9:50 PM: Back at WSB HQ now. Processing video for a separate wrap-up post on tonight’s School Board vote.
9:10 PM: Just back from wading into reaction interview central in the foyer outside the board room. Talked to Sealth staffers Delfino Munoz and John Wright, both of whom spoke against Option 2 tonight. Munoz quote: “It’s not over.” But what’s next – he says it’ll take some time to step back and reassess. (The board meeting continues, by the way; we will continue monitoring in case of anything WS-related.) P.S. The opponents were clearly disappointed as they cleared the chambers after the vote, but were classy about it – no loud boos or other disruptions – in case you were curious (and didn’t happen to be watching on TV). The board’s now discussing future transportation plans for students; high-school students are scheduled to stop getting “yellow bus” transportation as of next year, and are to be given Metro passes instead. WEST SEATTLE-SPECIFIC NOTE: District staff confirms this is the last year that Spectrum kids (one of the district’s gifted programs) from West Seattle who go to Washington Middle School will have the opportunity to ride regular school buses; that ends next year, though Metro passes would be made available for them too. (Meeting adjourned at 9:20 pm.)
9:05 PM – The vote is 5-2 for Option 2. The no votes are from Mary Bass and Harium Martin-Morris.
After the jump, the rest of our liveblogging of tonight’s meeting, in reverse chronological order, exactly as we filed it during the meeting:
9:04 PM: Sundquist still speaking.
8:44: Harium Martin-Morris says he’s voting no. It’s not the best thing for the Sealth students, he says. Michael DeBell says welcome to the new board members in getting baptized by fire with this decision. He says he was originally excited about the colocation concept. He notes Denny and Sealth are in line to be international schools; many crowd members groan. He sounds like he is going for Option 2 – though hasn’t said that yet – he is using words like, a unique opportunity. He says it’s up to the community to embrace this school, whatever happens, and he also had mentioned that whatever degree of program sharing ensues would be up to the schools themselves. He hopes the Westwood community will ‘seize this opportunity and embrace it’ and that it will become ‘a source of pride.’ Mary Bass is speaking now, apologizing for communication shortfall. Hard to tell where she’s going – long speech. She says Sealth deserves a comparable comprehensive site, looking at other hs’s. She sounds against 2 but didn’t say so. West Seattle’s school-board rep Steve Sundquist speaking now. He says he’s going for Option 2. He says money’s got a lot to do with it. He hopes an authentic public engagement process will be created around the site.
8:38 PM: Board members are starting to comment. Sherry Carr seems to be indicating she’s going for Option 2. She says this is a decision on which reasonable people will disagree – one community is for it, one is against it. She also doesn’t think the ballot language/mailed pamphlet discrepancy is a big enough reason to go against it, nor the communications problems along the way. She says she and her husband went to the Sealth site over the weekend. Her biggest concern about Option 3 is that the additional 15 million represents a loss of purchasing value and she can’t reconcile herself to that. She says she’ll vote for Option 2. Peter Maier says he is supporting Option 2 as well, says he’s received a lot of e-mail from Denny people supporting it. He says he’s concerned that another opportunity for money won’t come around again for a long time. He says it’s important that the BEX Oversight Committee has supported this and invites people to read their letter which is attached to the agenda. He acknowledges that Option 2 is really just what Option 1 used to be, “before inflation eroded purchasing power.”
8:30 PM: Continuing with Don Gilmore’s very quick review of items potentially related to this – current slide, “current high school project funding” around the district. Now a pie chart – haven’t seen that one before – showing what percentage of project dollars goes to which part of Denny-Sealth (etc) Board comments now, after that quick recap. Sherry Carr is first. She asks about academic benefits. The superintendent calls the possibilities “exciting.”
8:23 PM: OK, here we are. The people with the red signs all stand. The motion has been seconded. Carla Santorno and Don Gilmore are going to make a short presentation. Santorno has a few points on benefits of the move. Santorno says “we want to provide adequate time for the faculties to come together to decide what they need” – “we know we need to develop a transition steering committee to address concerns … keep the staffs well informed about what’s going on …” Don Gilmore now talks briefly about safety and security, says there are “a number of ways to deal with it – distinct schedules – clear separation of age groups- passive and active monitoring of the campus – enhance the safety-conscious culture” (the latter items are what’s on the slide he has on the screen as he speaks) … A few groans from the project opponents closest to where we are. A train whistle sounds (district HQ is close to the tracks across Lander in Sodo, if you’ve never been here). Gilmore now recaps some of the design elements, including the galleria between the two schools; now quickly summarizes the project schedule saying Sealth has to move out for 2 years no matter what, in option 2 Denny would move into new building in 3 years, under option 3 it would be 4 years. “Oh, for GOD’S sake,” someone nearby says. Now, a quick runthru of renovation history around the district. These are not the same slides as the presentations we’ve seen at previous meetings – hopefully they will be available on the district website if they aren’t already.
