggyback on other state financial concerns: Funding for the Metro bus system will impact availability of alternative transportation for high school students, school funding included in the Federal Stimulus package will affect money available to local schools, and, of course, decreases in city property and sales tax revenue have a negative impact on the overall money available to schools. The school board and administration has to consider all these variables as they plan upcoming budgets and they depend on input from parents to assist in this planning.

Thursday, February 26, is the statewide PTA Focus and Lobbying day in Olympia. The revised basic Education definition will be a major topic of this annual event. To get more information, check out the state PTA web page and contact your local school’s organization.

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Open letter from Cooper parent: “Put pressure on the district” http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/open-letter-from-cooper-parent-put-pressure-on-the-district/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/open-letter-from-cooper-parent-put-pressure-on-the-district/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2009 22:35:25 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=14195 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.

Thank you.

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
requested).
4. Document and archiveschool and program artifacts and school records.

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West Seattle school changes: Pathfinder “design team” formed http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/west-seattle-school-changes-pathfinder-design-team-formed/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/02/west-seattle-school-changes-pathfinder-design-team-formed/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2009 03:57:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=14181 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.

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Seattle school-closure vote: Two followup notes http://westseattleblog.com/2009/01/seattle-school-closure-vote-two-followup-notes/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/01/seattle-school-closure-vote-two-followup-notes/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2009 01:04:11 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=13963

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.

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Seattle Public Schools closure vote, as it happened (video added) http://westseattleblog.com/2009/01/seattle-public-schools-closure-vote-live-as-it-happens/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/01/seattle-public-schools-closure-vote-live-as-it-happens/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2009 01:53:40 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=13937 (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

6:55 PM UPDATE: Mary Bass says she was going to comment later but will do so now instead: “I want to make it clear, I am in favor of closures. It has been a sticky wicket about who gets displaced … I hope you realize that I don’t want to let you down … all those who are looking at me to be a voice for a minority viewpoint, it may not have landed as securely as I would have liked, or you. … I hope we will see something joyous on the other side .. and I am asking for all of you to have that belief.” She says she wishes an assignment plan could have come first, but at least “we are finally getting to that .. we will get on with that as well.” She apologizes rather poignantly. “Closing schools has many foes, and few friends,” DeBell says, following her. “We are seeking the best of all children in the district, and acting on behalf of Seattle Public Schools … we have to stay together as a district …” The crowd now shouts, “VOTE NO!” DeBell again says the crowd must be quiet. Now they are beginning to vote.

6:45 PM UPDATE: Carr says it’s important to have a “strong leader, and we are fortunate to have such a leader in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.” Some in the crowd hoot and boo. Harium Martin-Morris says, “It is time for us to take action to remove the excess capacity in the district” but adds that he doesn’t agree with all the proposals. (He is the one who has proposed an amendment to maintain the status quo for Cooper Elementary and Pathfinder K-8; the amendments will be voted on, we have been told, before the final vote. He says, “Cooper has been working with one of the most difficult populations we have in the city … high level of free/reduced lunch, high level of ELL, highly mobile population, and in spite of all of that, we have seen gains in the performance of our students at Cooper, and an increase in enrollment at the school …and with not a lot of support.” Cooper’s Shelly Wiliams yells “THANK YOU” in response from the audience. Peter Maier says “I believe we must close schools to have a more sustainable system. … Closing any school is painful … (but) We have too many buildings overall.” He also mentions the maintenance backlog and the capital backlog. “With fewer buildings that are nearly empty, we can focus our resources on (the other buildings/schools).”

6:35 PM UPDATE: DeBell is now recapping history, since the superintendent’s overview is done and so are accompanying board questions. “Now we face a challenge of balancing our capacity … this is our response to a challenge of demographics.” He says long-ago closure rounds happened when there weren’t as many families in the north end; now, virtually all the excess capacity, he says, is south of downtown, and he says that’s because many schools in the north closed in prior years – so now there is overcrowding in the north and excess capacity in the south. And this dovetails, he says, with a “trough of economic crisis … that requires us to act.” He mentions there are other cuts such as central staff – “real people with real jobs … None of this is easy … We’ve been trying to listen and respond to the community.” (The crowd has settled down.) “The problem is there for everyone to see – we’re not hiding anything.” West Seattle’s board rep Steve Sundquist also has made a mini-speech saying that one-time financial infusions (such as the much-discussed interest money) are not the solution – “a structural problem … requires a structural solution.” (video of his 4-minute speech added 11:59 pm)

Sherry Carr is now speaking and says that, basically, if action isn’t taken tonight, teachers’ jobs will have to be cut. “As painful as closing schools may be, I can’t live with the alternative.”

6:30 PM UPDATE: Superintendent resumes her overview. Says design teams will start work in February if closures/changes approved tonight. Their initial reports would be posted online by March 2. (Note, it’s been said previously that there would be a Cooper design team, if that program is indeed closed, to help work through the transition both of Pathfinder into the building and current Cooper students to new schools for next year.) Whatever happens tonight, letters will be sent to all district families next week, assignment letters would go to “affected students” next month.

6:24 PM UPDATE: Crowd still chanting in foyer. Sounds like “the school board is racist/these closures outrageous.” Almost all the TV cameras have headed out into the lobby for the protest action. Hope you don’t mind if we stay here for the information. DeBell has just said it’s OK for NAACP director Bible to return to the room but he has to stand against the wall or take a seat, nobody can stand in the aisles, “We’re just trying to maintain an orderly meeting.”

6:16 PM UPDATE: A man has just been escorted out. One person says it was the president of the NAACP. (video clip of the ensuing turmoil added 11:30 pm)

DeBell agrees to find out why he was taken out. The crowd settles down, for now. Staff has resumed answering a question about middle-school capacity. Sounds like unruliness continuing in the foyer outside. West Seattle rep Steve Sundquist is asking if there has been any new studies of how many more students are expected because of growth in the High Point area. District staffer says phase 1 construction complete, phase 2 has 180 units completed, 80 being completed, expect to be completed by April or May (original schedule was June), but says they don’t have statistics on how many families may move in. Hollering outside makes it hard to concentrate on what’s happening in here. Now they’re chanting in the foyer. Based on Phase 1 stats, the staffer continues, could be up to 50 additional elementary-age children coming into Phase 2 development, but says it’s tricky because they don’t know how many might be living somewhere else in West Seattle now.

6:10 PM UPDATE: First slide – excess capacity review. Current recommendations, she says, will result in “West Seattle North excess elementary capacity almost eliminated … still more than 300 seats in West Seattle South.” She says “future consideration of whether to close a high school (somewhere in the city) remains on the table.”

6:06 PM UPDATE: The crowd is rowdy as the superintendent speaks. She says this is the right thing to do. She says to those who will be disappointed by closure votes, she is committed to their children’s education. The crowd jeers. A guy stood up and yelled, “Let’s hear it for the status quo” and momentarily got the crowd riled up. DeBell says the man will be asked to leave if he doesn’t quit disrupting the meeting. The man continues to yell, “Who agrees with me that this is economic fascism?” Security moves toward him. Finally, he stops. The superintendent resumes her presentation. (Video added at 11:14 pm; you can hear some of the heckling about one minute in)

6:00 PM UPDATE: The meeting has begun. Michael DeBell says, “This culminates a process that began in October …” At the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, after “…and justice for all,” a voice from the back calls out, “For some.”

We’re at Seattle Public Schools headquarters, where a rally of school-closure opponents is wrapping up outside and there’s a standing-room only crowd inside. The meeting that will include the closure/change vote will start shortly. We’ll update – with the newest information atop this entry as we add it.

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