Two more Denny-Sealth notes from last night

34TH DISTRICT DEMOCRATS’ RESOLUTION: A comment under our report from last night mentioned the 34th DDs voted last night to support the Westwood Neighborhood Council and Denny/Sealth school staff in pursuing an “authentic” public process. We received a copy of the resolution this morning; you can see it here.

SPEAKING OF PUBLIC PROCESS: West Seattle’s school-board rep Steve Sundquist asked district staffers last night about reported discrepancies and omissions in the information that’s posted on the district website as answers to the public questions from last week’s meeting. District staff acknowledged some “confusion.” One point of ongoing dispute/confusion that was not addressed clearly last night — board member Harium Martin-Morris wanted clarification about the oft-repeated complaint that the language on the ballot did not mention the shared campus. He didn’t get a complete answer to that during the public meeting we observed last night (and it’s not fully answered in the district Q/A, either; see Question 14 under Pink Room on this page); fellow members Sherry Carr and Peter Maier talked again about the pamphlet mailed to all 45,000-ish households with Seattle Public Schools students, which did talk about the shared campus, but what was left out was the indisputable fact – whether or not you think it matters – that the actual text seen in the official King County Voters’ Pamphlet by voters casting ballots in the February 2007 election (direct link here) explaining what the money would go for, was this:

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.
(3) Infrastructure improvements for water piping, indoor air quality and synthetic sports turf, including contributions to Hiawatha Playfield with Seattle Parks for conversion to synthetic turf.
(4) Technology equipment and training.

On the ballot itself, before checking approve or reject, voters saw this:

The Board of Directors of Seattle School District No. 1 adopted Resolution No. 2006/07-3 concerning this proposition for bonds. This proposition approves a program to renovate or replace four high schools, two middle schools and one K-8 school and make other capital improvements, to issue $490,000,000 in general obligation bonds with a maximum term of seven years; and to levy excess property taxes to repay the bonds and to replace the expiring capital levy, not to exceed $81,666,667 annually for six years.

Just for the record, since this keeps coming up. There certainly was coverage, on our site and elsewhere, before the election, talking about the shared campus — but the official voters’ pamphlet and the actual ballot did not include that point, as project critics frequently note.

16 Replies to "Two more Denny-Sealth notes from last night"

  • westello February 14, 2008 (3:19 pm)

    Thank you 34th Dems.

    A few more points:

    – I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they NEVER read campaign literature and read just the voter’s guide. Is that the best way to vote? I can’t say unless you just want to read the unvarnished truth as it is put in the voter’s guide. But, at the end of the day, the voter’s guide is THE official voice for what appears on ballots. There was a deliberate choice made within the District and at Schools First (that was headed at the time by now-Director Peter Maier)to put one thing on the ballot and another in the 45,000 household mailing.

    -I said at last night’s School Board meeting that Carla Santorno, CAO, had said there “were no resources for collaboration” at the Westwood Neighborhood meeting. She talked to me after my testimony and I agree; she did say there were no resources during the day for collaboration but there were resources for before and after school collaboration. Her last sentence had been “There are no resources for collaboration.” and that’s what my notes reflect. My apologies to her but it still begs the question; do the teachers have time, while preparing for their own classes, to also do collaboration? As I asked last night, has the District asked the SEA (teachers union) what they think?
    -some of the $10M is coming out of the BEX III Infrastructure fund which, according to the district, is to go for air and water quality and resurfacing fields. Now I know the district HAS to take care of the water and air quality so that leaves…fields. And what is one of the fields to be resurfaced…Denny/Sealth. So basically, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    I have always thought that, after the Olchefske financial debacle, that the sale of Queen Anne High was one of the worst District decisions in recent memory. That sale left whole neighborhoods without a high school and the District didn’t even get the highest price it could have (under the terms of the lease sale). It led to a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court and ending up solving absolutely nothing (except getting the District’s tie-breaker thrown out; race can still be used). And, those people still have no high school.

    Now we have a situation where the same very bitter seeds are being sown. Voters don’t know if they will be given complete information by the District on the ballot. Voters will also be able to see, from the Denny/Sealth example, that the District doesn’t have a problem wasting taxpayer money by doing work on a school only to tear it up a few scant years later. Parents and teachers across the District should understand, based on the Denny/Sealth example, that the District can come in at any time and force a program on their school.