8:20 PM: On to action items. The major Denny-Sealth item is in this group – technically, transferring $10 million to the project “in support of Option 2,” as recommended by district administrators. We would imagine some discussion will precede the vote when that agenda item arrives – stand by. Some of the young audience members here for the Sealth vote, still clutching their red NO signs, have re-entered the meeting room after ducking out for a bit.
8:16 PM: Now it’s on to “board community reports.” West Seattle’s rep Steve Sundquist notes a meeting of the board’s finance committee, which he chairs, is coming up. No other reports; now it’s on to “consent items.” Mary Bass asks that item number 8 been moved off the consent agenda. She has a question about it. It’s the one that affirms the Denny-Sealth project does not affect racial imbalance in the district. District official Don Gilmore says it’s a procedural thing from the ’60s and this item would have to be approved for matching funds regardless of whether they went for Option 2 or Option 3. Roll call on the item: Martin-Morris no, Bass no, everyone else yes. 5-2, it passes.
8:04 PM: Board Q/A on Head Start continues. There’s another TV crew; channel 7. (Reporter Deborah Horne showed up at the very first Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting about Denny-Sealth last summer, too, btw.) Now they’re moving on to a presentation about the regional Small Business Development Program.
7:52 PM: Board members are asking questions of the consultant who did the audit. She says site-based decisionmaking was considered the way to go, nationwide, for a while, but “maybe the pendulum swung too far” and now things are swinging back toward more centralized decisionmaking for school districts. (This is in line with some of the philosophies that have been voiced so far by new district leaders including superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson.) Board president Chow has just thanked the consultant; two more “superintendent updates” to go. Chief academic officer Santorno says this entire 400-plus page report is available on the district website (UPDATE EARLY THURSDAY: Thanks to SPS’ Patti Spencer for pointing us to the link – look under “curriculum management,” an overview plus a report.). Next item is a Head Start update. 446 3- to 5-year-olds are served by Head Start; West Seattle elementary schools that are sites for the program include Concord, West Seattle, and Highland Park elementaries.
7:38 PM: The presentation on the curriculum audit continues. Important stuff but no startling conclusions or recommendations so far. A few side notes: We’re sitting on the north side of the room, and some students here for the Sealth vote are sitting quietly nearby, reading and doing work. If you can’t tell from TV (this is live on cable channel 26), most of the board members sit there with their own laptops – they must be plugged into the in-house system since the big screen with the powerpoint slides is facing the audience, not the board.
7:25 PM: Meeting resumes with the superintendent’s report. None of it has to do with Denny-Sealth, but we’ll resume posting if anything West Seattle-related comes up. First item – curriculum audit.
7:22 PM: 17 minutes in, looks like the board is starting to assemble and things will be back in session any minute now. The Denny-Sealth item is a ways down the agenda, so we may not have much more to say for a while. By the way, at least two TV stations are here (the two your editor here used to work for, 4 and 13); not sure about the other two, would be surprised if they weren’t, at least 5, since they covered the student walkout yesterday.
7:05 PM: Public testimony is over. The board’s going to take a 15-minute break.
YET MORE PUBLIC TESTIMONY (6:53 pm now): Valerie Orrock is continuing to speak. She is scheduled to be the second to last speaker on this topic. She is looking into the future and suggesting there will be regrets if colocation goes forward. The last speaker, Don Alexander, apparently is not speaking after all; another gentleman is now speaking on a different issue. Now the board’s moved onto the “wait list” for speakers; the woman speaking now is talking about the district math curriculum controversy. Representatives of a South Pacific Islander group are now asking for help in getting an afterschool program going.
