With the public meetings over, discussion and feedback are all that’s left till Seattle School Board members vote on the Denny/Sealth project one week from Wednesday. (All WSB coverage archived here.) The feedback that matters the most is that which you give to board members — once again, their contact info is here. There also has been a lot of spirited discussion online, on this website and elsewhere (including here and here), as well as in the public-testimony time at the start of board meetings. One of the Chief Sealth High School students who has spoken to the board, and at public meetings on the project here in West Seattle, is Duron Jones. He sent WSB a copy of a letter he said he has sent to the board, and asked us if we would post it. We are doing so with an invitation for any student with a different opinion to send us their thoughts, which we also would be happy to post.
Iâ€™m Duron Jones, a sophomore at Chief Sealth High School (CSHS). Iâ€™m sure this opening is something that sounds familiar to the Seattle Public School (SPS) board, as it should since I have spoken to them in public testimonial on several occasions. However I feel that my voice and opinion has fallen on deaf ears as well as the voices and opinions of every single student who let their voices be heard via survey and polls.
The first attempt to gain student body voice resulted in 278 against the co-location of the schools and 5 were for the co-location of the schools. To prove that these results werenâ€™t a fluke we recently surveyed the students with a survey that allowed them to state their concerns and what they believed to be the positives of a co-located school, a survey in which John Boyd himself looked at and fixed up, might I add. That survey resulted in 70% of the students being opposed to option 2, 19% being neutral, and 11% being for option 2, however when it came down to option 3, 25% opposed it, 16% was neutral, and 59% were in favor of option 3. This shows that the Chief Sealth student body may not agree with every aspect of option 3 but we believe it to be in the better interest of the students compared to option 2. Might I also add the students will be the ones who have to deal with the fallouts of a merge campus and not the SPS board.
Iâ€™m sure you as well as the board are wondering why there are not masses of CSHS students standing up to speak their voice as they do on surveys, but they do not wish to stand up because they fear the consequences that they could possibly face for just using their right to free speech. Then when they do decide to get involved they are made to feel not welcomed.
But my reason for writing this is not to talk about protocol on how to do things when it comes to students speaking. I am writing this to air the opinions and stances of the students. It has been stated that the board believes violence wouldnâ€™t increase with option 2, safety wouldnâ€™t decrease with option 2, and more students would apply to Sealth via option 2. The life blood of Chief Sealth High School, being the students concur with their thoughts as 67% of the student body believes violence will increase with option 2 as 8% believes it will decrease and 25% believes it will stay the same. When it came down to students applying to Chief Sealth if option 2 was to happen, only 20% believed more students would apply and 54% believed less would apply as 26% believed it would stay the same.
Before I get into the commentary of the students I believe it needs to be stated for the record that when it came down to the academic benefits question, a horse the board has rode to death for why itâ€™s a good idea to combine the campuses, as well as the question of what positives come from option 2. No students who were in favor of option 2 were able to answer those questions however students who were for option 3 were able to answer those questions. But when they were asked what academic affects would option 2 have they responded with middle schoolers imitating the high schoolersâ€™ actions thus doing terribly in class, the drop out and skipping rates will increase, as well as a new building placed next to Sealth causing distractions and animosity. But there was a positive comment in the crowd and that was there would be more options for what you could do in classes, so the board should pat themselves on the back for that small achievement.
When it came to the question of what are your concerns about BEX III option 2 we received countless statements about the safety of Dennyâ€™s students, the negative influences of high schoolers to middle schoolers, the loss of identity for both schools, Sealth students admitted they wouldnâ€™t receive Denny students with open arms, fears about it becoming a repeat of Pathfinder, fears about it becoming an exclusive international school, as well as concerns about being targeted due to us being a colored school. Also one of the biggest concerns addressed was the loss of a great group of teaching staff. However when asked about some of the positives this project holds we received replies of and I quote, â€œNothing that truly couldnâ€™t be done with the schools staying on their own separate campuses,â€ so the board should give themselves a hand for that one.
As I looked over the boards reply to the meeting on February 4th I realized we truly donâ€™t have the option to pick an option as we are stuck with option 2. Something that truly disturbs me is when a member of the design and construction team answers my question of, â€œWhy arenâ€™t there any drawings or figures of option 3?â€ with â€œWe were told to do drawings of option 2 only and not option 3,â€ Now I love money as much as the next but when you compare it to the well being of a child and itâ€™s future they donâ€™t equal out. Then I listened to one of Steve Sundquist replies for the meeting at Sealth on the 5th of February where he talked about this project is being used to stop the drop out gaps from 8th to 9th, well maybe it hasnâ€™t made it to the boards doorsteps yet but there is an excellent program currently in Sealth called Ignite Mentors where we the students aid Freshmen through their Freshman year and make sure they do what they have to and Iâ€™m sure any of my colleagues or mentees would speak and say this program has worked so far and will continue to work and with that statement, if you havenâ€™t processed it yet, my point is the drop out rates are covered. I used to believe the board to be the protectors and justice seekers of the students however now I see they are no different then the men & women who currently hold office in the United States of America. I asked them to prove me wrong on that thought and actually listen to us. However we will see if that falls on deaf ears as everything else has.
Again, we would love to hear from a Sealth — or Denny (middle-schoolers can be eloquent too; we know this firsthand) — student who supports the shared campus; we have certainly heard a lot from adults on both sides. E-mail us any time.