    Step back and consider the Sealth teachers who have voted (now at 93% against) in ever-increasing numbers against this plan. They will have to leave their building for 2 years (and they have barely gotten their new IB program off the ground). When they get back, there will be a new boiler, fire and seismic upgrades, and who knows what else because $10M doesn’t go very far. Then, they will be part of a work site for 2 years as Denny is being built. Then, they will be expected to collaborate with Denny teachers while maintaining Sealth’s own identity (the District insists they will be two separate schools). Carla Santorno says the schools, not the district, will plan their program. I find that odd given that this has never been attempted in SPS (Summit K-12 doesn’t count because it is was a deliberately planned school)and district officials should be the ones to at least give an outline of how to proceed.
    This plan seems to lay the burden of success on the backs of Denny/Sealth. And if this doesn’t work? If the challenges are too great or too many teachers leave because they don’t like it, what then? Well then, we have committed these two schools together for the next 50 years, without a real plan of action.

    This will likely end up on the “worst list” of decisions ever made by SPS.

  • Delfino February 15, 2008 (2:53 pm)

    The Operating Engineers Local 609, representing Custodial, lunchroom staff and Security personnel also passed the following resolution last Saturday opposing Option2 and supporting Option3.

    February 9, 2008

    The BEX III plan to combine the Denny and Sealth campuses has significant impact on the working conditions of Local 609 members including the loss of positions in the Food Services, major changes in the nature of custodial work environment therefore we introduce the following resolution for the consideration

    Whereas the School Board decision to combine these campuses affects the bargaining agreement term of number and nature of positions of our members; and

    Whereas there has been no attempt at discussion or negotiation regarding the impact on our bargained conditions: and

    Whereas the Chief Sealth instructional staff has voted 93% against the plan: and

    Whereas there is significant community concern and opposition to the plan; and

    Whereas a number of labor and community groups have passed resolutions calling for the development of a third option that includes rebuilding Denny at Denny and the establishing an open engagement process inclusive of all stakeholders and the Meeting to do this resulted in no questions being answered; and

    Whereas this plan is not necessary for the accomplishment any academic goals; and

    Whereas the District has withheld information or provided faulty and inconsistent information at every step; and

    Whereas the School Board has established a timeline to make a final decision on this plan on Feb 27

    Be it therefore resolved that the members of Local 609 oppose the combination of Denny and Chief Sealth campuses and supports Option 3: and

    Be it further resolved that any plan that changes hours, compensation or working conditions due to the implementation of BEXIII at Denny and/or Chief Sealth be made only after negotiating in good faith with our local.

  • Moonflower February 15, 2008 (10:11 pm)

    Is that the 3rd organization to pass a resolution on Denny/Sealth? There’s the SEA (teachers union), 34th District Dems and now Local 609. Who’s next?
    May we get a link to the coverage on your site regarding the shared campus from before the election for this bond measure? I never knew this blog existed until recently. I’d like to read the responses from the community as well.
    Also, can someone tell me how to get a list of the consultants on this project? One of them was snotty to me at the Feb 12th public meeting hosted by the WNC. I’d like to know if he was paid to be there that night. He was not very professional.

  • WSB February 15, 2008 (11:28 pm)

    Moonflower – here’s the first mention we have logged. Keep in mind, we were not in anywhere near the intensive news-gathering mode at that time (January 2007) that we are now – our news switchover really began just a few weeks before that, and intensified as 2007 went by — but we did have this item in early January ’07:

  • westello February 16, 2008 (10:58 am)

    I know that the lead architect was paid because I asked him at the Westwood meeting.

    I have been around the district a long time and have never seen an architect take the lead to do a presentation. Why are we paying both the district staff and the consultants to be there? For a district that cries poor, it’s odd.

    FYI, Hale’s renovation budget has now magically added nearly $8M dollars, going from what was stated on the bond measure – $77.6 – to $84.4 (and no the matching state funds haven’t come thru – I checked). No explanation on that one.

  • Moonflower February 16, 2008 (11:04 am)

    Thank you for the link. I see there were no comments from the public.

    Thank you again WSB for the service you are providing to us.

    You will be my source for details on the Denny/Sealth incident(s) alluded to here.

  • Charlie Mas February 16, 2008 (5:00 pm)

    Supporters of Option #2 – mostly District staff – say that the co-located campuses were in the materials. The materials they reference, however, don’t say “merged” or “co-located” they say that the schools will have “some shared facilities”.

