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FOLLOWUP: Chief Sealth IHS teacher-cut order leads to letter, petition

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One day after Chief Sealth International High School staff, students, and parents filled the Seattle School Board chambers to make impassioned pleas, they have followed up with a letter and petition. This, you might recall, all started with new enrollment projections leading to a last-minute order that Sealth cut three more full-time teaching positions in the final days of the school year. A point made repeatedly in testimony to the board last night was that the school had made it through a difficult budgeting process before this, with cuts already made, only to be told now they had to make more. The letter:

To: Seattle School Board Members: Stephan Blanford, Rick Burke​, Jill Geary, Scott Pinkham, Betty Patu, Leslie Harris, and Sue Peters
Associate Superintendent Michael Tolley
Associate Superintendent of Facilities and Enrollment Flip Herndon
Deputy Superintendent Steven Nielsen

Last night, you heard from the staff, students, and stakeholders at Chief Sealth International High School about the impact of losing an additional 3.0 FTE from our budget for the 2016/17 school year after a long and difficult spring budget process that included deep losses and cuts of staff.

These additional displacements deeply affect our school’s ability to offer the stable teaching core necessary to run a school which serves so many specialized populations. Our school cannot absorb or buy back staff. We do not have deep-pocketed PTSA dollars or grant dollars or other funding streams that other schools might use to offset such cuts. These shifts in FTE will cut deeply into the arts and CTE and have a significant impact on core academic programs for students. These programs allow us to close the opportunity gap for our students by providing IB for all and by creating programming that is working to affect real change for all of our students, including our disproportionately high specialized populations. These changes in enrollment will jeopardize these successful programs.

We as a staff would like to propose these solutions for the 2016/17 budget cycle. Here are our recommendations:

· Grant our mitigation requests for an IB coordinator and our immersion classes from the first round of difficult budget requests.

· Hold Chief Sealth harmless from these FTE changes for one year until the permanent West Seattle boundary decisions are finalized at the district level this fall.

· Re-evaluate our budget AFTER the District counts, which will include the nonresident and transfer students to Sealth, international students, and waitlisted students whose placements have not yet been finalized.

· Fund advanced learning in the WSS at Sealth, Ingraham, and Rainier Beach beginning in the fall of 2016/17.

Staff from Chief Sealth International High School

They are gathering signatures of support via this online petition including the letter.

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West Seattle scenes: School’s-out street party

(WSB photos)

The street party is on, rain or shine – note the jackets accompanying the leis – on a block of 48th SW near Ercolini Park tonight. The occasion: Today was the last day of classes for Seattle Public Schools, and these neighbors are Schmitz Park Elementary families, marking a double-milestone occasion: This was their students’ last day at Schmitz Park, with the new Genesee Hill Elementary opening in September.


The band Däd – with the umlaut! – was delayed a bit due to the rain, but the show must go on:


Greeters Amy and Brooke explained part of the inspiration for the party was the pig-roast prize won at the school fundraising auction; a few of the neighbors had the winning bid. Summertime also brings “Aloha Friday” get-togethers at the park, and since the last day of school was a Friday this year, the theme just fit:


P.S. Thanks for calling to let us know about the party!

VIDEO: Field Day @ Highland Park Elementary on day-before-last-day

Friday is the last day of classes for Seattle Public Schools – and at Highland Park Elementary, today was Field Day, a tradition at many elementaries in the final days of the school year. PE teacher Chellie LaFayette invited WSB to stop by and see what they were up to (that’s her in the hat, below):


In the morning, the younger students were out enjoying the (fleeting) sunshine:


That included a chance to do some splashing:


The older students got their turn in the afternoon. Tomorrow, by the way, school gets out one hour early around the district.

VIDEO: Girl Scouts make history at Schmitz Park Elementary


Thanks to proud mom Stephanie Gerding for sharing the report, photo, and video about the first Girl Scouts to lead a flag ceremony at Schmitz Park Elementary:

After watching years of assemblies with boys serving Color Guard for the flags, 3rd grader Madeline Gerding from Girl Scout Troop 44428 here in West Seattle wrote a letter to principal Gerrit Kischner reminding him that Girl Scouts are just as responsible as Boy Scouts and could present the colors at assemblies too. Mr. Kischner wholeheartedly agreed and asked the Schmitz Park students from Madeline’s Troop and from Troop 44253 to be Color Guard at the end-of-year assembly today. It was extra exciting since it’s the last assembly at that site before moving on to Genesee Hill this fall!

