1 day till Denny/Sealth meeting, plus a student perspective

One day to go till what will be the school district’s last public meeting in West Seattle about the Denny/Sealth proposals before the school board vote later this month … though it’s not THE final public meeting — the Westwood Neighborhood Council is presenting a panel discussion on Feb. 12 (announcement here). If you missed it yesterday, here’s our post about the meeting (including the official district flyer), with a side note about the dearth of online information about the proposal. Meantime, there’s another perspective of note: We received via e-mail and postal mail copies of the January student newspaper from Chief Sealth, with a front-page article about opposition to the original proposal (known in the current discussion as “Option 1”). You can read it here; the headline and photo from “above the fold” over the article can be seen here. (In fairness, we should note that we don’t have copies of prior months’ papers so if there was a pro-project article, we can’t currently point you to that, but would be happy to upload it if we received one.) Back to tomorrow’s meeting: 6:30 pm, drawings & one-on-one conversation opportunities; 7 pm, public meeting begins, Chief Sealth High School Library. WEDNESDAY MORNING 2/6/08 ADDENDUM: School district legal counsel has asked WSB to remove the links to the images of the student newspaper article because of “factual inaccuracies” in the article, until a correction for those inaccuracies can be written up. We are declining the request, since the newspaper was published and circulated and that fact alone is newsworthy, but did want to note here for the record that the school district has made this request; as our lawyer told theirs, we will be more than happy to publish the correction text (and/or any other clarifying information) as soon as possible after they provide it to us.

15 Replies to "1 day till Denny/Sealth meeting, plus a student perspective"

  • Delfino February 3, 2008 (7:55 pm)

    There is a lot more to this story, but I’ll ask the students involved if they want to respond tomorrow.

    I will say that Chief Sealth students have been active in this issue from the beginning.

    They administered a survey in December of 2006. School staff and Administration advised them to have some education about the issue before administering the survey, so they organized an after school forum and invited Facilities to explain the proposal. About 70 students attended and then there were tables set out at lunch to generate discussion and get input.

    Two Sealth students are on the Site Design Team and one went to New York to visit the models. One of them has made two presentations against the merged campus plan at Board meetings.
    Another student is trying to get the Principal’s permission to distribute another survey, but has been turned down and has had a difficult getting a meeting with him. He has modified it number of times to get permission, but hasn’t been able to get it out yet.
    The results of the survey were made available to facilities last year and were provided to School Board 12/5/07 and are included below.
    Student Administered Survey Results
    a. Students surveyed: 558
    Students against merger: 506 (91%)
    Students for merger 24
    Students undecided 28
    b. Reasons against merger:
    Increase in violent incidents/safety 228
    Proximity to middle school kids 164
    Sealth gives up more than we get 102
    Other reasons 64
    c. Reasons for merger:
    Sealth gets remodeled 22
    Other 2

  • Indaknow February 3, 2008 (8:14 pm)


    When I showed my (honor student) son this article he told me that he saw this paper before it was “pulled” so that it wasn’t widely distributed at school that day. Then a student “taped them up on the walls of the school” before they were taken down. Is this a rumor or what you are referring to in your first sentence?

  • Delfino February 3, 2008 (8:31 pm)


    That is indeed part of the story. If the students are unwilling or unable to explain the whole story, I’ll add more tomorrow.

    The student voice in a high school is extremely important to me. I don’t believe we do a good enough job with this.

  • Steve Taylor February 3, 2008 (8:48 pm)

    My “senior” was one of the original “inquisitors” regarding the proposed BEX plan/s in 2006. Back then he told us the “District” was effectively railroading the project to the students, telling them if the project did not go through all Chief Sealth would get out of the deal was a new boiler… I personally know the student who tapped up the “forbidden” news papers. He is a fantastic kid! I truly hope the students views are received and respected, they are smart kids / young adults. The student unable to distribute the latest survey has some meat to go with his experience to date as well regarding the whole issue. Should prove to be rather enlightening t many… Like Delfino (a great benefit to Chief Sealth High School) I believe the students should have first opportunity to tell their story/s. If they are not able to, I am sure Delfino, myself and others can elaborate accordingly. Hope to see you there. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • Indaknow February 3, 2008 (9:29 pm)

    Wow. I didn’t think the article was that threatening to anyone.