    I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like athletic fields that they will both use, not joined buildings on a single campus. The Seattle Public Schools Bond and Levy information flyer (Winter 2007) said:

    Denny Middle School/Chief Sealth High School Replacement of Denny, major renovations for Sealth, and construction of joint facilities, with safety upgrades through out (125 m).”

    “This proposed project will include: Shared facilities, such as a new library, foreign language classrooms, 1,000 seat auditorium, commons, cafeteria and a gymnasium designed to higher safety standards.

    That doesn’t really indicate what they truly had in mind, does it?

  • Doug February 16, 2008 (8:41 pm)

    —{The Seattle Public Schools Bond and Levy information flyer (Winter 2007) said:

    “Denny Middle School/Chief Sealth High School Replacement of Denny, major renovations for Sealth, and construction of joint facilities, with safety upgrades through out (125 m).”

    “This proposed project will include: Shared facilities, such as a new library, foreign language classrooms, 1,000 seat auditorium, commons, cafeteria and a gymnasium designed to higher safety standards.”}

    Charlie, what exactly did you read into the above statement? How can you share all the above spaces if they are not on the same campus?
    And just for the record I do support option 2 and I am not a staff member of the district nor is any one else I know who is supporting option 2.

  • Steve Taylor February 17, 2008 (11:11 pm)

    Doug, as I suspect you are aware the Denny and Chief Sealth Music programs (Band/s and Choir) have “shared” / “co-mingled” for many years. Though the two schools do not share a singular campus. Both schools share the “officially retitled name” Southwest Athletic Complex. Whereas previously they were Chief Sealth Stadium, Track and Denny Field, even though the two schools still shared the facilities, with Chief Sealth utilizing the facilities the most for athletic teams. Once again the two schools have not shared a common / joint academic campus. There are legitimate, time proven, reasons why so many oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2. Do any of us know something so many who know the students best (teachers) do not regarding this issue? Have you done a “job walk” yet to really understand the job site? Each site? It is not the great many positives that so many have concern regarding the BEX III issue. It is the negatives, though few, are so strongly suspected to grow and fester far beyond their however minimal in comparison issues that so many are interested to avoid. “We” know it is easier to not go down a potentially wrong road in the beginning of a fifty year long journey, than it is to potentially go down a wrong path for the entire length of a fifty year long journey. Truly take the time to extensively visit and learn Denny and Chief Sealth, all of the good, all of the bad. I suspect thereafter you will join the many who initially supported BEX III, options 1 & 2, who now adamantly oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2. Are the teachers of Chief Sealth not the reason why you would send your child to Chief Sealth? In my experience the vast majority of Chief Sealth Teachers (the ones I have had the privilege to know) are phenomenal! Do you not believe they would not be speaking up / out if they did not believe there was a significant reason to do so? One Chief Sealth IB Math Teacher recently stated he will leave if BEX III, option 1 or 2 is chosen, along with other great staff as well. BEX III, options 1,2 & 3 ultimately boil down to money, not what is necessarily best for all students. All students is who BEX III, options 1,2 & 3 will serve, good, bad, or otherwise. I for one, choose option “GOOD”, via BEX III, option 3. Get in the “trenches” and see what this is all about – students (all students). If money is the driving force, which many believe such is, then why does the John Stanford Center exist? And so far over budget? Not to mention all of the other District Projects that are so grossly over budget. Does such sound like sound financial management of construction projects to you? You have expressed experience in Construction Management, I suspect you know the correct answer/s. Granted know one I am aware of has a magic crystal ball that makes all construction projects complete on time and within budget, however the Seattle School District seemingly has no concept whatsoever of what it takes to complete a project within budget. Heck, if nothing else, by District history there could possibly be a lot more money for Denny and Chief Sealth than currently alloted. However since it is widely understood South end Schools suffer within the Seattle School District compared to other Schools in the District, it is likely Chief Sealth / Denny will not be granted / afforded the construction cost overruns of the Flagship High School Garfield (isn’t it about 25 million over), or Roosevelt almost 10 million over. No, not Chief Sealth / Denny, there are seemingly not enough affluent, or even fluent in English parents who are familiar with BEX III, options 1,2 or 3 to encourage and motivate the District to do what is widely considered to be the right thing, regardless of the subject. Such has been the plague of South end schools for decades (ever since mandatory busing). Not enough parents spoke up, most who were in good positions to challenge such, simply wrote checks to area private schools and no longer had to deal with the juggernaut of the Seattle School District. In case you are not aware, the District has a name for such parents “High Advocacy Parents”. High Advocacy Parents in sufficient numbers are quite capable of encouraging the District to do most anything. Such is why many consider the District offers such High Advocacy Parents a Garfield option, put most all of those parents in one, or maybe just a few schools, and pamper those select schools. Look around, how many students who live in West Seattle, especially South West Seattle do not attend Chief Sealth or Denny? Many! A little more history. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • Doug February 18, 2008 (4:11 am)