Yay for all the educators that support these kids and encourage their voices!

VIDEO: Chief Sealth IHS supporters @ School Board budget hearing


4:51 PM: We’re at Seattle Public Schools headquarters in SODO, where the last-week-of-school order for Chief Sealth International High School to cut three full-time teaching positions has brought a big turnout to the School Board‘s budget public hearing. What was supposed to be a 15-minute hearing has already stretched beyond that, with a roomful of people, including teachers and students. Teachers who have spoken so far have talked about the inequity of the cuts and also about the cuts going counter to the district’s goals. “The death by a thousand cuts will come,” declared teacher Jason Glover. “If these cuts are maintained, we will be forced to cut programs.” One of the speakers before him, Sealth teacher Paul Fischburg, said these cuts followed many others:

4:58 PM: Social-studies teacher Noah Zeichner is asking about district policies and boundaries and whether they are “decimating” the school and leading to socioeconomic disparity between the two public high schools in West Seattle. He says that the school was closed to international exchange students this past year, and that they should be allowed to wait and see if enrollment gains over the summer, including those types of students, might make up some of the newly reported shortfall (explained in our story from last night).

5:07 PM: The budget hearing continues, and it of course is about more than the Sealth cuts and other teacher staffing. The board has just heard from longtime district watchdog Chris Jackins, who mentioned a few West Seattle items – including the fact that the original Schmitz Park Elementary building is being closed without “a school closure process,” a point that has also been raised by Vicki Schmitz Block, a member of the family that donated the land for the school on the grounds that it remain a school. He also asked the board not to close Roxhill Elementary, which is not explicitly spelled out in the upcoming budget but is implied because of money included for renovating EC Hughes Elementary, ostensibly to become the new home of the program currently at Roxhill.

5:10 PM: A speaker identifying himself as a Schmitz Park Elementary parent has now both mentioned a plan brewing to use part of its space for child care, while also urging a security plan for the many portables on its site, and expressing concern that they, as well as the building and its equipment, will fall into disrepair. He says he’s frustrated that there does not appear to be a plan. He is followed by three Chief Sealth students who say the courses that might be cut as a result of budget cuts are important to their educational goals.

Another student shortly afterward says that cuts are harming the IB program at CSIHS: “Many people at Chief Sealth want to learn, just like any other person going to school.” The next speaker, special-education teacher Joe Schultz, said he is speaking for students who couldn’t be here – migrants, special-ed, students of color, “an incredibly diverse school that has incredibly diverse needs.” The cuts “will crush programs … it will devastate my students, who love the wood-shop program … which already has gone down to .6 [of a teacher]. I urge you to look at the money that’s available .. and help us save our programs.”

5:27 PM: The hearing is still going after an hour. Parent Lynn Ogdon-Perrine is speaking about the needs of the school – its students, its teachers. She has been a very involved volunteer. She says Sealth made it through a very difficult budgeting process – and now, with days left in the year, it’s “unconscionable” that they will have to deal with further cuts, especially losing teachers.

5:29 PM: We mentioned Vicki Schmitz Block earlier; now she is at the podium, speaking about the family’s origins, as immigrants who cared about education. She says Schmitz Park School is missing in the budget book – “it suddenly doesn’t exist, it has just disappeared. … At a minimum, the district needs to amend the budget” to add custodial/maintenance funds. “Disappearing Schmitz Park Elementary really means closing it, and that’s not acceptable.”

