Denny-Sealth update: Decision challenged in Superior Court

One month after the Seattle School Board‘s vote to move Denny Middle School into a new building on the Chief Sealth High School campus (WSB video coverage here), an official challenge to the decision is filed. We just got a copy; it’s filed in the name of 12 individuals and one union (Operating Engineers). The legal documents say the individuals are concerned about “property values, crime, and other effects” of the move, as well as the safety of a 6-12 campus; the union, which represents classified school workers, says it’s concerned about job loss. The filing also contends, among other things, that the decision was made without “following the procedural requirements for citizen involvement required by the school closure statute.” This is filed in King County Superior Court. We will pursue district comment tomorrow.

16 Replies to "Denny-Sealth update: Decision challenged in Superior Court"

  • YinWS April 3, 2008 (9:34 pm)

    Great. Let’s just waste more money – our tax $$$. Let’s continue to take money which was slotted for a child’s education and make lawyers richer now. As I see this issue get dragged out, the less we get for either options – combined or not.

  • GenHillOne April 3, 2008 (10:06 pm)

    And just who is footing the bill for this appeal?

  • ann April 4, 2008 (7:22 am)

    Thank the teacher’s union for this waste I suspect.

  • dairmuid April 4, 2008 (9:26 am)

    Is it really a waste if so many people (including the students themselves) are concerned about it? We live in a litigious society, how else do you expect people to oppose something they don’t agree with?

  • YinWS April 4, 2008 (10:18 am)

    I believe a bunch of buildings and their location does not make a student succeed or fail. I believe it’s the teachers, personnel, community etc that supports the child during their years in school. Also, if we continue to say the co-location idea is going to be a complete failure then the students will follow that lead. Let’s give the students some credit. Let’s respect them enough to say ‘you guys can do this and this will be a success’. As adults we should say ‘ok, these are the cards we are dealt then let’s make this transition succeed’. Let’s take the money that would go to lawyers and use it to make the most of the situation.

  • Dan Dempsey April 5, 2008 (2:30 pm)

    Wow !!! Little wonder the SPS behaves the way they do as the above five comments point out that 80% of those respondents do not believe the district should ever be accountable for much of anything, legal or otherwise.
    Get ready you 80% of five you will really not like the following.
    As one of the very few people (perhaps the only one in Western Washington) who has teaching experience in all three configurations of:
    a.. Middle School of 500 to 1000 population. (common)
    b.. High school of 500 to 1400 (common)
    c.. The extremely rare and vanishing for a reason urban middle/high school above 1500 students. (found at two locations in Southern California)
    I assure you they are closing Denny Middle School. This law suit is not frivolous.
    Anyone who believes otherwise knows next to nothing about the above three school configurations. That would put them at the same knowledge level as former Director Stewart who got this insanity going.
    If this is viewed as a technicality, it shows without a doubt that schools are viewed not as academic institutions organized for effective learning but as only tools for vendor profits and play things for administrative whims.
    Again Denny Middle School is being closed; to believe otherwise ranks right up there with belief in the tooth-fairy.
    So why should the district not be required to follow the law for school closure?
    The argument in favor of circumventing the law appears once again from the 80% to be another form of “for the good of the children”.
    Great thinking for the good of the children construct a school based on a configuration of which there are no successful examples. The SPS is unable to present even one urban school of similar or larger size and configuration that is successful.
    Perhaps only in Seattle can such experimentation on children be considered for the good of the children.
    This is not just another irrational math adoption. We are talking 25 to 50 years.
    While this suit even if successful will likely just drag out the time before an ill-advised expenditure of $130+ million produces a South West monstrosity. It at least puts the district on notice that the populace is really steamed at being continually discarded.
    It also may serve to alert a larger number of the uninformed as to how poor regular decision making is in the SPS even when it involves sums in excess of $100 million.
    We clearly are in need of lots more law suits as that is one of the very few things that gives the people in this district any voice at all.
    Perhaps a more effective use of the two hours of public testimony a month, would be for those planning to testify to organize a planning for future law suits party. It certainly could not be less effective than testimony over the last several years and would probably be a lot more fun.
    How about this for starters on 4-09-2008:
    Given that the above legal action may provide additional time, planning a law suit based on Brown vs Board of Education, Topeka 1954.
    Because of racial and economic disparity South West children are denied the opportunity to attend a school planned along the lines of successful schools in similar circumstance. The SPS just as in their selection of math programs is again experimenting on the children. Instead of conducting the experiment somewhat equally across all ethnic and economic groups as was the case in math, now the SPS have chosen to conduct an experiment with students from two schools with the following characteristics for % of white population and % of Free and reduced meals:
    School — White% – Meals%
    Denny — 24.5% – 69.1%
    Sealth — 25.1% – 57.7%
    District – 42.4% – 40.5%
    Guess that person who testified saying the SPS never could have pulled this off North of the Ship Canal may have been correct.
    The State Legislature finally authorized funding to study the achievement gaps. This could be a fine place for them to start SPS decision-making. It can’t get much worse than in the SPS. Pick a topic Math, Denny / Sealth, or West Seattle 6-period day mandate how will they know where to start?
    Where is Thurgood Marshall?
    Where is Delfino Munoz?
    So what are your thoughts?
    Shall we meet on Wednesday at the JSCEE say around 7:30?
    To those who may respond this is all about race let me assure you this is not. This is about continually pathetic decisions and how to ever get the attention of the administration or the school board. As some say by any means possible; so far we’ve not found any means. Shall planning begin Wednesday after testimony in the Lobby?

