Chief Sealth PTSA kicks off new year hearing from new principal

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Just as Seattle Public Schools gets ready to discuss its “capacity management” plan with district families, yet another school has hit capacity – and then some.

Speaking to his school’s PTSA for the first time, new Chief Sealth International High School interim principal Chris Kinsey said the school has 1,247 students (as of just before his appearance last night), while its estimated capacity is about 50 below that.

Because of the extra enrollment, Sealth is scheduled to get up to five more teachers, Kinsey said, but he has to figure out where they would work – since the classrooms are maxed out; he said it may mean teachers must give up their classrooms during prep time. And since now-adjacent Denny International Middle School has almost 800 students, Kinsey noted, the newly colocated campus is school-day home to more than 2,000 students.

His comments, and some Q/A, were part of a wide-ranging meeting on the Sealth side of the campus Galleria last night, as Kinsey revealed that he’s even been doing some teaching as part of his new job, because of the overflow.

(Sealth principal Chris Kinsey, with PTSA member Cara Berman and PTSA president Amy Daly-Donovan)
Less than two months after starting the new job – his first as principal – Kinsey said he has “hit the ground” and is focused on “how (to) build on the successes of Chief Sealth – the attendance, the reputation.” He said it’s clear there’s a key: “The one message that comes out from our community is that we need to provide success for all of our students and all of our programs … we owe it to them. … Doesn’t matter if you’re IB [the advanced International Baccalaureate program], general education, special education, ELL [bilingual] … They will leave Chief Sealth, they will leave our homes, and they have to be prepared to live, to survive, to be successful global citizens.”

Toward that end, he said his staff is “really pushing academics in the classroom” and that his administrative team made their goal (of which he had spoken to us during the day-before-school-started Denny dedication) of personally checking out “every single classroom” at the school within the first few days of the school year.

Some of those classes have more than 40 students, he acknowledged, as he discussed the capacity-management situation, observing that Sealth’s current 1,247-person student body is more than 50 percent up from “less than 800 four years ago.”

And that brought Kinsey to another number – a “no-show rate” at the start of school that he said was 17 percent four years ago, is down to 3 percent. “The families and students (who are at Sealth) really want to be here.” Throughout the summer, Sealth had the second-highest waitlist among district high schools, and he said he hasn’t heard that it has moved.

In addition to academic success, he vowed that his staff will “celebrate our successes … wonderful things our kids are doing each and every day in the classroom.”

When Kinsey opened the floor to questions, some were easy – asking about his background before this job (that was covered in our interview with him the day his appointment was announced) – and some more direct, like the first one: Why is the school “beyond capacity?” The principal pointed out that under the district’s semi-new neighborhood-schools attendance plan, anyone in the attendance area is “entitled to come here,” and “kids are still moving in … we have to open our doors to them.”

One attendee subsequently wondered if some were giving false addresses, and if there was a system in place to verify residency; Kinsey said he would have to “get some answers” from district management about that.

Responding to another question, he said lockers are being installed shortly for storage of band instruments, which has been something of a challenge for more than a year.

After Kinsey answered the question about his background – including time teaching language arts, social studies, and science at other schools in the district – a teacher in attendance revealed that the principal is having administrators teach study-hall classes to help deal with the overcrowding, and that includes Kinsey himself. He acknowledged that he teaches “a study hall in the library with 60 to 65 kids” and had an algebra workshop as part of it just last week. It’s fun, he insisted: “Meeting and interacting with kids in an academic setting reminds me of why I became a teacher in the first place.”

Also at last night’s meeting:

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Amy Daly-Donovan, mom of a Sealth junior, is president of the PTSA again this year, and outlined four key goals, including increasing “involvement and engagement.” There’s also a membership goal: At least 300 members; before last night’s meeting, they were just below 220, she said. Other officers are vice president Sandy Sanford, treasurer Nancy Swenson, and secretary Pam Lang.

STUDENT ACTIVITIES: Sealth activities coordinator/athletics director (“almost everything that happens outside the classroom”) Sam Reed spoke to the PTSA meeting, including an anecdote about how new principal Kinsey built bridges with the senior class, who had a “strong connection” with previous longtime principal John Boyd (who is now an executive in the neighboring Highline Public Schools district). Kinsey took all the senior-class officers out to lunch, Reed revealed, saying that “energized” them and led them to rave “how cool the new principal (is).” Reed talked about the fact it’s Homecoming Week at Sealth (as announced by big banners on the Galleria walls near the meeting area), and introduced student government (ASB) president Cecilia Silva and vice president Leslie Tran, who talked about their plans to get more students involved with activities, not just those who are interested in traditional offerings such as sports. They said they hope to plan a “day of service” for the entire school, in the same inspirational vein as last year’s World Water Week. And they drew appreciative chuckles when they talked about offering an “Eighties Prom” later this fall … “For the parents!” … as a fundraiser. “If you chaperone Grad Night, we’ll chaperone ’80s Night,” Leslie promised.

GLOBAL VISIONARIES AND TEACHER CONFERENCE: The teacher who helped organize World Water Week, Noah Zeichner, had two updates for the PTSA group, including a reminder about the Global Visionaries program to travel to Guatemala, and a major regional teacher conference coming up on the Sealth campus this Saturday, with 800 attendees, Northwest Teachers for Social Justice (details here).

TEEN HEALTH CLINIC AT SEALTH: The nurse-practitioners who lead the Sealth clinic – which is operated by Neighborcare Health, not by the district – spoke briefly and answered questions. They noted that their services are mostly funded by the city Families and Education Levy (which is up for renewal and expansion in November) – and school nurse Allison Enochs added that most of her work is funded by levy proceeds too. “Healthier kids are better learners,” they declared, explaining that the clinic offers a “full range of adolescent health services,” even physical exams. One thing that surprised some parents on hand: The concept of “confidential health services” that are available to teenagers, without parental notice/consent (that’s law, not just policy), including birth control and drug/alcohol treatment. (The clinic leaders explained, in response to questions, that they counsel students seeking such services, including strongly encouraging them to talk with their parents.) Something else you might find surprising: There’s “no season for flu shots” these days – once the vaccine arrives at the clinic, they start offering the shots, and encourage “all adolescents to get them.” A second meningitis vaccination is recommended nowadays too, they said, especially before graduates head to college. How are the clinic services funded? If the student has insurance, they bill insurance, they said.


(And if you’re a West Seattle High School community member – their first meeting of the year is coming up next week, October 4th. We encourage all area PTSAs/PTAs to let us know their meeting schedules, so we can include them on the WSB West Seattle Events calendar, which means a reminder on the site’s home page the morning of the meeting. Thanks!)

3 Replies to "Chief Sealth PTSA kicks off new year hearing from new principal"

  • add September 28, 2011 (11:27 pm)

    Quick correction – the next meeting will be on December 1st at 7pm (not November). The topic will be “Navigating High School: Programs, Requirements, and Resources at Chief Sealth”. Thanks to all who attended last night’s meeting – what a great crowd!

    • WSB September 28, 2011 (11:34 pm)


  • jbar September 29, 2011 (6:06 pm)

    Here’s to Amy Daly Donovan — for giving so generously of her time and talent to enhance the Chief Sealth experience for students and their parents. The school community is very lucky to have you!

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