5:34 PM: Back to Sealth, another student is now speaking: “I look around this room and I see all these brilliant and amazing people that have supported me and my fellow students … it just breaks my heart hearing that three of these people have to leave or become part-time students … I can’t let that happen. … I can’t believe that Seattle Public Schools wants to take three of these people away. … They dedicate their lives to help students like me.” She says that one of the teachers whose classes she had on her schedule next year has learned she’ll be cut. … Another student says that she had been a student at Pathfinder and recalled having to join in the fight to keep the school from being closed, expressing disbelief that in this district, so many such fights were needed. … She’s followed by a teacher and parent who says she also is in disbelief. (Added) As much as anger and emotion, disappointment was voiced by teacher Julie Brown, who said she has learned her position will be cut:

5:51 PM: Principal Aida Fraser-Hammer is now speaking.

“Finding out about cuts at the last minute does not promote consistency. … Our students deserve to know that they can have the consistency. I know that we run by the numbers, but we hire human beings.” She asks them to take another look and see what can be done to prevent the cuts. And that ends the public hearing, more than an hour beyond the 15 minutes that it was originally scheduled to last. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget at a meeting in July.

ADDED FRIDAY AFTERNOON: We’ve learned an online petition has been launched; we’ll be working on a separate followup for later tonight.

FOLLOWUP: See the new Seattle Public Schools enrollment projections that led to last-minute teacher-staff changes

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

On Thursday afternoon, the Seattle School Board has 15 minutes set aside for a public hearing on next year’s school budgets.

In the wake of this week’s announcement of teacher-staffing changes at local schools – with Chief Sealth International High School told to cut the equivalent of three full-time positions – some plan to be there to speak out.

When we first reported the changes on Monday, the only attendance projections for next year that were publicly available were estimates made in February and included in the district’s “budget book.”

Today, the district made its newest projections public – the ones, we’re told, on which the staffing changes were based. You can see them here. The local schools with double-digit changes from the February projections are:

Arbor Heights Elementary – 23 more than previously projected
Chief Sealth IHS – 73 fewer than previously projected
Denny IMS – 13 fewer than previously projected
Louisa Boren STEM K-8 – 20 more than previously projected
Lafayette Elementary – 19 more than previously projected
Madison MS – 29 more than previously projected
Schmitz Park Elementary – 13 more than previously projected
West Seattle HS – 79 more than previously projected
West Seattle Elementary – 21 fewer than previously projected

Shortly after seeing those numbers today, we spoke with the district’s enrollment manager, Ashley Davies, about the trends and what they are watching for another potential round of changes in fall.

Davies told us that the projection changes for Sealth and WSHS are because of “fewer 9th grade residents” in the Sealth attendance area and more in the WSHS area “than we anticipated.” She added, “We have seen more students in the Chief Sealth area who have opted into option schools like Cleveland, NOVA, Center School, schools that only get students through the open-enrollment choice process across the district.”
Also, she said, “there were more students from the Sealth attendance area who applied to WSHS than the other way around … The district does have a neighborhood model, but we do value choice for our families, so they can choose another school.”

The school-choice process closes May 31st, Davies said, and that is why these projections arrived with less than a week left in the school year.

Regarding choice, we asked her about the contention/suspicion some commenters voiced that prospective students might have been directed away from Sealth. Davies said, “To my knowledge, there was no instance in which families had been directed away from Sealth … (but) it does come to a point where a school is limited in its capacity and we might not be able to offer as many seats. … Initially, though, we had seen, based on Sealth and WSHS enrollment from last year, we did anticipate more students at Sealth than at WSHS and they do have similar capacities …” But as of now, she said “both have (room) so it’s not an instance where we need to ensure that one school doesn’t get full.”

The trend could continue, she acknowledged, because the north West Seattle increases/south West Seattle decreases are also playing out at elementary schools. She said the district is “trying to find ways to closely monitor what’s going on in the individual attendance areas – some of the things are happening at a pace that we can’t necessarily predict.” One way in which she said they hope to do that is to “partner with school leaders around finding out ways in which neighborhoods are changing and how that will impact their individual schools.”

How this week’s teacher-staffing-change orders will affect schools, we don’t yet know; administrators were told to come up with their plan by week’s end. Meantime, Thursday’s public hearing on school budgets is set for 4:30 pm at district HQ in SODO (3rd and Lander) – if you’re interested in speaking, the agenda says, just show up.

GRADUATION: Congratulations, West Seattle High School Class of 2016!


