Live updates: School Board workshop on school closures/changes

(meeting ended 8:40 pm – below, our updates as it happened, newest to oldest)

8:49 PM UPDATE: The superintendent is giving TV interviews inches from where we’re sitting. She acknowledged “the list could change again.” (As it has in previous closure processes; the last proposal involving Pathfinder and Cooper evolved in fall 2006 to what was to be a “merger” of the two programs in the Cooper building, a “merger” that both school communities opposed, as you can see in this transcript from the October 2006 public hearing at the Genesee Hill building; not long after that, the proposal was indefinitely tabled.)

8:27 PM UPDATE: Still discussing the dilemma over how to save some money in the high-school category. So let’s take this moment to look at some of what’s unique about Cooper, which is now proposed for program “discontinuance”; school-community members held a hastily called meeting last Friday night (WSB coverage here), shortly after finding out the district was seriously considering this possibility, and in addition to voicing anger and concern, they also pointed out many of their school’s unique aspects: The Earth Project at Cooper, for one, on which we have reported here previously – it’s a unique environmental-education program (here’s its website). That’s not all; more later – this meeting is wrapping up (8:37 pm) – final recommendations still due out January 6th, final public hearing here at district HQ on January 22, vote on final recommendations January 29. Cheryl Chow says she wants to thank “the staff” for their work and responding to clear direction from the superintendent regarding listening, taking notes, coming back with information, answering questions. She’s also thanking “the audience and the participants” for coming to these meetings, acknowledging there are so many meeting. Looks like others are joining in the chorus of thanks, starting with new board president DeBell, and he says any ideas can still be sent in. (Reminder, the e-mail address for that is

8:10 PM UPDATE: Just too complicated to close any “comprehensive high school,” says another district manager. Meeting in fifth hour now. Back to the reaction to the latest West Seattle proposals — checking the Cooper Elementary website, the home page is a big red link, “SAVE COOPER FROM CLOSING INFORMATION,” which points to this page that simply lists three dates: There is a meeting listed at Cooper at 6:30 Thursday night, and the page also lists the Genesee Hill district public hearing next Tuesday, as well as the School Board’s regular meeting a week from tomorrow (12/17). Back to the high-school discussion: board president DeBell says the district has a “structural challenge” re: “full and rich” academic offerings – and has also been grappling with the need for high schools to grow to get more money – he says the underfunding of education in this state is a big problem with all this.

7:31 PM UPDATE: The new list of “potential final recommendations” is still being presented here at district HQ. Once the list has been presented, “next steps” are promised. We know one of them is the Genesee Hill public hearing at 6:30 pm next Tuesday (12/16), since that building is still proposed for closure. Background on previous Pathfinder-to-Cooper proposals (dating back to spring 2005), by the way, can be read in the online Pathfinder history recently posted here. A recap is coming up in a bit; from the superintendent’s presentation PPT, Cooper is not described as a “program” closure or discontinuance, but rather:

*Cooper (students) reassigned based on home address & transportation standards

Currently (7:55) they are discussing high-school proposals to deal with too many empty seats, particularly in south/center – either move the Center School (which is located upstairs at the Center House at Seattle Center) and repurpose its building, or move Aki Kurose in with Rainier Beach to create a performing-arts-focused 6-12 (board member Cheryl Chow just asked, “Wouldn’t that work like Denny-Sealth … as a combined campus, 6-12?” The superintendent said, “No, they’re going to be co-located … this (Aki/Rainier) would be a combined 6 through 12.” Sundquist asks about suggestions to close Rainier Beach; superintendent says it’s very “complicated” to close a “comprehensive high school” and combining two (as was suggested for RB and Franklin) would not be an easy issue and there is “not time to do it right” — she says there would be an issue of “safety and security,” gang activity, violence in the community, which might create problems if that happened.

7:15 PM UPDATE: WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand is at the Arbor Heights building meeting and sends this report: District manager Patrick Johnson, who is there to meet with the school community, asked WSB not to videotape the meeting. We refused – it’s a public meeting on public property, publicized by the district. Arbor Heights leadership “and crowd” supported the meeting being recorded. Johnson is declining to answer parents’ questions about the new “potential recommendations” which have been unveiled here at Stanford Center (where we will be asking district communications staff to clear up this issue of not videotaping), apparently taking Arbor Heights “program” closure OUT of the mix of possibilities (that was a “preliminary recommendation”; Cooper program “discontinuance” is now listed, in its place, as a “potential final recommendation” and nobody challenged it in board discussion so far tonight).