  • Charlie Mas April 5, 2008 (4:52 pm)

    YinWS will be happy to know that no lawyers will get rich from this case. Will it cause delays and cost money? No, the District refusal to follow the state law and refusal to heed the stakeholders is responsible for that. If you’re speeding and a cop pulls you over, is it the cop who makes you late? I don’t think so.
    YinWS also says that it isn’t the buildings but the people who make students succeed. This confidence in the power of people was not demonstrated when every single stakeholder group at Sealth – the students, the teachers, the staff and the community – opposed the co-location of the campuses. Why should these people or YinWS believe in these people’s power when it is so easily thwarted by a deaf and dumb District leadership?
    GenHillOne asks who is footing the bill for the appeal. Why? Do you want to contribute? If you want to know who is bringing the suit, then read the documents filed with the Court.
    ann presumes that the teacher’s union is responsible. I can’t imagine why. There is absolutely no reason for that wild conjecture and less reason to smear it around on blogs. ann must not have read the posting.
    Look, our laws and our Courts are in place to give people redress for wrongs. The District acted wrongly and people are petitioning the Court for redress. How is that anything but wonderful of these people? Shouldn’t the Seattle School District follow the law? And if they don’t follow the law, then shouldn’t they be held accountable for that choice?

  • Ananda April 5, 2008 (7:22 pm)

    What happened to all of the suits over school closure? They were dismissed. I don’t believe that any law was broken accept in the warped mind of conspiracy theorists like Mr. Mas. The district hired a very smart litigator a few years ago (it was quite a coup that a Rising Star lawyer chose to leave a big firm to work for the district), and I can’t imagine that she won’t also get this case dismissed right out of the box. What a waste of more taxpayer money. If you don’t like the Denny/Sealth decision, vote for different canidates come the next School Board election

  • GenHillOne April 5, 2008 (7:36 pm)

    Thank you, Dan and Charlie, for your usual condescending tone and for, of course, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the discussion. I like the new angle though – that this is against the law because they are CLOSING Denny. Do you guys get together over Merlot and come up with these? I’m not going to try to answer you point by point, because I know it’s futile.

    Since you asked though, Charlie, and because I was going to circle back with WSB anyway…I did go to the King County Superior Court web page and look for the documents. I could not find the case and was going to ask WSB for more direction – perhaps the key words I was using to search were incorrect. I would think that using SPS would work, but it didn’t – and I know it wasn’t the teachers’ union that filed the appeal. No, I don’t want to chip in, nor do I want any funds earmarked for the construction project to be spent on defending the appeal.