As solemn an occasion as graduation can be, it’s also full of joy – and that can spark humor, as it did tonight in multiple ways as West Seattle High School‘s Class of 2016 graduated in the night’s second ceremony at Southwest Athletic Complex. Consider, for example, the cloned principal:


The life-size cardboard versions of WSHS principal Ruth Medsker were something of a takeoff on the giant photos sometimes waved in the stands by families and friends of the 230+ grads. Of course, they displayed exuberance too:


District officials who guested at this ceremony included Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland:


School Board director Leslie Harris was there to accept the class. Along with the WSHS Band, there was a featured musical performance by a group dubbing themselves Vitamin D and the Minerals – Delia Finney, Raegan Jarvis, Annabel Foucault, Will Sullivan, and Peter Bryson:


Speakers were Tess Beck with the valediction, Kammerin Thomas with “lessons of life,” and ASB president Gabby Carufel with the welcome. Class officers were president Annie Murphy, vice president Katherine Gregor, secretary Sara Bistrin, treasurer Birdie Harvey, and spirit representatives Delia Finney, Katie Boodell, and Lani Taylor.


The program listed the following as the class motto: “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”

GRADUATION: Congratulations, Chief Sealth International High School Class of 2016!

(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand and Patrick Sand)

At the first of tonight’s two commencement ceremonies at Southwest Athletic Complex, hundreds filled the stands to cheer the 260+ members of the Chief Sealth International High School Class of 2016. Smiles abounded on both sides of the railing:


There was whimsy, and tenderness:


And of course, the dignitaries:


(From left, Seattle Public Schools’ Native American Program manager Gail Morris, Southwest region executive director Israel Vela, School Board director Leslie Harris, deputy superintendent Stephen Nielsen, and CSIHS principal Aida Fraser-Hammer.) Families waited excitedly to greet the grads, once the diploma ceremony was over:


Valedictorians were Riley Germundson and Katharina Anne Staudt; salutatorian, Camille Annmarie Robert. Student speakers were Michaela Rutschow and Ethan Tuchsherer; faculty speaker was Dr. Patrice de la Ossa. Senior class officers were president Tara Pham, vice president Julia Pascua, secretary Allison Hadaway, treasurer Camille Robert, and spirit commissioner Joseph Wally.

UPDATE: Local schools hit with staffing changes, days before end of the year

(UPDATED WEDNESDAY with update on enrollment)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With four days to go until the end of the year, and plans already in place for next year, Seattle Public Schools have just been notified of changes to teacher staffing.

In some cases, schools will add teachers. In some cases – they are being told to cut teachers, and Chief Sealth International High School is the hardest hit districtwide, with an order to cut 3 FTE (full-time equivalent) teacher positions, while the largest teacher addition districtwide is at West Seattle High School, with 2.4 more teaching FTEs. (added) Both schools were projected in the district “budget book” to be dropping in enrollment next year, but WSHS’s drop was projected to be larger than CSIHS’s – 1104 to 1090 for Sealth, 956 to 866 for West Seattle.

One of the educators who contacted us anonymously this morning with first word of all this sent along the district’s internal memo and numbers:

Today we are announcing teacher staffing adjustments at several schools. These adjustments are based on updated enrollment projections, open enrollment results, wait list moves, anticipated needs of each program and actual school capacity. If your staffing allocation has changed, please talk to your HR Business Partner to identify next steps for your school. If your allocation has increased, the Capital Projects team will contact you to discuss space implications. If your allocation has decreased, you must notify HR about potential displacements by 6/24.

We are pleased to report we are expecting 53,107 students (headcount) for our 2016-2017 school year, an increase of 783 students over last year’s official October headcount. …

Please keep in mind that while PowerSchool reflects actual enrollment through the current date, the enrollment projections include several additional factors, including the actual data and projected changes, as well as expected attrition and historical trends in enrollment for each school.

As a reminder, core staffing will not be adjusted at this time. We anticipate another set of adjustments following the start of school, which will be based on actual enrollment. At that point, core staffing will be reviewed for possible adjustments. Previously submitted mitigation requests for staffing above standards are still under consideration.