7 PM UPDATE: Sundquist asks more about how all this APP splitting is going to work. Santorno says principal selection is important for each of these sites with APP and non-APP programs and says they have talked about some sort of transition plan for staff. Board members continue asking other clarifying questions about the plan. Bottom line, if this is the final recommendation and gets approved (final vote remains scheduled for January 29, after “final recommendations” announced Jan. 6), West Seattle APP students would go to Thurgood Marshall for elementary (map), Washington for middle (map), where all APP students citywide go for middle school now.

6:43 PM UPDATE: Superintendent fumbles when arriving at the West Seattle slide. “Moving Pathfinder to Cooper may be included in the final recommendation .. this option will incur additional transportation costs, but this option is congruent with the direction of new student assignment plan.” West Seattle rep Steve Sundquist asks Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to read the slide she skipped over – reassigning Cooper students based on home address and current transportation standards. Sundquist says he’s uncomfortable with the wording “Given the board’s decision to lift the restrictions of the Student Assignment Plan to allow for the assignment of Cooper students to West Seattle North or South” – saying he just asked for this to be examined, he doesn’t recall a board decision on “lifting the restrictions” (nor do we). He’s asking, will the board have to vote to relax the plan re: that school, then, before this could happen? Yes, says a staffer. “Poor wording choice” says another staffer, “we will get that changed … I want to publicly state, the board has not voted on that particular issue.” Superintendent also asks to strike the word “current” before “transportation standards.” Sundquist asks, what about special ed students at Cooper? and notes a grant at Cooper re: the buddy system for general/special ed students to pair up, asking staff to be mindful of that as this process proceeds and “act appropriately.” Superintendent says, the special-ed model mentioned earlier tonight would be part of a final recommendation. Sundquist offers up one other “suggestion”: “In talking to families in West Seattle as they debate merits or concerns about AH vs. Cooper, if we have West Seattle Elementary really at the geographic center of West Seattle, as a dual cluster school, it’s going to play a pivotal role in taking students however this comes out … since it’s not being chosen by as many students right now as we would like it to … to take a look at program options there (to see if that could improve).” Board member Peter Maier says, so the answer is that the student assignment plan COULD change to allow this? We’re not finished with our analysis, says district staff, but no more recommendations expected till final recommendations on January 6. Maier says he wants to be clear about status of this – staff says, the issue is, a lot of things are being looked at, you looked at whether Cooper would be a viable option IF transportation/assignment plan was changed, and we’re saying yes, it WOULD be a viable option. But it’s not a “final recommendation” till “final recs” come out January 6th. That’s the end (6:51 pm) of discussion, for now, of the West Seattle-specific recommendations. The elementary APP recommendations are next – as mentioned earlier, West Seattle APP students would go to Thurgood Marshall under this proposal, instead of Lowell as they do now (or Hawthorne, in original “preliminary recommendation”). Middle school APP would be split between two schools as will elementary school APP; West Seattle APP students would go to Washington MS, as they do now.

6:38 PM UPDATE: “We are not in a position to give schools room to grow” instead of making changes/closures now, Superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson states flatly in response to a couple of school board suggestions/concerns regarding the first couple (non-West Seattle) recommendations. “We have five reports that have consistently said we have too much capacity … we are now efficient .. we are spending too much money for the students we have .. (This process) is emotional, is tough, but in order to move this forward … we have to land on a pretty clear direction (now) … I respect all the views and everything that’s been put on the table, and everything’s interconnected, and it’s a huge challenge (but we need) to rightsize the system. The option of not closing the school is devastating (to) the system. … What we’ve attempted to do in these recommendations is listen to feedback, (gather data), make sure we’re not creating a problem to solve another problem …” She says she’s saying this to “refocus” everyone.

6:22 PM UPDATE: Board reconvening to start discussing the new list of “potential final recommendations.” We will note, in depth, reaction to, and discussion of, the new West Seattle “potential final recommendation(s)” (close Genesee Hill Elementary as planned, but move Pathfinder K-8 to Cooper instead of Arbor Heights, and “reassign” Cooper students) as soon as they come up.

