Tonight’s Denny/Sealth meeting: Quick toplines

Much longer report to come. But here are the bullet points from the meeting in the CSHS cafeteria:
–Meeting lasted 2 1/2 hours.
–Big turnout; at least 150 people. School Board president Cheryl Chow and superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson were there for a while at the start; West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist, of course, stayed for the duration.
–District Power Point presentation featured lots of sales points for Options 1 and 2 (current version, current version plus $10 million extra Sealth work) and the barest of bones for Option 3 (rebuilding Denny on its current site, doing the bare minimum of required safety improvements for Sealth).
–Lots of audience questions, zero answers. Audience was broken into 4 groups to ask questions for half an hour; the questions were written down by facilitators; audience was reconvened so that each group’s questions could be read to the entire audience. The answers? The district will try its best to get them posted online before the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s Denny/Sealth meeting on Feb. 12, one day before the district’s recommended option is “introduced” to the school board. Much more to come, including the presentation details, some of the audience questions, video, photos.

22 Replies to "Tonight's Denny/Sealth meeting: Quick toplines"

  • speechless in Seattle February 4, 2008 (9:44 pm)

    “Lots of audience questions, zero answers.” Very well put. Notice how the official agenda on the blog and mailed to homes showed an hour-long Q&A session from 7:30-8:30.

    Then we get to tonight’s event and the newly modified agenda shows a 5-minute “Open comments and announcements” from 8:25-8:30.

    Need I say more about why the district has a credibility problem for transparency and openness?

  • Sasha February 4, 2008 (10:21 pm)

    I have to ask, if Delfino is going to be on the WNC pannel, is a Denny staff member? It doesn’t seem like a very balanced panel with only one teacher from one school. Reading the other posts, the obvious choice to ensure balance would be Mr. Pimpleton.

    Mary Bass was also at the meeting, along with Cheryl Chow and Steve Sunquist. The CFOO stayed until the end. The only person who was absent from the district higher ups was Fred Stephens, and that was because his child was killed over the weekend.

    One a side note, I went to tonight’s meeting, and I have to say, if my children went to CSH, I would be disapointed that his teachers thought so little of him as to say the types of things the CSH teachers were saying about thier students.

  • Steve February 4, 2008 (10:38 pm)

    Dear Sasha: Which meeting did you attend? I was at the Sealth-Denny meeting this evening and there were not comments made by anyone there that were derogatory about the students at Denny or CSH.

  • westello February 4, 2008 (10:40 pm)

    Five minutes for public comment. That surely says volumes about public engagement.

    I attended and left pretty disgusted. The architect took up a lot of time explaining the options (and it seemed odd he did it and not a staff member). The bias was clearly towards Option 1 or Option 2 (with the extra $10M for Sealth which he called “Board largess” and which looks a lot like a way to placate Sealth). (They also had a sneak preview of the next BEX and said it would be all elementaries and middle schools. They also said that 6 middle schools needed redoing for $900M – do the math, that’s $150M each. Are they kidding?)

    Carla Santorno, the CAO, in her remarks said that “how much academic benefit there is from the co-joined building is up to the two schools”. What? The district has no plan and is leaving up to the schools to somehow put it together?

    There were many top level district staff but it seemed odd that they were. They never all show up at most meetings and it wasn’t as if they were there to talk to people. Most of them talked to each other. Meaning, how did their presence add to the meeting or the presentation? The answer is, it didn’t.

    When we broke out into groups, all my group did was ask questions that were written down. The facilitator kept saying, “Boy, I’d like to answer that one” or “There’s an answer to that.” but he said they are only going to put the answers on the website. I noted that the woman writing down the questions didn’t put them all down and I had to wonder why. Taking the pulse from my group, it seemed that many parents are puzzled and don’t feel there are enough solid reasons to do this but there were a few who were for the plan.

    What I would have hoped for was a REAL discussion. It would have been great to have a brief overview of the three options and then take questions from the audience and have all those staffers answer them. Since we had all those staffers with different areas of expertise, all the questions could have likely been answered. All the audience members could have heard all questions, not just the ones in their group.

    And by the way, for a poor district, we sure pay for the copies. All the copies of the Denny/Sealth project at every meeting have been on high-quality paper in dark rich ink that must be at least 50 cents a page. It’s hard to believe we can afford to make copies of that quality to hand out at public meetings.

  • Sasha February 4, 2008 (10:50 pm)

    The main meeting and the breakout meeting in the cafeteria. And I was not the only one who got that impression, spoke with several Denny parents on the way out, who were in other rooms. I saw Ms. Westberg in the hall with Charlie Mas for most of this time, so who knows if you have to actually be in the meeting to blog about it.