    Steve, The list in the paragraph I quoted included the main core of the school day not one class and the athletic fields. The pamphlet that I read clearly indicated a joint campus. Another question that came up on one of the other blogs clearly showed the plan was a joint campus. I still do not understand where the deception was. I have yet to hear any convincing argument that the co-located campus will not work. The only impediment I have seen is that a couple of teachers have voiced extreme opposition to the program. This could kill the program no matter how well it can or can’t work.
    I understand mandatory busing was an inconvenience at best and very trying to many families but we had no other reasonable choice as the racism was overwhelming and very detrimental to the long term interest of the city. There is still a considerable amount of racism in this city. I battle with it almost every day at work.
    On the job in the last five years I have seen drastic increases in the cost of construction materials, well beyond basic inflationary increases. Hopefully, with the downturn in the economy we can see a considerable decline in the price increases for materials for the Sealth and Denny projects.
    I am much more in the trenches than you realize.

  • Steve Taylor February 18, 2008 (4:48 pm)

    Doug, possibly if you read the originally provided voting information is where you will see the “Deception” as it has been described by so many. Granted two people can read the same information and derive two different rationalizations. Mandatory busing began in the Seattle School District with the graduating class of 1981 being bused across town as Sophomores. Racism may have existed, I believe still does to an arguable degree, however racism is a choice, and definitely varies where in the United States, and for that matter the world a person is standing. I tell every young person I meet, and am or around when there is any racial subject brought up whatsoever that “we all bleed red”! “Peel our skin away and we are effectively no different”. I believe the majority of at least Chief Sealth Students understand this very well without my a bit graphic example. Some of the people I respect the most do not look like I do (lucky them). My children have one of many traditional ethnic looks about them. However thanks to my better half, my children are not “pure bloods” of any ethnicity whatsoever. My children are 1/8 a particular ethnicity, though they do not look of that particular ethnicity. Most people are rather surprised when they learn my children can qualify for ethnic benefits. Some of my children’s best friends are of different ethnicities than my children. Every young person I am reasonably acquainted to at Chief Sealth or Denny know I look at all people equally. Every ethnicity has there less than desirable representatives, as well as some of the best people on the planet. It was unfortunate the Seattle School District took it upon themselves to force mandatory busing on those who racism was not an issue for… Thankfully that is now hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of miles on yellow bus rides across town students no longer are forced to endure. What a waste of a students time and community resources that was. I believe much more than “an inconvenience at best” for many. I am glad you are in the trenches, possibly more than I realize. Our paths are very likely to cross if such is the case. Have you had the opportunity to converse with multiple security staff and police quite familiar with Denny and Chief Sealth yet? Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

  • Charlie Mas February 19, 2008 (8:07 am)


    A legitimate question. Here’s your answer:

    The text of the flyer read “Shared facilities, such as a new library, foreign language classrooms, 1,000 seat auditorium, commons, cafeteria and a gymnasium designed to higher safety standards” and you asked how that would be possible without a shared campus.

    As Steve Taylor has been pointed out, the schools already share music classes and some other facilities on separate campuses. There was no reason to believe that precedent would not be extended. There is no precedent for shared campuses, but for shared spaces on one campus or the other or for shared spaces independent of either campus, such as the athletic fields. Readers would have no reason, from these words, to expect a break from the precedent and to anticipate the unprecedented.

    If I had given it more thought, I could easily imagine a new building independent of either campus holding all of these shared rooms. As it turns out, does Option #1 or Option #2 include a new shared foreign language classrooms? They aren’t mentioned in the slide presentation. Project Lead the Way rooms, science labs, music rooms, and a computer labs are, but not foreign language rooms. Neither is a new auditorium or shared gymnasium as described in the flyer. So how much credence would it have been wise to invest in this list of possible projects? Not much.

    Why, I wonder, didn’t the flyer mention that the Denny campus would be re-located? Why didn’t it mention that the schools would be co-located? Let’s be honest about it. It is a lie of ommission.

