More money, fewer closures: Another view of school fight

We didn’t make it to this morning’s district-organized “community workshop” on the school-closure plan — same format as the one we covered Thursday night — but a report is up on the P-I site. It mentions Arbor Heights Elementary parent Gerard Denommee getting applause for suggesting taking the issue to state lawmakers and fighting for better public-school funding, rather than continuing to pit neighborhood against neighborhood to fight for shares of a shrinking pie. The Arbor Heights PTSA Yahoo! group also has an account of the meeting, and a more vivid description of the ovation received by Denommee, as well as a mention of Cooper Elementary parents’ presence (as they’d planned at the meeting we covered last night). Next meetings: Tuesday night, the School Board is scheduled to get new data and discuss the next phase of recommendations at a board workshop starting at 4 pm at district HQ; that same night, a district-organized meeting is planned at Arbor Heights, 6 pm. In the meantime, feedback can be sent to the school district any time at (All WSB coverage of this round of school-closure proposals is archived here.)

6 Replies to "More money, fewer closures: Another view of school fight"

  • Julie December 7, 2008 (5:49 pm)

    Relative newcomers to the school closure debate, especially as it relates to Pathfinder, may find a relatively long-term perspective useful, or at least interesting — so I thought I’d share some history. Feel free to skip this if you don’t think it’s relevant.

    Sometime in the mid-1980s, I was part of a group of parents and teachers, mostly from the SSCC parent cooperative preschools, who were finding that the education in local public schools did not, in many respects, agree philosophically with the education they sought for their children. This group put quite a lot of effort into researching a school alternative, but found the school board and administration at that time unresponsive to their concerns.

    In the late 1980s, the board’s openness to the New Options Middle School proposal (since merged with Coho to become Salmon Bay) encouraged me to suggest we try again for West Seattle. In 1990, with a largely new group of parents, we again approached the board with a proposal for an alternative school in West Seattle.

    Those parents put countless hours, months, and years of hard work, first, into persuading the district administration to allow the school to be created, and then into trying to bring their dream to reality, navigating the minefield of district policies (and politics).

    Co-location has usually been problematic, particularly for alternative schools, where philosophical differences between programs can create difficulties. For this reason, we had always argued that the district should open a closed building for what was then “AE4”, or, if a program in an open school were to be closed, to locate AE4 in the newly-empty building. The district was unwilling to commit to either. In the interest of getting the school started, we capitulated. The school finally opened in 1992, co-located at Roxhill.

    The school that has now become Pathfinder; while it has adjusted over time to survive changes in district policy, and parent and faculty wishes, it manifestly provides a needed alternative for West Seattle families, and I’m proud of that hard-working group of parents who made it possible, and of the hard-working parents and staff who continue to shape and create the Pathfinder community. I feel a little proprietary about it.

    This does not mean I think it should supplant any of the other vibrant school communities, each striving to embody the vision of educational excellence to which it commits.

    As the argument over which schools the district must close flares yet again, it strikes me forcibly that we, the community of West Seattle, are being pitted against each other as each school community struggles to survive the cuts. If we are to solve this problem well, it is as a whole community, and not as opposing, divided communities, that we must approach it.

    I believe that we, the whole community, are ill-served by the short-sighted parsimony that argues for larger, “more economical” schools. I believe this is false economy, and that we, the whole community, have far more to gain, long term, by educating our children well in smaller, more intimate school communities. I believe this is an argument we must make at the state level, because the Seattle school government, although it takes the heat for these choices, is constrained by the state budget to look at schools as buildings and seats, not as communities.

    How to make the argument to the “cut taxes” crowd that we all benefit more by pooling our money to invest in excellently-educated students than by keeping it in our own pockets (to spend on what?)? I don’t know. I’ve been trying for years. But it’s what we need to do.

  • Julie December 7, 2008 (5:50 pm)

    Oh, dear. I didn’t realize how long-winded I was being. Apologies.

  • Forest December 7, 2008 (8:18 pm)

    Julie –

    I liked and learned from your post. If you haven’t done so already, please submit it to the WS Herald. Get it to them by Monday A.M. and they might find time and space to run it as a special Op-Ed column (not just a letter) in this week’s issue.

  • WSB December 7, 2008 (8:40 pm)

    I’m going to include it in a standalone report later tonight on the history of all this. I also noticed it was shared almost immediately with the Arbor Heights PTSA list (which is publicly accessible for reading, though only members can post) within minutes of one of those list members having seen it here this afternoon – TR

  • Big Al (No, Not THAT One) December 7, 2008 (9:44 pm)

    It seems so random the way the district is choosing schools to chop. I can’t understand why they’re so willing to cede valuable realty forever, which later can only be re-purchased again at a premium. How short-sighted? Is THIS the solution? Turning parents against each other? And will the cuts fix the problem? We pay Goodloe Johnson HOW MUCH for this? Amazing.

  • Julie December 8, 2008 (4:40 pm)

    Thanks, Forrest! I’m glad you found it interesting. Alas, I just now saw your suggestion that I send it to the Herald. Too late now; but I’m certain they had plenty to choose from this week!

Sorry, comment time is over.