  • Marcus Pimpleton February 3, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    Is there any way we can get Mr. Clark’s (the Denny principal’s) letter posted? I am including the text of the letter he sent on this subject below. I am not sure who is moderating this forum but I would be happy to email you the actual attachment of it, if that would make it easier to post it.

    – Marcus….


    Dear Denny Community Members,

    As you probably are aware, thanks to the Seattle voters, a new Denny/Sealth campus plan has been funded, complete with a new building for Denny Middle School and a significant upgrade for Chief Sealth High School. I believe that this opportunity will give our students what they deserve—the best possible educational facility.

    A partially combined campus will enhance the educational experience of our students, as a result of…

    Academic and Programmatic Alignment: Preparation for success in the International Baccalaureate program at Sealth, alignment in math, literacy, and science are all top priorities. Staff at both Denny and Sealth are committed to ensuring the success of every student—we will work very closely to make this happen.

    Peer Tutoring and Mentoring: We know that learning research supports the idea that the best way to really internalize learning is to teach someone else. The possibility of cross-age tutoring and mentoring is of substantial benefit to both age groups. Just imagine having a 12th grader come across to the middle school to serve as a teaching assistant for a 7th grade math class—tutoring and mentoring kids with their math development.

    New Rigorous Academic Offerings: As a part of the new plan, Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering course will be made available to both Denny and Sealth students. This program meets the most updated best practices for career and technical education. Other possibilities include expanded world language offerings, which will help prepare all of our students for our global economy. The added rigorous course offerings given to our students—thanks to a partially combined campus—will better prepare them as learners and also as college applicants.

    Drop-Out Prevention: Students dropping out of high school is a major concern, especially when we look deeply at the data. Doing whatever we can to solve this is our obligation. All of us working together, in a united way, to help ease the transition from eighth- to ninth-grade will help to reverse this trend. A combined campus will help with this effort.

    Sixth- Through Twelfth-Grade Music Pathway: Our music departments are already combined, offering a wide-variety of musical opportunities to our students. We already have the best program in the city—the new facility design will enable us to make it even better.

    As always, safety is my top priority. We have very specific ideas that will maximize safety as a part of the design and supervision of the future schools. A separate middle school building is being built that will face Kenyon St., instead of Thistle St. The new Denny will be designed to meet the educational and emotional developmental needs of middle school students. This in no way will be like a college campus where kids freely mingle. For example, lunches will be separate, along with all other non-class time. I believe that a combined campus can be designed in a way that makes both safety and rigorous learning opportunities achievable.

    Other key facts regarding this project:

    1) While the new Denny is being built, we will stay in our current facility—avoiding the need to move to an interim site.

    2) The targeted completion date for the project is the fall of 2011. Therefore, students entering Denny as sixth-graders next year will not be moving to the new building.

    In closing, this project will give our students a facility that will be unmatched across our city. The academic opportunities that will be possible will further enhance our ability to provide each student with a rigorous and personalized learning experience as we prepare them all for college and lifelong learning—they deserve nothing less.


    Jeff Clark, Principal

  • Delfino February 3, 2008 (9:43 pm)


    Thank you for joining us. It would be great to get a Denny perspective on this issue. Are you aware of any staff surveys or votes at Denny on the issue?

  • John Wright February 3, 2008 (10:00 pm)

    Marcus, the letter is actually posted on the Denny site as listed above (also referenced on a separate earlier blog, FYI). I did not recall this being the exact same letter he sent out at least a year ago, but from your copy-n-paste it obviously was. Do you have the date from the original letter to add here for clarification? Has he written any more recent letters now that the issue is even more public?

  • Marcus Pimpleton February 3, 2008 (10:13 pm)

    Before I put in my two cents about the BEX proposals, I would like to put out a request that people on both sides of this issue be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Many of our students are listening to this discussion and viewing our online posts. Although people are free to say and think what they want, I think it would be wise for the adults in this situation to make sure that the things we are saying and posting are edifying to our students and to our schools. We can provide our students with a good example of how adults should engage in debate.