  • WSB February 4, 2008 (11:08 pm)

    Data point, since it’s going to take us a while to get our full-length report up: We sat at the back of one of the breakout rooms for the entire “breakout” time (the “pink” room) and the only negative comments we heard about Chief Sealth students in that room came from a Chief Sealth student. Can’t speak for the other three groups – we chose to observe just that one group (heard a lot of common threads between their questions/comments and those reported by the other groups).

  • John Wright February 4, 2008 (11:31 pm)

    Sasha, in the “pink” room it was students who spoke about security and safety issues, not us teachers (although we have them). I never even spoke on this merger issue around students, except those already were attending faculty meetings, until last Thursday when we were handing out the notices for tonight’s event. I admit then I was so annoyed with the district preempting the WNC meeting originally scheduled for tomorrow that I asked students what they thought and gave them my 2 cents.
    I listened to a few more talking today and finally have a possible inclination as to why Sealth students are so much more opposed to this plan than Denny students on the security issue. The Sealth students have been here a couple years and they spoke of the extra social challenges being a HS teenager has and some of the issues that are around this school (and every HS including the North End ones). Most of our kids are reasonably solid, except maybe with homework. Yet with 900 of anybody some things happen that should not. I realized many of the HS students sounded protective of the younger middle school students. {Of course, some Sealth/HS students just don’t want to be around middle-schoolers}
    It seems likely the middle-schoolers are not as worried about the combined campus because they fortunately are not yet aware of some of the more disturbing teen issues present at any high school. In fact, if anything the good news from such a survey showing that MS students are OK with going to the HS campus is that many of them are still somewhat innocently unaware of the issues intermittently occurring in HS. I’m ok with that and would like to keep it that way. {Yes, that means option 3 for me… build the phenomenal school Denny deserves but on Denny’s site, even if that means Sealth waits}
    It’s been 23 years since HS for me and while I didn’t think I was totally naïve, but I was shocked with some of the issues HS students were dealing with during my student teaching in the North End 5 years ago.
    In the “pink” room I thought the students found a balance between saying HS is different w/o disrespect or name-calling, but they did want to get their security concerns across from their perspective. Just a reflection on why there may be some different opinions across the streets amongst the students, without accusing either side of rigging their student poll #s.

  • Steve Taylor February 4, 2008 (11:42 pm)

    It was very nice to see such a nice showing of interested people who care enough about the BEX issue to attend the meeting. Of course the meeting was not conducted as it was originally slated to. The Seattle School District seemingly cannot conduct a public meeting as they say they will, can we trust they can successfully merge two schools together? There was a fair amount of inquiry about when meeting information, and overall BEX project information would be posted on the Web? Back in June the District said they would post requested information at that time, and during the meeting the District stated such had not been achieved yet! Curious how the District could present such a nice (biased) Power Point presentation on rather short notice for the meeting, yet they seemingly cannot get information posted on the Web in seven plus months? There has been a curriculum gap (especially in mathematics) for thirty years in the Seattle School District most evidently between eighth and ninth grade. Moving Denny closer to Chief Sealth is supposed to fix a thirty year old problem? My honors math student when transitioning from Denny to Chief Sealth suffered through this issue. Now my senior is in his second semester of calculus. It was not an easy road to get there, and one of Chief Sealth High School’s best (now former) math teachers (Kristine Mosher) left Chief Sealth High School in an effort to avoid the perceived pending doom of the BEX plan. Kristine Mosher could not agree with the BEX plan, and was not willing to stay at Chief Sealth because of such. Thanks to all who attended the meeting.

    Steve Taylor

  • weary February 5, 2008 (12:18 am)

    What a sorry indoctrination for the elementary parents in their quest to find answers and only walked away with more questions.

  • Charlie Mas February 5, 2008 (12:54 am)

    The next meeting on Denny/Sealth will be the BEX Oversight Committee meeting scheduled for February 8.

    Because they were appointed by the Board, I believe that the meetings of the BEX Oversight Committee are open to the public.

    I don’t think these people are accustomed to having their meetings well attended by the public, but perhaps they would benefit from seeing the faces of families affected by their decisions.

    They meet on the second Friday of the month from 8:30am-10:30am in Room 2765 at the JSCEE. Denny/Sealth is on their agenda for the February 8 meeting.

    Hello to Sasha who recognized me speaking with Mel Westbrook (not Westberg), but didn’t recognize that I haven’t blogged about any parts of the meeting I did not attend.

  • WSB February 5, 2008 (1:26 am)

    Charlie, thanks for the mention of the BEX OC … sounds like something worth covering.