    There is a substantial contingency of stakeholders in our community that just wants to move on and focus on all of the positive things that can come from this project. Many parents don’t want to speak up publicly. Maybe it’s because, like me, confrontation is not in their usual repertoire, or maybe they’re tired of being called stupid by what amounts to bullies under the guise of “activism.” They do talk about it at school, extracurricular activities, and the grocery store though, and there is no doom and gloom. So go ahead, fire back and tell me how ignorant I am and know that those others will value your assessment as much I will.

    Oh man, long comment – grrr.

  • Marlene April 5, 2008 (9:31 pm)


    Just out of curiosity, what are “all of the positive things that can come from this project?”

  • Charlie Mas April 7, 2008 (12:42 pm)

    GenHillOne, I would not make conjecture about your motivations or thinking, please don’t make them about mine.
    The angle, that Denny is being closed, is not new; it forms the basis for the petition to the Court. Like it or not, believe it or not, legally speaking, Denny is being closed. The law recognizes the building – not the program – as the school, and the District does plan to close the building. Consequently, the District is required to comply with the laws regarded school closures. They didn’t.
    There will always be people who don’t care and just want to put unpleasant experiences behind them. Thankfully, there will always be people who do care and who are willing to work to make improvements. What’s surprising to me is the presence of people who don’t care what the District does, but do care that no one actively oppose it.
    I saw a lot of people at the public meeting at Chief Sealth High School and very few of them were there to express either support for the merged campus or unconditional acceptance of District decisions. Regardless of the size of the contingent who don’t care or don’t mind, there are a lot of people who oppose the merger of the schools.
    I don’t know that I have ever called anyone stupid – please remind me of when I did – and I don’t know who is trying to bully whom here. No one is asking you to abandon your ideals and efforts; you are the one trying to impose your sense of an appropriate response on others. I can tell you that I don’t care for the unsubstantiated accusations. Please retract them.
    I would, however, agree that trying to refute me is futile. That’s because, unlike you, I restrict myself to statements of fact.
    Discussion doesn’t have to be confrontational. Why do you choose to make it so?
    I’m also curious about what taxpayer money is supposedly getting wasted here? Particularly if the district’s lawyer is on staff. Is it the Court’s time? Would it still be a waste of taxpayer money if the Court agrees that the District is closing Denny without following the appropriate procedure?

  • Charlie Mas April 8, 2008 (7:40 am)

    Do the people who oppose this litigation also think that the families of the students who were sexually abused by a teacher at Broadview-Thomson should not have sued the District? While the situation is certainly more personal and more extreme, the basic facts are the same: District officials failed to comply with the law and people sued. Should those families also have just walked away from the situation?

    Didn’t that case also waste our tax money? Didn’t it also take money which was slotted for a child’s education and make lawyers richer? Should those families have just said “ok, these are the cards we are dealt”? Should they also take the money that would go to lawyers and use it to make the best of the situation? Would the kids pick up on that positive attitude and reflect it?

    I wonder why the District’s very smart litigator couldn’t get them off the hook for this? Why shouldn’t we all just say that if you don’t like principals who countenance sexual abuse of children, then just send your kids to a different school. Is that a reasonable response.

    Again, I’m not saying that the two cases are of anything like the same scale. They are a mouse and an elephant. But as mice and elephants are both mammals, the two cases have the same actionable cause: the District didn’t follow the law.

