West Seattle school-closure fight: At the board meeting

(added 10:35 pm, Cooper parent Raymond Williams and daughter facing the board)
We’re at district HQ in Sodo, where the School Board is about to start its last regular meeting before next week’s scheduled closure vote (agenda here). No action is scheduled tonight, but at least three of the 20 public speakers in the first hour are listed as speaking on behalf of Cooper Elementary, so we will post quick notes about their speeches and any other major developments regarding the West Seattle closure proposal (or the other programs, such as the citywide APP top-level-gifted program, affecting WS families). For the first time in a while, it’s NOT a standing-room-only crowd (so far). 6:04 PM UPDATE: Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is sharing a few reminiscences from her (personal, board member Cheryl Chow points out) trip to DC for the inauguration – she just returned this afternoon. She also mentioned her phone chats yesterday afternoon (WSB video coverage here) with Highland Park Elementary and Gatewood Elementary students. After that, following the Pledge of Allegiance, board president Michael DeBell – who’d noted it was the first one under the new administration – said, “That feels good.” 6:12 PM UPDATE: The presentation that will be made by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson after public comment (which has just begun) is online; it includes answers to questions raised by board members as part of the closure discussions – one is “Where would Cooper students be reassigned?” See page 12 of the presentation for the full list; highlights: the largest group, 104, would be expected to go to Gatewood, with the second largest, 65, to West Seattle Elementary. The presentation also answers a question about Cooper capacity and whether Pathfinder would fit:

Cooper has 26 homerooms and 1 PCP. After additional PCPs, Special Ed Self-Contained and Resource Room, Cooper has 21 homerooms. Pathfinder requires 2 homerooms per grade for K-8 which is 18 homerooms. This leaves 3 homerooms to expand the special program to middle school as well as provide an additional PCP for middle school and accommodates some of the
Cooper students from the Cooper reference area.

6:55 PM UPDATE: Three Cooper advocates have just spoken – Raymond Williams (video atop this post), and Molly Usry (first clip below) and Brittany Abbott (second clip below).

They reiterate the point: “Cooper does not meet the criteria for closure.” It is the main theme we have heard in meetings at and about Cooper, and on the CooperSchoolWorks.com website: Cooper is doing well academically, compared to schools with similar demographics, and shouldn’t be broken up, they say. They were preceded by a speaker who got a standing ovation, a Summit K-12 student named Jacob Looke, who testified against the proposal to close his school, struggling to get through tears, after explaining that he had been a social outcast most of his life, until he started attending that alternative school. 7:18 PM UPDATE: The superintendent is now running through her presentation, which starts with a list of actions to close “education gaps.”

8:35 PM UPDATE: The closure discussion is almost done for the night; board president DeBell says that if any board member has a change to propose to the superintendent’s final recommendations, they should get it to her in writing by noon next Tuesday, then it will be posted to the district website by noon next Wednesday. (The board vote is a week from tomorrow, during a meeting at which there will be no public testimony, since the last public hearing – with 40 speakers signed up, and the list now full – is tomorrow night, as DeBell reminds all.)

9 Replies to "West Seattle school-closure fight: At the board meeting"

  • Liss January 21, 2009 (10:01 pm)

    Thank you very much for mentioning Jacob. It was very hard for him to speak and it means a lot to him that people cared.

  • judyd January 22, 2009 (8:47 am)

    Sorry if this is an ignorant question, for I am so sympathetic the Cooper and any school facing closure, but why can’t the two schools just find a way to merge in the new building? Too many kids? Two different programs? It seems like both schools could compromise to end this tragic fight.

  • richieb January 22, 2009 (11:13 am)

    I concur with judyd, why does this have to be a fight? Is it because of the often over used word “fight” in WSB headlines? Fight this fight that. Fighting is about selfish wants. Sure this effects some people adversely, but most will adjust. Stop the fighting already and do the right thing. Uniting in this process and asking the hard questions is good. All or nothing attitude gets us spinning and we loose focus on the needs of our children or comunities. This needs to be compromise to save our childrens education during financially troubled times. Understand now. Compromise now. Adapt to the “change” that has been a mantra for the past two years.

  • MB January 22, 2009 (11:15 am)

    Unfortunatley I don’t think it’s their compromise to make, it’s not up to them…even if it was, there are too many kids to just combine programs into one building.

  • WSparent January 22, 2009 (11:18 am)

    the if cooper and pathfinder were to merge, both schools would be forced to ‘compromise’ all the things that have made their schools successful…
    it’s a huge bummer…. but the schools really have no say, as MB stated

  • WSB January 22, 2009 (11:22 am)

    Richieb, sorry that the word seems overused, but it really is a fight. People fighting to save their school. And sometimes people fighting with each other. I’m not a big fan of synonyms for synonyms’ sake (battle, clash, etc.) … in tv days I was always, um, fighting with reporters to say, don’t call it a “blaze” on second reference, it’s a fire, and you can just say fire, for heaven’s sake. If it’s a fight, we call it a fight. But we do appreciate language critique as it’s tough to be writer AND editor sometimes … TR

  • richieb January 22, 2009 (12:55 pm)

    Here are the facts about school mergers, You loose some kids to other schools, and some other students are gained. Not every child will move with their program. Some kids only attend these schools because they are in their neighborhood. Other capable schools will absorb those who wish to be absorbed. Others will follow a program they love, if they can, by bus or car. A leader will be lost most likley (Principal) but may not loose their job. Programs will have to be scrutinized to see how they overlap (this seems to work at APP schools) and adapt as appropriate. The things that make each program strong by themselves will only make eachother stronger, with input from people who recognise those strengths.
    If more people want to make a difference and have a say in their education comunity they should involve themselves more in their school comunities. Join the site council at your school, be a booster, go to PTA meetings. Stop being suprised and ill informed about the state of Seattle Public Schools. You are the Public of our schools. I would say that only a small percentage of people with school age children are involved deeply in their childrens school community. I see it at our school, the same people who work in my school comunity are the same ones who did it in elementary and middle school. Don’t wait till “OH My neighbor says that this is bad and I need to support their soap box” or the news headlines say’s it is a fight, by then it is too late. The die has been cast. The money needs to be saved. These schools need help in lots of different ways. The solution though difficult and far from perfect for everyone is already in play. It is not a fight now, it a pleading.

  • WSB January 22, 2009 (1:15 pm)

    And that is a very excellent point. But it doesn’t just go for schools. Goes for everything in local neighborhoods. We report on neighborhood meetings before, during, and after – with everything listed in our events calendar – all but begging people to get involved and show up to be part of what’s happening.

  • homesweethome January 22, 2009 (1:42 pm)

    All these fights – overlook the real problem with public education – and Washington state’s method of funding it. If you want more schools, more programs, highly specialized programs – be willing to up your property taxes and vote yes on every school funding initiative.

Sorry, comment time is over.