  • Indaknow February 5, 2008 (7:09 am)

    The break-out meetings were randomly assigned into four groups. I was in the “green” meeting. Nobody spoke out in favor on option one or two, but I’m sure there are some undecideds. My husband and son were in another room, the “pink room”. One woman was in favor of the combined campus. My neighbor was in a third room “yellow” and one man kept answering questions as the other people were asking them. He seemed to be in favor of options one or two. I did not hear any reports of disrespectful behavior or comments. By the way, why is a statement of a personal experience termed disrespectful when another person doesn’t agree or want to hear it?? Each of these rooms was packed with people (not enough room for people to sit). It seems that the majority either is against the plans as the district is presenting them or at the very least is undecided and needs more answers. For months now the argument has been “well, you voted for it” but it seems pretty clear that many people did NOT know that this was what they were voting for. Maybe because it wasn’t on the ballot? Originally I was dissatified with how the meeting was compared to what the agenda had shown, but know I think it might have been better, because MANY, MANY more questions with similar themes were asked. Not sure I believe the district will post all of them and the answers, but at least everyone there heard them promise they would and will hopefully hold them accountable.

  • westello February 5, 2008 (7:53 am)

    My name is Westbrook, not Westberg. I was at the meeting at 6:10, way before most other people. I talked to two architects, two Sealth teachers and Steve Sunquist before the main meeting began. I sat through the whole main meeting. I attended my “yellow” sheet breakout session and asked several questions. (I’m in one of the photos that this blog has posted.) I came to the last session but left when I realized no answers were to be given to questions and talked to other parents including Mr. Mas.

  • Steve Taylor February 5, 2008 (7:58 am)

    Indaknow, I find it curiously entertaining your son and husband were in the same room as my son and I. Does anyone recall the architect when speaking during the Power Point presentation state they have been working on these designs for two years? If I recall correctly, we did not even vote on this subject as a public two years ago, less than. Can we believe any thing the architect’s say? Also what was stated in the ballot was not a merger. That little “detail” conveniently was left out. Delfino can provide dates of when select information was publicized of what was, and was not. It would seem if the District had truly sought public input initially regarding their true plans for BEX as they seemingly now have received regarding BEX, two million dollars worth of design and water color pictures would not be in question now. How much did the 02-04-08 meeting cost the District to have multiple architect’s present for the meeting, and the compilation of the (biased) Power Point presentation? Curious both principals were publicly rather tight lipped all evening long… Food for thought. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • Indaknow February 5, 2008 (9:21 am)

    The public voted on this in February 6, 2007 (only 12 month ago). Below is a copy/paste from the Complete Text of Resolution that was adopted October 18, 2006. This is what the voting public saw when they voted.

    Section 2. Authorization of Construction and Modernization Improvements. The District shall modernize and expand its school facilities through the following programs:
    (1) Middle /K-8 school improvements including full renovation of Hamilton, and replacement of South Shore and Denny.
    (2) High School improvements including renovation of Chief Sealth and Nathan Hale, addition at Ingraham and modernization of Rainier Beach Career and Technology facilities

    Proponents of the co-located campus (as it was called in last night’s power point presentation)are quick to point out that there was a campaign mailing from Schools First to 45,000 households (but I never saw it). Schools First describes themselves on their website as “Schools First is the campaign organization that works to pass Seattle school levies”. This is a citizen-based, not school district funded/organized group. I think it is wrong that the only place the voting public was informed of REAL plan (option one) the district had for Denny/Sealth was a partial campaign mailing from a self-professed campaign organization that is privately (not SPD) funded. Why did Schools First get this information but the Washington State Official voters pamphlet didn’t?

  • westello February 5, 2008 (12:13 pm)

    I spoke to the architect who made the presentation last night about the fact that there was a slide showing the info on the mailing to the 45,000 households about a co-joined campus but no mention (except for a handout) of the wording in the voter’s guide. He told me that he thought the same thing had been in the voter’s guide (and that wasn’t a crazy assumption on his part because it would be what you would assume). Why would the district give him a slide that they knew didn’t represent the complete facts?

    Indaknow, I would say that it is likely that Schools First knew the wording that would appear in both the voter’s guide and the mailing that went out about the bond measure.

    All the district had to do in the voter’s guide was change one sentence and add two words – “co-joined campus”. That would have clarified the plan to all voters. Whether voters would have voted against the measure based on that information is unlikely but the point is (and remains), someone(s) in the district made a decision (not a whoops! we erred), made a decision to not fully inform all voters. It was deliberate.