    Over the past year that I have had the opportunity to work on the BEX committee, I have had numerous talks with Mr. Clark, the Denny principal regarding this project and the ongoing debate surrounding it. I know for a fact that Mr. Clark supports option 2, the “adjoined” campus, because he sincerely believes option 2 is what is best for kids. (I posted his letter on this subject in my previous comment and I have the attachment if anyone would like it forwarded to them).

    Having listened to everything for the past year and having consistently participated on the BEX committee, I tend to agree that an adjoined campus is in the best interest of our students. I say adjoined and not combined because I believe that “adjoined” is a more accurate description of what has actually been proposed and I have spoken to a lot of kids (and some adults) who have misconceived notions about what was actually proposed. The only “combined” part of the campus, where the students would be regularly encountering one another, is our music department, which is largely combined already with students from Denny going to Sealth for orchestra and choir, and Sealth students coming up to Denny for steel drums.

    In a recent survey of the Denny staff (January 30, 2008) 63% of the Denny staff supported or somewhat supported what is being referred to as Option 2, the adjoined campus. 22% were supportive or somewhat supportive of separate campuses, with the remaining 15% checking a box marked neutral. The Denny homeroom representatives, in their most recent meeting saw the district’s budget comparison of Options 2 and 3, including the list of upgrades to be performed to Sealth under the two plans, and saw the drawings that have been done so far of the adjoined campus. They listened to the input of their student represenative to the BEX committee, and discussed the pros and cons of having the middle school next door to the high school. After much back and forth, the Denny homeroom representatives issued a unanimous statement in favor of the adjoined campus. They are working with the administration on plans for grade level assemblies to occur next week, to present the information to the Denny students as a whole and to do a survey to invite their input. I think this is particularly relevant because, although the vast majority of the high school students will never have to attend school in the adjoined campus, the middle school students are the ones who will ultimately have to live with whatever is decided. Although I am personally of the opinion that adults, not students, should be making decisions about what is best for kids, if we are going to consider student opinion, the middle school students support for the adjoined campus should be given special consideration and weight.

    As for me personally, I support the adjoined campus because I believe it affords us with an opportunity to
    build a 6-12th grade “nest” around these students, to create the framework for collaboration and sequential instruction, to foster mentoring and tutoring programs between the two schools, to support the development of specialized programs for both middle and high school students, to support the maintenance of students’ relationships with positive adult figures from their middle school experience, and to work together as a community to address the real challenges faced by many of our students. While there are undoubtedly going to be challenges that come along with any change, it is clear that we need to do something to help the many kids who are falling through the gaps, for example students dropping out of school. To the extent that we can create continuity and a sense of community for these kids, it is a good thing.

    One of the primary concerns I have heard expressed with this project has been a reported danger of mixing the student populations. Personally, I think the risks are being overblown. In all the pleas for evidence to support the academic benefits, has anyone presented any real evidence that bringing a middle school and a high school in close proximity will bring about the doomsday I hear so many predicting? I student taught at Chinook M.S. and Tyee H.S. in the Highline district (two schools separated by a parking lot), and I was never aware of any issues there. Is there any data to suggest that this has worked out disastrously in the many other places where this has been tried? Or, are we just assuming the worst of our students?

    Personally, I would argue that adjoining these two campuses has the opportunity to actually improve the security situation as it will enable the teachers and administrators to make concrete plans for how to move students around safely, and will put directly in our face the mixing, that is already occurring, and that our two block distance has previously allowed us to ignore. Furthermore, my understanding is that as with any new project being completed now, we will have security cameras and access points with ID card readers.

    Students live up or down to the expectations of the adults in their lives. If we believe in them, educate them, and demand that they live up to high behavioral standards, they will. If we are convinced they can’t, they won’t. Up until last year, Denny and Sealth students rode the same school busses to school every day with next to no incidents (and this was under the supervision of a bus driver who was watching the road). Today, the students still manage to commingle safely on the streets coming to and from school and in the after school hours at the community center and the Westwood Shopping Center.

    The students at this adjoined campus will not be mixed. They will have separate schools and separate facilities, including a completely divided lunchroom facility. It is not a “combined” school, but two schools adjoined.