Please remember that elementary and K-8 schools must still adhere to the rules for K-3 class sizes. Schools have the option of using an FTE allocation for a reading and/or math specialist in order to meet the target ratios. The specialist must be assigned to the appropriate grade levels in order to be counted in the state calculations. If your school chooses to pursue this option, you must notify your Executive Director of Schools (EDS). Please see the email sent to all school leaders on May 13 for more details.

General Education: Please refer to the table below for staffing adjustments by school. Parentheses mean a reduction in staffing.

We can’t cut and paste the table, but here’s our transcription of what it lists for schools in the West Seattle area. If a school is NOT listed, that means it is not involved in this round of staffing-level changes:

*Arbor Heights Elementary, adding 1 FTE
*Chief Sealth IHS, losing 3 FTE
*Denny International MS, losing .4 FTE
*Lafayette Elementary, adding 1 FTE
*Madison MS, adding 1.2 FTE
*Schmitz Park Elementary, adding 1 FTE
*West Seattle Elementary, losing 1 FTE
*West Seattle HS, adding 2.4 FTE

Those are “general education” teachers. The letter also includes a table of special-education changes, affecting local schools as follows:

*Chief Sealth IHS, losing .6 FTE resource teacher, adding 1 FTE teacher for the SM4 level
*Fairmount Park Elementary, adding .2 FTE resource teacher
*Roxhill Elementary, losing .2 FTE resource teacher
*West Seattle HS, losing 2 FTEs at the SM2 level and adding 2 FTEs at the SM4 level

(Update: Here’s an explanation of SM2, SM4, and other special-education terminology; thanks to the reader who sent the link.) The letter continues with these closing paragraphs:

Displacement process: If your allocation has been reduced and you need to displace staff you must first try to solicit volunteers. The opportunity for voluntary displacements must be publicized at least five (5) days prior to identifying involuntary displacements. If there are insufficient volunteers, identify the least senior person qualified by category (ies) as the person to displace. If you displace an employee, all remaining teachers must be assigned in their approved categories. Employees must be displaced .5 or 1.0 FTE or to the extent of their contract. (Can be in increments of .4 or .6 at secondary). Complete one displacement form for each teacher displaced, checking the reason the displacement is necessary. …

We know that changes are not easy for our schools, students, staff, parents, and principals. By announcing these changes now, we hope to minimize potential disruption in September/October. Thank you in advance for helping make these adjustments occur smoothly.

The letter is signed by associate superintendents Michael Tolley and Flip Herndon and assistant superintendent Clover Codd.

Individual schools’ budgets for next year, and projected enrollment, had already been published in the “budget book” for 2016-2017 – you can review them starting at page 100. (Also note, we see via saveseattleschools.blogspot.com that the district has a public hearing on next year’s budget at 4:30 pm this Thursday, with time for public comment.)

You might recall that staffing changes ordered a month into the school year caused controversy each of the past two years (here’s our fall 2015 coverage).

We are pursuing more information and will update with whatever more we find out.

ADDED 5:40 PM: We received this from the district’s chief engagement officer Carri Campbell:

The projections used in the 2016-17 Budget Book were done in February 2016. Those projections were updated in June, to incorporate open enrollment results and wait list moves. The revised projections have been shared with all principals.

The new projections were re-applied to our school staffing model (WSS) and as a result, adjustments (both up and down) were identified for some of our schools.

This process is a standard part of the district’s annual cycle of matching staffing to enrollment. We plan to examine staffing levels again after school starts in the fall, once actual enrollment numbers are known.

Campbell offered to put us in touch with district enrollment director Ashley Davies. We’ll be accepting the offer as part of followups on this.

ADDED WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: We spoke with Davies at noontime today and will be publishing a followup later this afternoon. Meantime, the updated enrollment projections are now on the district website, showing Sealth losing more than 70 students from the February projections, and WSHS gaining about the same amount.