    You have to ask the question why. If the district thought this was the best decision, why not tell all the voters? Because then, the issues that are being discussed now might have thrown a monkey wrench into their planning. They wanted people to find out later rather than sooner so that the district could say “the sky is falling, we’re running out of time”.

    What they didn’t count on (in my opinion as a long-time district watcher) is that West Seattlites are a feisty bunch who don’t give up. They are not used to such large numbers of people willing to ask hard questions. It scares them and frankly, they want you to go away. The fact that there was no open discussion last night means that they don’t want large numbers of people to hear all the arguments out loud and in public view. Any decent moderator could have been able to facilitate that kind of discussion and yet the district allotted only 5 minutes for open comment.

  • Steve Taylor February 5, 2008 (2:57 pm)

    For myself the 02-04-08 BEX meeting was a bit disappointing, except for the great turnout of people. When we divided into the colored paper groups, the thought crossed my mind “divide and conquer”. Fortunately such was not the case in the room I was in. Only one person vocally (very adamantly) spoke up specifically in support of BEX 2. There were no empty seats in that class room. In that class room we were instructed only to poise questions that would later be asked, and addressed thereafter with everyone present. Ultimately such proved not to be the case. Again, the District says one thing, yet does another… For myself I had no questions, though I definitely could have answered many, and commented as well. I said nothing. I am familiar with the BEX plans, there were many present who had only very learned of BEX, their questions took precedence in my opinion. Sad thing, none of this really is about teaching our kids. It is about money! How much here, how much there. Plain and simple. How about the issue of class rooms / teachers that do not even have enough books for each student to have their own to take home and study? Teachers have to photo copy text from a book and hand out photocopies of text books. Heaven forbid a student need to look somewhere in the book for reference (there is no photocopy of such). The list is long, sad, and in my opinion stupid that such a list even is allowed to exist, however such does. Such makes for little wonder why so many private schools flourish in our area, and the Seattle Public Schools suffer so, except the select few, which only really cater to a select few (Garfield, Washington…). Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • add February 5, 2008 (3:13 pm)

    Thanks to everyone for your comments about last night’s meeting. In the end I decided not to go (even though I have a 7th grader and will soon be thinking about HS choices) because I KNEW it would be a meeting like this and I am tired, tired, tired of every district public meeting being conducted the same way. No straight information, no answers to seemingly simple questions, no opportunity for dialogue, no time for any real thinking or exchange. It was the same dang thing during the school closure debacle. Our PTSA even offered to help design a more inclusive, two-way process (and recommended some resources for neutral facilitators) which they declined to pursue.

    It is all very frustrating and you have to wonder what it will take to change the District’s culture. Their processes make it downright impossible to engage effectively. Sure, you can send email or letters or phone calls, but the chances of anyone reading them, or better yet – thinking about them and taking the points into consideration – are pretty slim.

    I am counting on the current Board to “stop the madness”!!!

  • add February 5, 2008 (3:59 pm)

    RE: the BEX Oversight Committee meeting that Charlie mentioned: Just an FYI that most committee meetings, while open to the public, are not for public input. You can go and observe, but you will not be allowed to participate in the meeting. When I attended an Exec Committee meeting once during the school closure process, my sense was that it was uncomfortable for the meeting attendees to be “watched” and they didn’t really get much done. Lots of status reports and seemingly guarded conversation. However, it’s still a good opportunity to catch people before/after, in the hallways.

  • Steve Taylor February 5, 2008 (4:15 pm)

    add, myself and I know others would sincerely appreciate your public input. It is only because of people being willing to speak up, even when such is uncomfortable for them to do so in a public format that we are where we are now regarding BEX. Otherwise it would be the District marching (running) full speed ahead with BEX 1, let alone the seemingly bribe of BEX 2. Where is the “magic” 10 million dollar “bribe” going to come from? What project/s within the District will get short changed 10 million dollars, just for us? I urge you to not rely solely on the Seattle School Board to address the BEX and other issues. The Seattle School Board needs to “hear” from people such as yourself and others as to what “we” want. If the majority truly want BEX 1 or 2 so be it. However I do not believe such is what the “majority” truly wants? Am I wrong? Please help to educate myself and others. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • add February 5, 2008 (6:06 pm)

    Steve, I am planning to go to the Neighborhood Council meeting, because at least that one has a chance of being well run, and hopefully some answers (or at least straightforward information) will be provided. Believe me, I do provide input (email, etc.), but those District-sponsored public meetings are too frustrating and disrespectfully managed for me to take anymore!

  • Steve Taylor February 5, 2008 (6:29 pm)

    add, I can appreciate your frustration with the process, as I suspect many others can as well. I applaud your continued lobby to the Seattle School Board. Thank you!

    Steve Taylor

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