Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The coffee chat at High Point Community Center tonight with Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson was fast-paced, and a little short on information for some.
The chat, mostly in a question-answer format, was cut off at exactly 8 p.m., after barely an hour. The meeting was the last in a series of chats Goodloe-Johnson has held throughout the city this month.
The main focus of the gathering was on the student assigned-attendance-area plan that was approved by the school district board in June. The plan goes into effect next September. Maps outlining school attendance areas will be unveiled on Tuesday.
The assignment plan will affect students starting new schools, in kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade. Other students will likely remain at the schools they are currently attending — that is the plan for the time being, at least.
Goodloe-Johnson said there are still a lot of details to be worked out in the transition phase.
Some parents at the High Point meeting were concerned about siblings being forced to attend different schools. Others were worried that their children’s education would suffer at schools with low achievement levels.
“The siblings issues hasn’t been decided yet,” said Goodloe-Johnson. “We can’t promise that siblings will be together at the same schools.”
She encouraged parents to attend community-engagement meetings that are scheduled in October. The first West Seattle meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 15, at 6:30 pm at West Seattle High School; the next night, Friday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 pm, there will be a meeting at Denny Middle School.
The new assignment plan, focused on placing students in schools in their own neighborhoods, will create predictability and feeder systems, as well as bring access and equity to all schools through more parent participation, she said.
But parents remained concerned that schools in affluent neighborhoods would benefit from the plan, and schools in poor communities would suffer.
“We are putting systems in place,” said Goodloe-Johnson. “What has been missing is accountability.”
She also said more money can be given from the district to schools where students have more needs.
Some parents said they were frustrated by the district’s broken promises. They noted that an announcement for the meeting said translators would be provided. Although High Point has a large Somali population, no Somali translator was available. About six Somali-speaking parents were among the 18 people at the meeting.
“You promise a lot and you don’t provide it,” said one woman, who later added. “This was just one more example of it tonight.”
Goodloe-Johnson said the district’s deficit, which was $34 million last year, has been reduced – in large part by eliminating 49 school buses – but the budget projections show a shortfall for two more years.
“Because we are not fully funded by the state, the deficit will continue,” said Goodloe-Johnson. “Public education is not fully funded statewide.”
Parents also told the schools superintendent that they were concerned about the lack of education their children are receiving, with overcrowded classrooms, and kindergarten-level work in the second grade.