West Seattle schools: Arbor Heights Elementary students’ walking field trip to nearby greenspace-in-progress


Back on Duwamish Alive! day in April, one of the events we covered was at the 23rd/Findlay site that the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association is turning into the Wetlands and Stewardship Project with the help of various partners. Among the beneficiaries and collaborators are local students, including those from the nearby Boren Building, where Arbor Heights Elementary is about to go into its final week. Teacher Angie Nall shared the photos and this report:

Wanted to send some pics along from a walking field trip my 5th grade students from Arbor Heights Elementary went on to Delridge Wetlands on Findlay St SW in West Seattle. The kids worked with folks from Delridge Neighborhood Association, Nature Consortium, and the City of Seattle.


The kids were the 3rd class to visit the site.


They engaged in hands-on science, taking measurements of the run and rise of the water’s path on the property that eventually runs into Longfellow Creek. The wetlands are being restored to help clean the runoff naturally before it enters Longfellow Creek.


Two 4th grade classes and one 5th grade class from K-STEM also worked on the project! We all are in the Louis Boren building on Delridge so the wetlands are a block away from the school- WHAT a cool opportunity for students and a benefit to the community!

DNDA welcomes help with the Wetlands and Stewardship Project – contact Willard Brown at willard@dnda.org if you’re interested in joining in.

CONGRATULATIONS! Chief Sealth senior Matt Floberg honored for ‘academics, athletics, kind heart’

Thanks to Chief Sealth International High School assistant principal Scott Reisinger for the photo and report:

Chief Sealth senior Matt Floberg, of the Tlingit Tribe, was honored at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center on June 14th.

Huchoosedah (Seattle Public Schools’ Native Education department) hosted a community supper and recognition for all Native students from SPS. All students were recognized; however, Matt was honored for his academics, athletics, and kind heart.

This year Matt designed and created a carving in the wood shop at Chief Sealth and surprised his Šǝqačib (a Native Leadership class) teacher with the gift. His generous act will serve as an example of a giving spirit to future students.

At the ceremony Matt was presented with a hand drum, a paddle necklace, and a blanket designed by Coast Salish artist Louie Gong.

Congratulations to Matt! You can see his carving here. He and his fellow CSIHS seniors will graduate at 5 pm Tuesday at Southwest Athletic Complex.

SIDE NOTE: Since the report mentioned wood shop, we asked assistant principal Reisinger about its status, following the budget struggles reported here three months ago. He replied, “Chief Sealth will be offering 2 wood shop classes for next year. Although the funding is not at 100% as we all hoped, we were fortunate to receive some additional funding towards the end of the budget process and are making every effort to keep the program going.”

Congratulations to South Seattle College’s 900+-member Class of 2016!

(Photo courtesy South Seattle College)

921 graduates from the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) Class of 2016 are on their way to the next phase of their lives, after last night’s 46th annual SSC Commencement Ceremony at Benaroya Hall downtown. Here’s the class breakdown from SSC’s Ty Swenson:

South Seattle College conferred a total of 921 awards this year, including 463 associate transfer degrees that enable students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities in Washington and beyond to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

Another 277 graduates earned associate degrees and certificates that prepare them to enter the workforce immediately.

Forty-nine earned their bachelor’s degrees, including the first class to obtain a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Sustainable Building Science Technology.

And 132 graduates earned their high school diploma or equivalent, taking a significant step toward increased earning potential and future educational opportunities.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist rower Mary Whipple was the featured speaker.

P.S. If you’re thinking about going to SSC – registration continues for summer quarter, which starts June 27th.

West Seattle schools: 1 more chance to talk about international education

With three of Seattle Public Schools‘ “international schools” in this area, the program’s future is of great interest. The district has a task force studying it right now; its recent community meeting at Chief Sealth International High School wasn’t widely publicized, but another one has been scheduled, this time at Concord International (Elementary) in South Park, 6-7 pm June 20th (one week from tonight). This flyer has full details. The district says Mandarin, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese interpretation will be provided.

Chief Sealth International High School gets visit from Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz

Cruz 1
(Photo by CSIHS athletic director Ernest Policarpio)

A Seattle Mariners star dropped by Chief Sealth International High School, reports assistant principal Michael Reisinger:

Nelson Cruz stopped by Chief Sealth International High School on Thursday to speak with students about the importance of their education. A small group of students were able to meet with Cruz for about an hour and ask questions about his early days through his professional career. Cruz stressed to them the value of completing high school and working hard to achieve their goals. He also paused to take selfies and sign autographs for several students. The Chief Sealth family of staff and students thank Cruz for his visit, wish him well in the ongoing season, and welcome him back anytime.