  • Doug February 19, 2008 (10:09 pm)
    Charlie, the above pamphlet seems pretty clear to me.
    I find it hard to believe people think the schools could share all those facilities and not be on the same campus. This isn’t college. The students still need a fair amount of guidance. The more distance between the facilities the more distractions and less guidance they will get. I see the co-located campus as a great way to ease the trauma of the transition from middle school to high school. I also feel it will bring a stronger sense of community to the students, staff and parents. This can only help the school and its students succeed. Isn’t that the goal. Do we always have to do it the same old way. Some times sticking our neck out just a little bit can help make great strides.
    I wish we could end this conversation about what was on the voter pamphlet and guide. The district put in what they felt was appropriate, right or wrong. What’s done is done. If, by now, the people from the district haven’t heard that you want more transparency they never will. Please, quit beating the dead horse.

  • Marlene Allbright February 20, 2008 (9:31 am)

    Escuse me Doug. The District voters’ pamphlet does matter. It matters to taxpayers who voted for this. The pamphlet was sent out to only 45,000 people. There are 600,000 people in Seattle, which means 550,000 people were left out of the process.

    Furthermore, it’s not always true that “what’s done is done.” Tell that to the Hamilton community, or the Secondary BOC community, who thought they would be getting a renovation before the District “borrowed” 14 million from that project to give to Garfield. I believe the voters also voted to fund the Secondary BOC project.

  • Doug February 21, 2008 (4:26 am)

    Marlene, I never said the district pamphlet doesn’t matter, nor did I attempt to give that impression.
    Also if you are going to throw numbers around, my understanding is there are approximately 600,000 people in Seattle not 600,000 registered voters. My wife and I usually only get one flyer or voting guide because we are in the same household, similar to many other voters. I am fully aware this probably still doesn’t get the info to every registered voter. The only thing I can think of is they were trying to get a little extra info to the voters with whom this vote would be most relevant, that said, I don’t know what the thinking was, and most likely, nor will any one else know for certain. All I am saying is we need to stop harping on the past, learn from our mistakes and move on. Unless someone can point out some hard evidence of illegal activity, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do just that.
    Yes, the budget is in bad shape. I feel the board is trying to address that. Some corners will be cut, some new ideas will need to take place, and we won’t all get what we want. Nor will we all agree with the measures that are taken. It is very important that people go to the meetings, write letters and make their voices heard. Then it is time to get out of the way and let the board do their job, and that the doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye during the process.

  • Steve Taylor February 21, 2008 (8:30 am)

    Doug, (everyone) what does it mean to you when 93% of Chief Sealth Teachers oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2? What does it mean to you when 90+% of current Chief Sealth Student, who in most cases are former Denny Students, and figuratively know what is to befall their fellow coming students, and choose to oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2? What does it mean to you when select members of the Seattle Police most familiar with Denny Middle school predominantly, and Chief Sealth to some degree oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2? What does it mean to you when the many other groups (Custodians, Security Staff, etc) all oppose BEX III, options 1 & 2? How about the majority of Chief Sealth Parents willing to speak up / out about this issue, whose children have been where your children are, and are very possibly going? Does not all of this opposition to BEX III, options 1 & 2 tell you anything? I am sure it does, however I question what you derive from such opposition? Trying something new is often done after careful planning / strategizing (at least of this scale). Do we really want to conduct a 125+ million dollar / fifty year community experiment on children? I for one do not! Any thoughts as to why there is a Seattle Police presence at Denny and not Chief Sealth? The Seattle Police understand where the issue/s are best addressed and curtailed. It is effectively “to late” once a student is of high school age, not definitively, however much more difficult to get back on the right path than in middle school. Do you not understand the opposition to BEX III, options 1 & 2 is mostly regarding students “most at risk” of not succeeding appropriately well in school? Opposition to BEX III, options 1 & 2 is not about Honor Students, or any other group of students who have a long tract record of performing acceptably well. Unfortunately not every student (a fair percentage of students) are what is considered “at risk”. We are not talking about Private School scenarios here, we are talking about Public School Scenarios, which can be quite different. In many ways more desirable, conversely in many ways less desirable. Much of what is “tolerated” in the Seattle Public Schools, is not tolerated in Private Schools. Do not presume only the best of what Public Schools offer, will be what is derived from BEX III, options 1 or 2. Thank you.

    Steve Taylor

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