    Having been on the design committee, I had the opportunity to travel with the group that went to New York and Boston. My observation from the visits at the schools in New York and Boston was that the kids we saw in those schools were excelling, despite the fact that those buildings were not designed with the 6-12 environment in mind. In those schools, middle and high school students shared a single building, sometimes with just a sign and a door separating high school classes from middle school ones. In at least two of the three schools we visited, over 90% of the graduating classes were accepted into colleges and universities, and none of the students I spoke to expressed any issues about having middle schoolers and high schoolers near each other. While I have heard my colleagues make the case that those are different kids and a different situation, I am convinced that our kids are every bit as good and as capable as the kids in New York, Boston and anywhere else. If kids in other schools can excel in the difficult environment of multiple ages in a single building, I know our kids can excel in a well-planned environment where they will not be sharing one building, but a large campus with separate facilities for middle and high school programs.

    Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I am convinced that as a community we can not only make this work, but we can ultimately realize all the potential benefits of better curriculum alignment, increased collaboration, improved programming, and greater continuity from middle school to high school. For these reasons, I strongly support Option 2.

    Marcus J. Pimpleton
    Music Director, Denny Middle School
    Director, Seattle Schools All-City Band
    Denny/Sealth Alumnus

  • Steve Taylor February 3, 2008 (10:40 pm)

    Marcus Pimpleton, I believe you know I appreciate you greatly as a music teacher, however I know you left out a great deal of information I believe you are aware of that does not support BEX “option 2”. We all know there could be positives, however many also know the negatives. I suggest no one pull the wool over their eyes and only see the architectural “pretty pictures” displayed. Look at the reality about the two schools and consider lessons learned from history, not what our “in a perfect world” imagination would prefer. We all would like to see the best. However our imaginations do not always become reality. I asked my eighth grade honor student who you know very well if any of her classes took any poles regarding BEX, and she said “No”. I also asked her if she or any of her friends had views regarding BEX and she said Denny students “as a whole” should not be in such close proximity to Chief Sealth students “as a whole”. She and her friends at least, are all against the proposed BEX plan/s. Many people know select groups of students are not typically a problem when together, however such is not what is planned. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • Sasha February 3, 2008 (10:59 pm)

    Delfino, perhaps the survey of both students and staff fails to meet true survey goals because of the way that the adults insist on framing the question. This s why I must take issue with the staff survery results from CSH, I read the survery, and the slant was so ridiculously obvious. This is not a merger. A merger would be one school building, with one staff and one leader. Under either Option 1 or 2, this is about two schools that are currently seperated by a block moving a little closer and sharing some space.

  • Marcus Pimpleton February 4, 2008 (12:00 am)

    Steve, Thanks for the kind words. I have appreciated the support of your family of our music program. Regardless of how we may disagree on this issue, I have a great deal of respect for you, your wife, and your kids.

    I have no idea, however, what you are referring to in terms of me leaving out “information that does not support BEX option 2”. I think the Sealth staff members, and the community members such as yourself, have done a good job making the case for the other side of the argument. I am just expressing my personal view and the opinion of the majority at Denny that supports the adjoined campus.

    You are correct that the middle school students have very little information on these proposals and a majority may be unaware this is in the works. The school has not done anything to reach out to the general student population instead seeking student input through the elected homeroom representatives. We have however had middle schoolers participate on the building design team. Those building design team members reported back to Denny’s student government last week, which resulted in the unanimous student government vote in favor of option 2.

    Next week, Denny’s student government will be doing an assembly with the administration, showing the different options and taking students questions. At that time the students will fill out a simple survey asking them to check one of the following options:
    – I support Option 2
    – I somewhat support option 2
    – I support Option 3
    – I somewhat support Option 3

    For the most part I think it is good that the students have not been polled until now, as a lot of the information out there has been misleading and there have been a lot of changes to what is on the table. It is important to me that if we are going to be polling students, that they have the same information that the decision makers have. For example, the vast majority of the high school students I have spoken to, cite as their number one reason for opposing the adjoined campus plan, the fact that they do not want to attend school at Boren or graduate from Boren. (I notice that this was not even a choice for the students in the above mentioned survey of Sealth students and am curious as to why the survey’s writers might have thought it was more useful to make suggestions to the students as to reasons to oppose rather than just asking them to give the reasons on their own.) Most of the students I have spoken to from the high school were unaware of the fact that regardless of whether we do an adjoined or a separate campus, the high schoolers are scheduled to move to Boren for two years beginning next year for the mandatory upgrades happening at Sealth. Many of the students I have spoken to, have said that if they have to go to Boren, it makes more sense to do both schools at the same time and get the upgrades for Sealth.