  • Doug April 12, 2008 (6:28 am)

    No, Charlie you haven’t actually called people stupid . You just take all the facts, jumble up in a big pile and pick out the ones you like and shove them down our throats time after time after time. When are you going to give us some hard facts in a clear concise manner that can be understood by the people in this community. You seem to go out of your way to make everything very confusing and then say something to make people feel bad if they don’t understand the mess you made or agree with your point. With all that experience you talk about did you learn anything besides degrading people. You don’t seem to ever look at the big picture and what the community can do. This little gang you guys have going is getting real old. You have nothing good to say about anyone in the school district or the community. I am beginning to think you just sit around taking pride in your pessimistic overtures.
    Marlene, we have been on this merry-go-round numerous times before and given the list of positive things that can come of this project many times over. I know you have read them. There is no reason to go through this whole process again. It is time for the community to move on. At the rate we are going there will be no “community” left.

  • Marlene April 12, 2008 (5:27 pm)

    It should be clear that the ONLY motivation for doing this is cost. The Board has admitted that they had no academic research to back up their original statements that this would enhance academic success.

    The police officer on the Enrique Cerna panel testified that it would be a bad idea to combine the two campuses. Sundquist said he would push for a full-time police officer. Why would he propose this if there wasn’t more of a need?

    There is also no evidence that any cross-age mentoring will occur. We just found out that Sealth will have a late start, and Denny will start at its regular time. This means that Denny will get out earlier. We will also have to figure out how to organize four lunches into the day, since we are sharing a lunchroom. When will teachers be able to schedule time together?

    Also, watch carefully what happens with Memorial Stadium. The District stands to make $7 mil. from this sale, and rumor has it that the stadium between Denny and Sealth could become the new Memorial Stadium. Now that Denny is being torn down, there certainly will be enough room for parking, and they haven’t committed to replacing the new tennis courts and softball fields that they are ripping out this summer.

    There is already an amazing amount of research that says that smaller learning communities are more successful than larger schools, and this idea is being supported by Bill Gates and others.

    I’m sure you would like to see this process over Doug, and it may well be soon. However, as long as there are still people who believe that the District broke the law in bypassing the RCW’s, then those people will not be able to move on.

    Do me one favor. Before the end of school, I would like you to walk over to the tennis courts and softballs fields, and look at the students and the total enjoyment they are experiencing. There are some things that are just irreplaceable.

  • Michael April 14, 2008 (11:13 am)

    This is becoming insanity.
    Hopefully the anti-merge folks’ inability to come up with even one strong factual argument against the dual campus will earn them the slap upside the head (in this case, from a judge) that they sorely need.

  • Doug April 14, 2008 (9:20 pm)

    Marlene, my understanding is that Delfino and Marcus have both talked with the officer handling this part of the community said it could work if the proper procedures were put into place. I am fully aware that this will require the community, the school staff and the district to all do their part.
    If you have watched Marcus’s music classes you will see he starting the mentoring program from the bottom up. I can already see him grooming 7th and 8th graders in band and the steel drum ensemble to help him build quite a program as they move into high school. This doesn’t mean this is going on in other parts of the two schools but it should be. The older kids in the community are a very valuable resource that has been down played dramatically during this whole discussion.
    I am sure the majority of them are not the bunch of thugs looking to misdirect or mistreat the younger students as they have been made out to be . They are looking for good well managed guidance just like any student of any age.
    Organizing four lunches is a logistics issue that should not be that hard to work out.
    The issues that have been raised during this whole discussion have been made out to be insurmountable. I don’t believe I have heard one that is. Good planning and good participation from all involved will get us a good program whichever building we end up with.
    Yes, I am sure much of the decision and ideas came from the fact that there is a lack of funds to build new schools everywhere and that has become more and more obvious every year. I do not understand why we do not tax ourselves appropriately to get the schools we want for our kids, for the mass transit our community so desperately needs or repairs of our major infrastructure in the city. Arbor Heights can’t even get the descent sidewalks we were promised for our citizens to walk around the community or even for our kids to walk to school. For the last 20 plus years all I ever hear is our taxes are too high and everyone in government is a lazy good for nothing. People constantly complain about their representatives, their car mechanic, their local builder, their teacher, their minister. The level of optimism has shrunk to an all time low and pessimism to an all time high. Having listened to CSNY for years I should have seen it coming with the line “paranoia strikes deep”.

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