Video: Arbor Heights parents make their case to the school board

(photo by Arbor Heights parent Craig Harrold)
We reported toplines from Wednesday night’s Seattle School Board meeting as they happened – now, we have video of all six Arbor Heights parents who spoke (after a concerted campaign to get onto the list when bookings opened Monday) about district staff’s recommendation to close their school “program” so the school “building” can become home to Pathfinder K-8, whose deteriorating Genesee Hill building would then be shut down. First, Arbor Heights PTSA co-president Suzette Riley laid out the four alternatives they are proposing:

“This proposal would close a popular, successful neighborhood school, and would also cost the district money,” Riley said (among other points). We also have video of each of the five other Arbor Heights speakers from the meeting, each uploaded in its entirety – click ahead to see any or all of them, and also to see what happens next:

Arbor Heights parents said they don’t disagree that Pathfinder needs a new home, and that West Seattle needs alternative education. In her remarks, April Bolding laid out reasons Cooper Elementary (in Pigeon Point) might work as a home for Pathfinder:

Rosslyn Shea also offered information to counter district management’s contention that closing the Cooper problem could create domino-effect capacity trouble in the “West Seattle North” cluster:

Tammy Wooley told the board that closing Arbor Heights would run contrary to district core principles:

“We cannot fathom why the district would consider closing a school like this one,” said Melissa Aaron, who noted that she is not only an Arbor Heights mom, she is a high-school teacher on Mercer Island:

Arbor Heights PTSA co-president Eric Iwamoto didn’t focus on Arbor Heights, but rather on research questioning why the district wasn’t looking at closing a south-end high school:

Not much later, Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson‘s report revealed the possibility of merging Rainier Beach and Cleveland is indeed now under study. (She will participate in an online chat next week at the Seattle Times site, by the way; find out more here.)

Her presentation (here’s the PowerPoint in its entirety) also confirmed she’s asked the staff to study the proposal to move Pathfinder into Cooper Elementary as requested by board members last week (and as has been proposed, and dismissed, in years past). Next steps – more meetings, and while the process is still heading toward a final board vote January 29th, the newly added board workshop next Tuesday is supposed to start looking at “final recommendations.”

Here’s what’s in the near future: 6:30 tonight at district HQ, a “community workshop … to consult with the public, present information and listen to concerns and ideas.” 9:30 Saturday morning, same thing, but it’s at the Filipino Community Center; 3-5 pm Saturday afternoon, West Seattle school-board rep Steve Sundquist will be at the Delridge Library for another informal gathering like this one last week; next Tuesday, a 6 pm district meeting at Arbor Heights Elementary, which hits during a 4 pm board workshop just added last night, to work through new information and potentially shape “final recommendations.” Most of those events – and other ones ahead – are on this district webpage, along with the e-mail address for feedback:

11 Replies to "Video: Arbor Heights parents make their case to the school board"

  • Eric B December 4, 2008 (6:30 am)

    Thanks again Tracy for your amazing coverage!

  • TFP December 4, 2008 (10:07 am)

    Thanks for the coverage.

    The vacant Fairmont Park school seems like a good home for Pathfinder too.

    Closing Arbor heights gives me no confidence in the Seattle Schools; I don’t want to commit my kids to a neighborhood school, just to have it closed because it is in the south end.

  • Eric B December 4, 2008 (10:37 am)

    TFP, unfortunately the Fairmont Park building only holds 295 students. Pathfinder has 397. One of the problems is that because this problem was allowed to fester for so long, Pathfinder has grown to the point that very few buildings can fit the program. As more and more people choose Pathfinder K-8, the number of buildings it can be moved into becomes fewer and fewer. (BTW, the capacity of every building is listed on the SPS website.)

  • Faith Coulson December 4, 2008 (5:03 pm)

    It is incredible that the school board would even consider for one moment bussing the children at Arbor Heights out to five different schools. This is a community school; the children have close friendships formed; the parents are all involved in the PTA and everyone in the neighborhood contributes to the well being of the school by helping with fundraising, activities; helping with children of working mothers after school; it is a close knit neighborhood. Surely the children in the alternative school can be bussed to different locations until such time as a school is built for them to return to. This is like taking someone’s home from them because someone else’s home is in such total disrepair it can no longer be lived in and giving it to the people who live in the former. My grandchildren attend Arbor Heights. I think this is unconscionable.

  • Anita Jones December 4, 2008 (6:48 pm)

    The same can be said for disrupting the school community of Cooper Elementary. Our neighborhood isn’t as big but the families, kids, and teachers regard it as a strong school community. Test scores and enrollment have been increasing and we have a very unique and diverse population with an environmental focus. People at Cooper are very saddened and stunned that this could all go away.

  • Cryptical December 4, 2008 (8:50 pm)

    Anita, my heart goes out to all of you at Cooper. None of us at Arbor Heights want to see any schools closed. The district has put all of us in a terrible position.

  • KM December 4, 2008 (9:04 pm)

    Could the Pathfinder program split off grades 6 – 8 and create a Pathfinder middle school at the Fairmont Park site? That way fewer Arbor Heights families would be displaced and having an additional middle school in the area would solve some space issues at Madison and Denny/Sealth.

  • add December 4, 2008 (9:34 pm)

    KM – that is a creative idea and it has been bandied about a bit over the years. The problem is that splitting off grades 6-8 negates the idea of a true K-8, which is meant to be a cohesive program connecting students in all grade bands. Pathfinder works very hard to integrate the K-5 and the Upper Grades and it’s one of the major downsides of the current facility (having the 6-8 grades separated, out in the portables).

    I’m also not so sure the district would be willing to re-open a closed facility at this point.

    It is good for all of us to be thinking creatively and flexibly, though, as we try to navigate through this current conunundrum, so I appreciate your doing so.

  • add December 4, 2008 (9:59 pm)

    I should have added that it appears that the School Board is quite keen on K-8, not so sure about the Superintendent, so who knows where all of this will shake out??

  • Harrold December 8, 2008 (9:10 am)

    Here’s a big reason I do not support closing the AH program. If AH is closed, the traffic in this area will be awful. There is only one direction into and out of Arbor Heights. At a time in the morning where many residents in the south end go to work, buses will coming in and out, and there will be several more cars on the road, taking kids to five different schools. Seems very backwards to me in this time of “think green”.

  • Cryptical December 8, 2008 (12:13 pm)

    Great point Harrold.

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