5:51 PM UPDATE: Board taking a break before getting into the latest closure/change proposals. (As mentioned repeatedly below – the West Seattle recommendation in the new list of “potential final recommendations” is to move Pathfinder to Cooper Elementary instead of Arbor Heights Elementary – this has been proposed, and dismissed, repeatedly before. A previously scheduled meeting is about to begin at AH – the other half of Team WSB will be there to see what’s said.)

5:32 PM UPDATE: Board member Bass now has joined the group. Discussion of Title 1 just concluded; the functional capacity information is being discussed. It’ll be a while before the proposal linked below – which now switches the “new home for Pathfinder” proposal to Cooper, instead of Arbor Heights (here’s the shorter “summary” version) — is formally discussed here; that’s when we’ll hear what School Board members think of it, which will determine where the recommendations (among others) go next. The “functional capacity” analysis involved walkthroughs with “a group of former principals and teachers” along with current principals, in every building in the district, trying to determine “true use” of the building. They’re not presenting the specific numbers – they’ve moved on to discussion of north-end middle school capacity, now and future.

5:12 PM UPDATE: The superintendent’s new proposal takes Arbor Heights closure OFF THE TABLE (unless it comes back later) but would REASSIGN COOPER STUDENTS – this is what’s now proposed for moving Pathfinder out of Genesee Hill:

□ Potential Final Recommendation to close Genesee Hill is the same as the Preliminary Recommendation

□ Recommend closing the Genesee Hill building
○ Pathfinder program moves to Cooper
○ Cooper students reassigned based on home address and current transportation standards

Again, this is in the “potential final recommendations” to be announced by the superintendent later in the meeting that’s under way now; read them here. (5:20 pm, moving on to “transportation analysis” for the entire district, will make a note if anything West Seattle-relevant, staffer says they do not have cost info for every single school in the district.)

5:09 PM UPDATE: The superintendent’s presentation is online now. We haven’t even read it yet but are sharing the link so you can read it while we do. Discussion here in the meeting STILL is focusing on Advanced Learning – but about to move on to the Bilingual Program vision (and proposed moves).

5 PM UPDATE: Much discussion of the Advanced Learning vision, which to summarize the preceding update, apparently will now break APP (working two years ahead) students into two schools at the elementary AND middle-school levels, under the next round of proposals that are to be presented later in this meeting. The district’s advanced-learning program boss, Dr. Bob Vaughan, says “design teams” will work hard to make sure those schools feel like schools, not two cohoused programs – students in the advanced and “general” programs may share the same field trips, different levels of the same reading and writing special projects, etc.

4:40 PM UPDATE: Now to Advanced Learning “vision” (still not on school closures yet, it’s a lot of top-level “vision” before specifics show up) — “we must bring college-level offerings into high school, high-school curriculum into middle school, and middle-school curriculum into elementary school,” says Santorno, also saying the district wants to “increase academic acceleration in all elementary and middle schools … increase the number and range of AP/IB courses in high schools … provide specific accelerated learning options for Spectrum [one grade ahead] and ALO … and specific accelerated learning options for APP [two grade levels ahead] …” They want “new elementary and middle school advanced learning programs (to) model and refine strategies that … allow students to accelerate accomplishment of Grade Level Expectations … (with a major goal) to develop “acceleration strategies that can be used in any school.” In high school, they’re calling for more training, early identification of candidates for advanced courses, changes in grading policies “to encourage students to choose more challenging classes.” (Board note, Martin-Morris has just arrived.) P.S. Reading comments on, there is some advance word of what is to be proposed later in this meeting, for the APP elementary students, whose one citywide school has been Lowell, which in the first round of this process was proposed for closure, with half the students going to Thurgood Marshall Elementary [colocating with its existing program] and half, including West Seattle-residing APP students, to go to Hawthorne – now the reported proposal (read comments here) is for northern APP students to stay at Lowell, general-ed students from Montlake Elementary to move there too, and southern APP students [including West Seattleites] to move to Thurgood Marshall. The same sources also say that middle-school APP, now housed all-city at Washington MS, is proposed for a split to Hamilton (for north enders) and Washington (south enders including West Seattleites would stay there).