    Finally, given that I have only been teaching for 6 years and still have the idea in my head that great schools and great teachers can change the world, I will admit that I may be a little naive and idealistic when looking at this project, but I assure you that neither I, nor my colleagues at Denny, are distracted by “pretty pictures”. I look at this proposal in a very personal and specific way asking the question “Would I be more effective at my job in an adjoined campus than I am in two separate ones?”

    Each time I ask myself that question, the answer I come to is an emphatic yes. In an adjoined campus, I will better utilize high school students as section coaches with my middle school jazz band and to do after school sectionals and private lessons for kids who cannot afford them. This will help the high school students have a firmer grasp on the material they are teaching to the middle school students and will make an increasingly stronger group of students going from the middle to the high school. I would also have a few of my exceptional Denny graduates come to the middle school as ta’s to help during the regular school day which may also inspire the middle school students to ask about and to eventually participate in the music program at Sealth which seems to be struggling in terms of numbers. Additionally, I would be able to work to expand connections with community organizations such as the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony who are already regularly coming in and working with my middle school students, but might be inspired to expand their outreach in a 6-12 environment where they can work with the kids for a longer period of time and chart progress. Assuming I continue as Denny’s activity coordinator, I will push for student support groups, such as a Native American support group with students from both schools in the group, to work both on academic support and truancy prevention, as well as cultural awareness and appreciation. (In my previous meetings with Denny’s Native American students, there was not a lot of student motivation for school and a lot of the students were absent when I sent out requests to reports.) Working with kids from both schools I believe we would be able to create a fun, positive, group that is able to do something to improve academic performance, and if not, at the minimum empower students to feel like they have a connection with their schools, and reduce the Native American dropout rate, which is higher than for any other ethnic group.

    These are only starting ideas. My belief is that should a decision be made to go forward with the combined campus, we will be able to put our heads together and come up with many more ways we can use our closer proximity to develop support programs for kids.

    Additionally it gets more personal for me the more I think about this. When I was a student at Sealth, I leaned very heavily on my middle school teachers who supported me with school clothes, school supplies, rides to the doctor/dentist, and gave me the words of encouragment that inspired me to succeed and now to come back and give back. I support Option 2 not becasue of the pretty pictures but because I believe it increases the likelihood that other students in similar situations will make the connections at school essential to their success.

    Sorry to be so long winded. I’ll shut up now and look forward to seeing you all at the meeting.

  • Indaknow February 4, 2008 (6:14 am)

    Just so it is clear. I have not been discussing this issue, nor my opimions, or my posts with my son. He brought up the subject of the newspaper on Saturday (2 days ago) and when I read the original link (above) yesterday it made me think about our earlier conversation. That is when I showed him the article. My son is nearly old enough to pay taxes and fight in a wark, he certainly can formulate his own opinion now.

  • Suzanne February 4, 2008 (6:34 am)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Delfino February 4, 2008 (7:05 am)


    While surveys can be written to get the results desired, I believe that all of the surveys that have been used thus far have been used with the express purpose of trying to peoples thought out in an atmosphere that has discouraged open, informed discussion at every step.

    The student survey was developed by students and in direct response to concerns that the 70 or so students brought up at the informational meeting.
    While I was not directly involved in the writing or evaluation, I thought it asked both sides.

    As to the CS staff votes, they have been clear in that the staff do not want a merged/combined/co-joined or at one point, Denny on Sealth campus period. No way of misinterpreting that.

    As to the configuration and not being “merged” campus. You really needed to be part of the discussions to see what is being proposed. Carefully read Marcus’ post and Jeff Clark’s as well and extrapolate. They both have much more in them than two separate campuses.
    More later. Got to run.

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