Cruz, who joined the Mariners last year, is the son of educators.

VIDEO: Congratulations, Seattle Lutheran High School Class of 2016!

On a breezy night in The Junction, the Seattle Lutheran High School Class of 2016 filed into the Menashe Family Gym for their graduation ceremony last night. This year’s senior class numbers 35; speakers at the ceremony included senior class president Alex Melchior and valedictorian Abbi Sanders, co-salutatorians JT Gallant and Aaron Peña, while ASB president Macey Crooks gave the closing prayer.

(This photo and next by Torin Record-Sand for WSB)

That cap seemed to be a nod to the class scripture, as featured in the program: II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Other cap decorations we spotted outside:


The SLHS graduation was the first of our area’s three major commencement ceremonies this month – Chief Sealth International High School and West Seattle High School have their graduations back-to-back on June 21st at Southwest Athletic Complex, 5 and 8 pm respectively.

CONGRATULATIONS! West Seattle High School seniors celebrate athletic scholarships

(WSB photo by Patrick Sand)

After another successful year in sports for West Seattle High School, athletic director Trevor Leopold gathered five of his graduating stars tonight to celebrate their athletic scholarships in a “signing day”-style event. From left in our photo are swimmer Gabby Carufel, going to Loyola Marymount in California; basketball/track athlete Lexi Ioane, (update) still deciding; state-champion runner Lani Taylor, going to Seattle Pacific; track athlete Chaaka Trahan, who’s still deciding; and soccer player Olivia Williams, going to Chico State in California.


That’s proud principal Ruth Medsker capturing the moment. Congratulations to all!

PHOTOS: Community celebration of Schmitz Park Elementary’s history

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)

After 54 years, it’s down to three weeks before students and staff have their last classes at Schmitz Park Elementary, before moving to the new Genesee Hill Elementary, opening this fall.

Last night, hundreds of people gathered at the school to celebrate its half-century-plus history.


They included members of the extended Schmitz family, which not only donated the land on which the school was built, but has stayed involved with the school all these years:


At the event, we photographed Dietrich Schmitz, great-grandson of Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz, with wife Mary Howland Schmitz and mother Vicki Schmitz Block. Family photos and memorabilia were part of what was displayed around the school last night:


The “love (the Schmitz) family has for this community” was subsequently acknowledged by high-profile Schmitz Park alum, King County Executive Dow Constantine, speaking while holding toddler daughter Sabrina, acknowledging “fond memories of a place that did quite right by us.”


For eight years, Gerrit Kischner has led Schmitz Park as its principal:


He recalled arriving at the school in 2008, when its enrollment was 315 and it was something of a well-kept secret; it has more than doubled since then, to 650, the capacity of the new campus half a mile away.

New memories will be made from the moment that school opens on September 6th, but those from last night will linger as well. The event was organized by parent Fiona Preedy:


After speeches in the courtyard, last night’s celebration moved on to group photos – see some of them after the jump: Read More

VIDEO: ‘Change the world’ projects presented at Explorer West Middle School


The end of the school year is in sight, and that means Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) eighth-graders are looking ahead to their new beginnings as high-school students next year. On Wednesday, they presented their “Change the World” projects, an annual assignment by teacher Tim Owens. We stopped by and recorded one team talking about their project, advocating for healthy, sustainable, affordable food for people experiencing poverty. In the photo above are Zach Carver, June Oto, Ainsley Yukawa, and Bijan Zavareei, who is speaking in our clip below:

Owens says the students have been working on their projects for five months. Their presentations were made over the course of about an hour and a half. Read more about this year’s projects here.

P.S. Explorer West is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an alumni reunion tomorrow (Friday, June 3rd), 4-7 pm, starting at the campus, 10015 28th SW, with appetizers and faculty visits; at 5:30 pm the reunion moves to nearby Roxbury Lanes for bowling, hosted by EWMS.

