Denny/Sealth: Activist says it’s “clear that this project is a mess”

So declares Seattle Public Schools parent/activist Melissa Westbrook in a brand-new update on the blog, following up beyond the School Board’s Denny/Sealth work session two days ago (WSB coverage here). Westbrook posted a thorough account of that meeting (find it here) and then attended a meeting today of the BEX III (the bond measure that included the Denny/Sealth money) Oversight Committee. That committee meeting is detailed in her new post (and e-mailed to School Board members and district leadership), including what she says were discrepancies between the Denny/Sealth presentation made to that committee today and the one made to school-board members on Wednesday, and what she describes as a bottom-line revelation that under current district plans, Sealth will eventually be the “only non-renovated high school in the district.” Anyway, her update seems like a must-read for those closely following the Denny/Sealth project controversy. Until more meeting dates are set, the major “next step” here is letting the school board know what you think should happen; their contact info is here.

7 Replies to "Denny/Sealth: Activist says it's "clear that this project is a mess""

  • The House January 11, 2008 (8:53 pm)

    I posted this several topics below, but I’ll post on this one as well….

    Hey, I hate to interject reason into everyones comments but if voters actually read the levy, then they would have known that this was planned from the start. You {the public} had your chance to vote no and you didn’t.

    Secondly, the public educational system is flawed and inefficient as is. Check this out.

    The data is a bit old, but still very relevant. Sealth ranked 302 out of 368 high schools in the state. Denny ranked 359 out of 421 middle schools. That means that these are two of the worst schools in the state. You should be glad that the state wants to spend OUR tax dollars to improve both of them and I don’t see how any of you could argue that a combined campus would make matters worse.

    I also find it humourous that the majority of the “Westwood Neighborhood Council” folks that are making a ruckus about this don’t even have kids going to the schools. If the combined campus improves the facilities and is less expensive then building two facilities, then I’m in favor of it.

    But guess what, I voted NO against the school levy!

  • Radley January 11, 2008 (9:08 pm)

    I am sorry, as someone who was against the levy in the first place, Ms. Westbrook doesn’t carry much wieght with me.

  • Deb January 12, 2008 (9:25 am)

    I don’t think it is fair to categorize these schools as “two of the worst in the state” based on 1999 data. Percentages of children meeting state standard have been increasing each of the last 4 years. Denny has a new principal that has been making great progress. I have not done research on Sealth, but their addition of an accredited IB prgram is a great addition.

  • westello January 12, 2008 (1:13 pm)

    Okay, one, it was a bond measure, not a levy. (There’s a big difference in that with the bond the District gets all the money at once. Also, even though Simply Majority passed, it only applies to levies, not bonds which do require a 60% super majority. Keep that in mind for the future.)

    Two, I was against the bond measure for many valid reasons. There was the fact that one school, New School, is getting a whole new school (ahead of other deserving schools that have been waiting – heck, that have existed longer – than New School) instead of just improvements to the building. Also, the schools with some of the worst buildings, both in condition and safety, were not addressed in the bond. Also, this list does nothing for closed and consolidated schools, something we promised would happen.

    No matter what you may think of me and my efforts, I can’t urge you enough to ask hard questions. In my account of the BEX III Oversight Committee meeting, I was astonished to hear the chairman of the committee admit confusion over what he voted on (believing the bond measure was more like option 2 than option 1 which were presented on Wednesday to the Board). If the Chairman of the Oversight Committee did not understand, it seems clear many other voters were confused as well. (The confusion stems from what was printed in the voters pamphlet versus a mailing that the district did to 45,000 households which was a lot more specific. Don’t assume all your neighbors got the same information you did.)

    Also, in my post, I said to please e-mail Director de Bell if you doubt any of the veracity of what I reported being said at the BEX III meeting. Sealth, in my opinion, is getting a lesser improvement than any other comprehensive high school will (by the time they get to Ingraham and Rainier Beach which they say will get complete renovation in the next 20 years).

    Now, if all the money can do is what they offer for Sealth, well, that’s life. But I will point out that the district took money ($14M) from Bex II from the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center and moved it to the overruns for the Garfield project. (Secondary BOC so did not trust Facilities that they asked NOT to be put on BEX III because they didn’t believe they’d get the money and somehow the money will be found elsewhere.)

    If the district can find money so that Garfield’s project is a major renovation, I can see where, at the end of the Denny/Sealth renovation, that Sealth might feel a little dissed. (Not to worry, Sealth; the poor step-child high school of the district is Nova which has never had any talk of renovating their building which now looks down on the newly renovated Garfield. Think how they must feel.)

    I also will point out one other thing that I believe is vital and I hope your community keeps in mind. My son goes to the newly-renovated Roosevelt. It’s a beautiful school (if you overlook the HVAC system that has to be replaced and the ripples in the gym floor)but they did not – with Columbine, V-Tech and any other number of school tragedies – put in much security. We have no video cameras and no way to lock off our gym during home games to prevent people from roaming our building. These issues are both being addressed now but if safety/security are parents’ number one concern in a school building (as it was recently indicated on a Facilities Master Plan survey to parents and communities), then these things need to be built-in the planning stages. (Cleveland, also in a new building, also has some security issues in its design.)

    My point is that the Denny/Sealth design has a 250-foot galleria (their Commons/cafeteria) that looks to be a security nightmare. They are designing it to be able to partition it in the middle but I spoke out at the Bex III Oversight Committee meeting yesterday and told them that they need to be able to lock down that galleria at either end as well as the little bridge above it.

    If you are going to combine two school communities that will be 2100 students plus staff, you do not want someone in a bad mood one day to be able to roam freely between two buildings. Get Facilities nailed down on this issue now.

  • WSB January 12, 2008 (3:04 pm)

    Thanks for the note re: bond vs. levy. My mistake to have written “levy” in the original post, which I have now corrected — TR

  • Radley January 12, 2008 (8:15 pm)

    Ms. Westbrook, I was specifically referring to your vote against the District’s operating levy. I find the blog you post on to be filled with far too much unsupported rumour mongering and hysteria. I am disapointed to see it come here.

  • westello January 13, 2008 (1:34 pm)

    I DID NOT vote against the operating levy and NEVER advocated it. (I’m on videotape and audiotape and in print with that – go look it up.) In fact the opposite. Go to the meetings yourself or e-mail Director de Bell.

    I operate on facts; not rumors, not hysteria. You just may not like the truth when you hear it.

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