MORE PUBLIC TESTIMONY (picking up after the speakers listed below): Steve Taylor defers his time to Renee Duncan. She says she’s been at every meeting since last summer’s Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting on the project. “What really is the benefit of combining these two campuses?” she asks. She is concerned this will be an “expensive experiment.” Debbie Taylor is speaking now. She says she is not coming forward “merely as an emotion-driven parent.” Middle schools are designed to feed into middle schools, not share space with them, she says. She mentions the Sealth protest yesterday, “organized, mature for their years” – tells the board members it’s time to “crack open your hearts” — saying, if you approve Option 2, you will be “ripping out the hearts” of the Sealth community. Murmurs of agreement ripple through the audience. “Vote no on Option 2; I really love the new ‘Option 4,” she says. Kate Martin is speaking now, also against the colocation. (No one has spoken in favor of it so far.) She says she is concerned with the inequities she says are being dealt to Sealth. “Why don’t you just say you made a mistake and do right by the community?” she asks. “Option 4 – the unspoken option of most of the people here – go back and get it right next time,” she suggests. She says joining the two schools would be “inappropriate.” Gavin Layton is speaking now. He is the first speaker to say he supports the colocation, but he has harsh words for the process and what he says is the district’s lack of communication. He is a parent of a Denny student and a potential future Sealth student, says he’s put his e-mail address on three lists at separate meetings and “has yet to receive a single e-mail about this — you people need to hire some spammers, or something!” He concludes “good luck, I don’t envy you” and is heckled by someone in the crowd. Alyson Hitch, student, is speaking. She says the walkout “was a huge thing for us … I’m tired of crying out for help and having no one listen … It sucks. I’m tired of having questions that don’t get answered.” Duron Jones spoke briefly and reiterated his opposition. Nancy Conyers said simply, don’t take away my facilities (she’s a PE teacher). Valerie Orrock is speaking against the colocation. (The crowd members with the red NO signs are still standing, by the way.)
PUBLIC TESTIMONY: Chris Jackins (West Seattle resident and district watchdog) asks the board to renovate both schools rather than building a new Denny. Dan Dempsey (former West Seattle High School teacher) is telling an allegorical fable about dinosaurs, saying that the middle/high school combo model is a dinosaur. He ends by holding up a red sheet of paper saying NO, and saying “Just say no.” Robert Femiano is a parent & teacher; he asks that the board vote no on Option 2. He says it would be a “shoehorning” of two campuses into one, and an apparent “land grab at Denny.” As he speaks, more than a dozen people in the audience are holding red sheets of paper with NO written on them, like the one Dempsey concluded by holding. Linda Wiley just spoke as a potential future Sealth parent, saying she has been impressed with CSHS and its staff but is opposed to colocation and concerned about the demoralization of staff not given the chance to have a say earlier in the process. Sealth teacher Delfino Munoz is speaking now. He recaps CSHS staff and community opposition to colocation. He says the board is sending the wrong message to Sealth staff if they approve the Option 2. Sealth teacher John Wright is speaking now. He recaps the concerns about community involvement having been lacking and information not having been communicated adequately. Alison Enochs is speaking now. If they support Option 2, she says, you have told 90 percent of Sealth staff their opinions don’t matter. She says the boiler is not in as bad shape as claimed. If you vote for Option 2, she tells the board, you are creating an arranged marriage where one of the partners is being dragged in kicking and screaming. She says – how about a new option, Option 4, leave us alone. Marlene Allbright is speaking now. She is a Sealth teacher and refutes district administrators’ contention there is strong academic benefit to be had from colocation; she says one of the studies that has been cited involved a rural school that she feels is not comparable to schools in an urban setting like Denny and Sealth. She says this project is supposed to be a model for “megaschools,” experimentation “at the expense of Sealth and Denny.”
6:08 PM UPDATE: Roll call to start the meeting. Public testimony is about to begin. The first 18 people are all slated to speak about Denny-Sealth.
6:03 PM UPDATE: Highland Park kids have just wrapped up; principal Ann Gray is listing credits, as board members file in. West Seattle’s school-board rep Steve Sundquist has just walked in; board president Cheryl Chow is asking that the kids help lead the Pledge of Allegiance. (We got some video of the kids’ performances – we’ll post it later tonight.)
5:55 PM UPDATE: We’re at school district HQ for the Seattle School Board meeting on the Denny-Sealth vote – will be updating continuously. There’s pre-meeting entertainment — kids from Highland Park Elementary in West Seattle are doing a lion dance. We’ll add continuous updates to the TOP of this post – so anytime you refresh, you’ll see the newest first.