West Seattle schools: Lafayette Elementary gets its wish – earlier bell times next year

9:15 PM: Lafayette Elementary in Admiral is getting its wish – an earlier schedule next year. Thanks to the parents who pointed us to today’s announcement, which is posted on the school website as well as having been sent home on paper. When the district announced new “bell times” last fall (WSB coverage here), mostly to try to get older students onto later schedules, Lafayette was the only elementary school in West Seattle that was left in late-start “Tier 3” – and its 9:30 start time was even scheduled to move five minutes later. But today, Lafayette leadership announced that the request to move to Tier 1 had been granted, one of only two of the 11 districtwide requests that the district was able to honor, according to this letter from assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy. Next school year’s start time and end time at Lafayette will be 7:55 am and 2:05 pm. (Lafayette file photo from SPS website)

ADDED 4:16 PM THURSDAY: Thanks to the commenters who provided additional information. Here’s the official district reply to our request for the list of the 11 schools that asked to be moved up and which school besides Lafayette had the requested granted:

The district was able to move Bailey Gatzert and Lafayette to Tier 1 while keeping transportation “budget neutral”:

1. Bailey Gatzert
2. Orca K-8
3. Thurgood Marshall
4. K-8 STEM at Boren
5. Lafayette
6. Laurelhurst
7. Adams
8. John Hay
9. View Ridge
10. Catherine Blaine K-8
11. Cascadia@ Lincoln

West Seattle schools: YMCA expanding preschool at new location

Though the old location of the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor) preschool has been demolished as the Y gets ready for Thursday’s groundbreaking on its expansion, it’s still offering preschool, and has announced an expansion. The new location for the Y’s preschool is the former E.C. Hughes Elementary in Sunrise Heights, and the Y is adding four classes of “quality and affordable halffull-day, year-round child care for children ages 2.5 to 5 years old between the hours of 7:00 am and 6:00 pm.” The program is described as “values-based with an emphasis on building self-reliance through our core values: Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility.” Teachers are experienced and professional, and the curriculum includes enrichment activities such as Spanish, swim lessons, cooking classes, and music time. Open enrollment is under way, including tonight during an open house that starts shortly, 5 pm-6:30 pm. EC Hughes is at 7740 34th SW; if you can’t stop by tonight, contact Sissi Kamalii at 206 201 0696, skamalii@seattleymca.org, or Emilia Varga at 206 399 5704, evarga@seattleymca.org.

COMMENCEMENT ROBES WANTED: Request for donations from recent West Seattle HS grads

With this year’s commencement ceremony just a few weeks away, we’ve been asked to share a donation request to ensure that all West Seattle High School seniors can participate in this year’s ceremony. Volunteer coordinator Amy Doll has asked the WSHS community if any of last year’s graduates would consider donating the robes they wore in the commencement ceremony: “I have several students that aren’t walking because of the cost of the robes. The PTSA has a budget to help students but I would like to be able to let kids keep their Hat, Stole, and Tassel. I can do that if I have donated robes.” If you can donate one, please drop it off in the school office, which is open weekdays until 3 pm (though not tomorrow, because of the holiday).

P.S. One parent tells us they’re also welcoming used prom dresses. If you have a question about these donation requests, please e-mail asdoll@seattleschools.org. (Prom is next Friday, June 4th; graduation is June 21st.)

CONGRATULATIONS! Chief Sealth IHS student scientists chosen to assist in UW research

Thanks to Chief Sealth International High School assistant principal Scott Reisinger for sharing the report and photo:

We are excited to announce that Eun Tae Ki and Richard Nguyen, both seniors at Chief Sealth International High School, have been selected to participate in the 2016 Young Scholars Program at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington this summer. Eun Tae and Richard were two of nine total students that were chosen from an applicant pool of more than 160. This program will expose these scholars to the cutting-edge field of sensorimotor neural engineering and allow them to participate in ongoing research projects. Eun Tae and Richard will be working with Dr. Rajesh Rao, University of Washington Department of Computer Science & Engineering, to research the brains ability to learn, process, and store information.

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