4:30 PM UPDATE: Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno (who by the way is a West Seattleite) is introducing the Special Education, Advanced Learning, Bilingual departments “vision and actions.” We will note anything major from that here, but will save the details for district material to be posted online later. We also have just been told that tonight’s presentation will include “additional options” and we may get some word of those options soon, perhaps before they appear onscreen in the formal presentation (which was also the case for the original recommendations 2 weeks ago). By the way, we also will send out bulletins via Twitter ( if you prefer to follow for only the major headlines. Acting Special Ed director Fred Roe: “We want to move to where Special Education is a program, not a place.” (This part of the presentation likely will be liveblogged in more detail by than here.)

4:20 PM UPDATE: Dr. Goodloe-Johnson reiterates budget problems and the possibility of losing $20 million more in state money. Says community meetings will be held in January regarding the budget. Currently projecting $24 million budget shortfall that could rise to $37 million (as announced last week). Closing buildings “only one strategy” of five for saving money. State of student assignment/choice plan: Geographic “reference areas” around elementary schools “no longer reflect demographics or facility capacity and condition.” … Current system of choice “has led to capacity and program imbalances across the district.” Issues include: imbalance in seat capacity/access, not all families can access system of choice, not all families benefit equality, lack of accountability has led to persistent future. Solution – raise expectations and challenge all students, set clear performance targets for schools, revise assignment plan. (Shows a circular chart, “PELP Coherence Framework”; reviews how they will get to academic accountability/performance goals)

4:14 PM UPDATE: The meeting has started. Michael DeBell is now board president, West Seattle’s Steve Sundquist is vice president (after recent elections), so DeBell is leading the meeting. He asks the audience to refrain from cheering, jeering, etc. Tentative time frame for the meeting, he says: Till about 7 pm, but “we’ll go as long as is needed.” Board member Harium Martin-Morris and Mary Bass aren’t here yet – they’ll be late because of their jobs. The PowerPoint is supposed to be handed out in written form around 5:45 (we’ll keep checking online in case it appears there sooner). Agenda – vision and actions from Special Ed, Advanced Learning, Bilinguial departments, transportation analysis, Title I info, Functional Capacity analysis — Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson says staff went to every building in the district for that analysis — Middle School Capacity/north, “potential final recommendations,” next steps.

4:05 PM: Those are Arbor Heights Elementary parents (and a few kids) picketing outside district HQ — with the occasional shout “SAVE ARBOR HEIGHTS!” — as the school board gets ready for a work session at which the latest information on the school closure/change proposal will be presented and discussed. (We’ve seen a few TV cameras too so they’ll likely make it on the evening newscasts.) We’ll be adding frequent updates at the TOP of this post once the meeting begins, each time-stamped – refresh this post to stay up to date. One sighting here at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (district headquarters’ official name), not related to the school-change/closure plan but with a West Seattle tie – students from the Chief Sealth High School Chinese Exchange program are selling wreaths in the lobby ($25 each) so we grabbed a quick pic:

13 Replies to "Live updates: School Board workshop on school closures/changes"

  • concerned December 9, 2008 (7:44 pm)

    so will there be as much outcry over the dispersion of cooper as there has been at arbor heights? cooper, a rich diverse school serving its neighborhood. hope you cover the cooper dispersion as assiduously.

  • WSB December 9, 2008 (7:51 pm)

    We’ve been to every meeting we’ve been invited to (including the one at Cooper last week, at which we were the only media to show up, though I believe others were invited) and every School Board proceeding – I haven’t heard from anyone at Cooper since last week but hope that they will keep us updated on lobbying efforts/talking points/battle plan/whatever because it’s West Seattle and if it’s West Seattle, we cover it. (Update, I see on the Cooper website there’s a meeting Thursday – we will certainly be there.) – TR

  • Cryptical December 9, 2008 (8:34 pm)

    As always, brilliant coverage WSB! It was great to have Patrick at our AH meeting with Patrick Johnson. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson’s inability to answer or address most of our questions only added to our frustration.

  • AHMother December 9, 2008 (9:10 pm)

    THANK YOU WSB for doing such great coverage of this school closure issue. Good job insisting on videotaping Patrick Johnson at the AH meeting. Many of us are relying on your reporting thoroughly on this matter. Keep up the good work!

  • WSparent December 9, 2008 (9:43 pm)

    To Concerned – the “out cry” over the proposal to repurpose Arbor Heights Elementary is coming from Arbor Heights Elementary parents. I am sure the Cooper families will be having as much of an “out cry” and rightfully so.

    I am sure the WSB will be reporting efforts made by Cooper parents and staff to keep their school open.

  • Morgan December 9, 2008 (11:47 pm)

    To WSparent,
    I hope you are right, that the “out cry” will be as loud and clear from Cooper families. In hindsight, I don’t think the Seattle School District expected such vocal and well prepared fight from AH parents. And as cynical as it is, I’m wondering if that is why they have now set their sights on Cooper Elementary, a seemingly easy target.

    I found some interesting numbers on Cooper’s annual report. Nearly 90 of the children that walk those halls (compared to AH 28) are bilingual students whose parents, or grandparents, or whomever they live with may not speak or even understand English at all. How loud will their “out cry” be? Will they be heard in their native tongue? Additionally 71% of the students at Cooper receive free and reduced lunch, compared to 33% of AH students. The percentages are nearly reversed! We’re talking about some pretty poor kids at Cooper, with families that have very limited resources, comparatively.

    I too am a WS parent who lives a mere two blocks from AH, and can hear the joyful noise of children playing during recess from my front yard. I have taken my own young child to the AH playground where we have benefited from this public space, provided by public tax dollars. And although my child will not attend AH for kindergarten next year, I am so pleased that AH will remain intact as is. I truly want to congratulate the AH parents; you all did a super job, and it is obvious that AH has a great community. However, let’s be fair; let’s be just. Cooper kids do not deserved to be displaced either, and many of them will not have the well organized and passionate voice of parents who know how to finesse the system. Who will fight for these children; will you WSparent? Will we gloat over the AH victory and let Cooper take the hit?

    Public schools are good for Democracy. As citizens in a democracy it is our obligation to protect ALL public schools, not just the ones our own children attend.

  • Becca December 10, 2008 (12:57 am)

    Thank you Morgan for a refreshing look at the differences between Cooper and Arbor Height’s populations and the implications this stark contrast has on the type and extent of parent advocacy that may occur on behalf of Cooper. During this school closure process, we must always keep in mind equity issues including how all SPS parents will access information about school closure and opportunities to provide input. As a teacher at Cooper Elementary, I know that many of our families don’t even know yet about this new development. In these conversations, please be mindful that Cooper students do not have the same access to advocacy through their families as do many white, middle class, native English speaking students do.

    As Morgan mentioned, Cooper School has over 80 students who receive bilingual services. This only reflects students who have limited English proficiency as reflected on language assessments. We have at least twice as many families, if not more, who have limited English proficiency. This significantly limits their access to information and advocacy. Additionally, as of October, 2008, 80% of Cooper students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

  • WSB December 10, 2008 (1:06 am)

    Becca and any and all Cooper community members who may see this in the next day or so – We were told by SPS communications tonight that principals may opt to close meetings like the one you’re having tomorrow (Thursday) night, since it is NOT on the district’s official list. If you are interested in coverage, please be sure your school leadership supports that – Arbor Heights invited us and the rest of the media to their school and their gatherings from the very start and have been well-publicized as a result of such efforts (we also reported on the somewhat informal meeting at Cooper last Friday night, to which two people kindly invited us). Just mentioning this here, since otherwise we will be checking with administration re: whether Thursday night’s meeting will be open or closed to coverage — also if you have statements, info, anything else to share, we will be happy to publish it along with whatever else we dig up from research —


  • brittany December 10, 2008 (7:10 am)

    I am literally in tears over how frustrating this situation is. I’m a Cooper parent, and I know many Cooper parents share my frustration. We are all struggling, trying to raise our kids, trying to work and keep our homes together and prepare for holidays. Now, our kids are in very clear danger of losing their school. Why? Because apparently now we are supposed to drop everything and become advocates, journalists, and public relations experts. Where are we supposed to come up with all of these magical powers?! What sort of resources does the city of Seattle think we have at our fingertips? Are Cooper Elementary students going to be kicked to the curb because we don’t have enough tshirts, protest signs, and stories on the evening news? If that’s the way this all turns out, then the Seattle school system is more of a pitiful mess than I ever would have imagined.

    If anyone thinks that Cooper parents care LESS about their children just because all we can muster is an “informal meeting” when our school is threatened with closure, you are sorely, sorely mistaken. We are doing all we are capable of doing in the face of a myriad of meetings, hearings, and confusing double-speak from the school board. We’re on the list, we’re off the list, we’re back on….

    If it all comes down to a battle of who makes more noise, then Cooper Elementary is in dire trouble. I suggest that ALL West Seattle parents – AND RESIDENTS – speak out against closing ANY schools. Pitting one school against another in a battle for the lives of their students is SO UNFAIR. Seattle, and Washington State, need to learn how to run their school system so that all kids, in all neighborhoods, have a safe, stable environment to learn in. Closing schools should NOT be an option. Period.

  • Cryptical December 10, 2008 (9:15 am)

    I whole heartedly agree with you Brittany that closing schools should not be an option. The benefits don’t equal the pain. That is something many of us at Arbor Heights have been professing and showing data that supports that. Its a no win situation. The problem is the district does not want to hear about that. They will be closing schools.

    Where and how our kids are educated is an extremely personal matter and threats to that cut to the bone. It brings out some of the most emotional reactions in parents. We feel your frustration over the process. The timeline the district and board have set forth is insane. No where near the time needed to really explore all of the consequences. And I am of the belief that timing this around the holidays was intentional. Not too mention that the criteria and data they used confusing and questionable. This process gives us all a pit in our stomachs. Its terrible for inter-neighborhood relationships. We do need to keep the focus of that battle on the right target—the district and board—and not on each other. Keep the dialog positive and constructive.

    All of you at Cooper DO have to drop everything and become advocates, journalists, protesters and PR people. All of us in the Arbor Heights community are very busy too, but this is about our kids, our backs are to wall here, so we’ll do whatever it takes. No one else will fight for your school like you. No one has the personal stake in it like you guys.

    Nothing is decided yet. No vote has been made.
    Fight on my West Seattlites!

  • WSparent December 10, 2008 (9:27 pm)

    Morgan – I can assure you that no one at AH is gloating over the fact that Cooper has been now chosen as the site for Pathfinder to move to. It is no way a victory for AH to have another neighborhood school, especially one like Cooper to be targeted for closure. As an AH parent and resident I am fighting tooth and nail for our school. I understand the disadvantage that Cooper has now. It is a sad situation all around how these proposals are being done. I find it unnerving that we have a SPS Board member with such strong ties/interests to Pathfinder.

  • westello December 10, 2008 (9:39 pm)

    Why is this happening? I can tell you why. When the district released its last BEX capital list, I went over it and created a report about why I didn’t support the list (not the BEX but the list). One big reason? Because it didn’t create a new building for Pathfinder and they desperately need one. The district did find it in their hearts to give money to remodel a building for the New School. The building they were in was nowhere near as bad as Pathfinder’s and New School is supported by a private foundation. I argued that AAA should be moved or closed and New School could have their nearly-new building and that money for New School would go to Pathfinder.

    Well, guess what? They are closing AAA, still building for New School and Pathfinder still needs a building. Something has got to give as you can well see. (The district seems deaf to the idea of moving Pathfinder into the old Denny so that’s not going to happen either.)

    When I came out against the list, people said it was terrible because we need new buildings. Folks, please in the future, lend an ear because yes, we need new buildings for our students but the right new buildings.

    (P.S. I also advocated for a remodel of a NE elementary. That didn’t happen and look at their lack of capacity issues. I also argued that Nova was the worst building and needed to be remodeled. Guess which building the district now says IS the worst? Nova’s.)

  • WSparent December 10, 2008 (10:06 pm)

    To Concerned and Morgan – Join the fight. Roll up your sleeves and help us save our schools in West Seattle. Don’t just blog. I work two jobs, I am fulltime parent and volunteer my time at two schools and I am attending every closure meeting that I can. Help the Cooper families with sign making and lending support at meetings, etc…

Sorry, comment time is over.