Happening now: School Board gets first look at proposals for boundaries, K-5 STEM, Fairmount Park, more

4:13 PM: As reported here last night, Seattle Public Schools staff is making a presentation to the School Board this afternoon with its draft proposals for a wide variety of potential changes – including boundaries, the way programs including Special Education and Advanced Learning are handled, and, of West Seattle-specific note, a permanent home for K-5 STEM and a plan for the reopening-in-2014 Fairmount Park Elementary. We’re at the meeting and will add some “live” notes as we go. (Note: Melissa Westbrook from the Seattle Schools Community Forum website is writing “live,” too, so check out that site for a districtwide perspective.)

The slide deck being used for this presentation can be seen here. (Note that this is a committee meeting, and no public testimony is being taken – see pages 4 and 5 of the slide deck for the timeline of future discussion, votes, etc.)

4:25 PM: Board member Michael DeBell asks if it’s dangerous to be discussing some of this when the funding for potential changes is not clear. Superintendent José Banda says he doesn’t think so. They’re also talking about “equitable access” – and how it means, instead of the “this school has a great X program/that school has a great Y program” district past, each school has to offer a certain level of programs (the arts, etc.). Now they are embarking on a discussion of “services,” focused on English Language Learners, Special Education, Highly Capable (gifted) programs (starting on page 12 of the slide deck). For Special Education, they are developing “new service models,” as listed on pages 13 and 14. For Highly Capable, they hope to “increase (the) number of elementary and middle-school pathways …” as opposed to the current model, which has focused the top-level program (APP – as commenter clarifies, the only legally mandated one) at just a few schools. Board member Sharon Peaslee has asked point-blank, “Does that mean splitting APP?” and district staff has asked that they be allowed to present their “data” before answering.

4:41 PM: Staff is reminding everyone that the maps in the slide deck are NOT proposed boundaries – the maps being viewed now (for the Highly Capable programs) just are serving the purpose of showing where they project in the future they’ll see concentrations of students using these programs. Peaslee asks the chicken-or-egg question – are there fewer students using the programs in some areas because the services are offered at an inconvenient distance? DeBell acknowledges, “This is going to be a contentious issue, we know that” and suggests that staff emphasize the “instructional strategy.” Board member Harium Martin-Morris wonders if spreading the program(s) to more locations means that “self-contained” classes will still be possible. Discussion also has touched on concerns that expanding APP locations will dilute and downgrade program, and it’s veered off to questions about the type of testing used to see if students qualify, as well as whether parents choose not to even have their kids tested if the program’s not available nearby.

5:03 PM: Now they’re moving to “Programs” – not mandated by law (which the three “Services” are) – starting with the second-level gifted program, Spectrum. The issue of its “mixed quality,” as board member Carr describes it, compared to “high quality” for APP, comes back up. It might be “redefined,” was also discussed.

Next: Option Schools (which currently include Pathfinder K-8 and K-5 STEM in West Seattle) – page 22 of the slide deck. One other local note here – these initial staff recommendations suggest keeping Concord in South Park as an “attendance-area international school” rather than making it a full-fledged option school.

5:27 PM: Board member Betty Patu asks for clarification on that, saying she thought any “international school” was an option school that anyone could apply to; district staff says anyone can apply to any school in the district, but admission depends on whether there’s room.

5:43 PM: Now to the STEM discussion – and the recommendation of Schmitz Park’s current building as K-5 STEM’s permanent home in 2016.

Board member Kay Smith-Blum expresses concern about the capacity of Schmitz Park, minus portables. “Because it’s an option school, we can control enrollment,” says enrollment manager Tracy Libros, who says “we would still need to have portables here …” since the SP building is low capacity without them. “In order to have a 3-up, we would need … 8 portables, but that’s like half as many as SP is going to have next year.” Smith-Blum then wonders if it’s an opportunity for “eco-portables.”

Fairmount Park’s proximity to more than 700 students, more than 440 potentially in its walk zone, is mentioned next by Libros. West Seattle school-board member Marty McLaren then asks what’s next for the FP decision. “There’s a followup meeting at the end of June,” says Libros, to be followed by decisions on “short-term and intermediate capacity management.”

And that’s it for discussion – for now, anyway – on the topic of both campuses, Schmitz Park (whose current program is slated to move into the to-be-built new Genesee Hill school in 2016) and Fairmount Park.

But wait – McLaren brings the issue back, saying it will be important, for example, for a Fairmount Park principal to be hired as soon as possible. And then, for K-5 STEM, she notes, “is there any clarity at what size we would cap (it) – would it be a year by year thing, or ?” Libros says, “That’s a question for others – but certainly, any program could grow if there’s someplace to put the students.” In other words – too soon to say.

What’s next? Along with more meetings, you can watch the new “Growth Boundaries” section on the district website, which Libros promises will have much more material added to it as time goes by.

ADDED 6:43 PM: Talking with McLaren afterward, we asked her opinion on the Schmitz Park location for K-5 STEM. “I’m fine with it,” she replied. She wasn’t sure, though, why there was no mention of plans for EC Hughes – the elementary that could reopen after Westside School (WSB sponsor) moves to its planned new location in a few years – but doesn’t know of any particular proposal for its future, so far.

42 Replies to "Happening now: School Board gets first look at proposals for boundaries, K-5 STEM, Fairmount Park, more"

  • mama3boys May 29, 2013 (4:30 pm)

    Thanks for the updates – the late notice and dragging 3 kids to be super quiet was not in the cards.

    • WSB May 29, 2013 (4:37 pm)

      Do note, I added a link to the live report from http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com – which will be more thorough than mine on the not-West-Seattle-specific topics … though I’m trying hard to catch the toplines on everything!

  • mama3boys May 29, 2013 (4:43 pm)

    THANK YOU!!!!

  • happy May 29, 2013 (4:48 pm)

    Wait a minute. The slide says:

    “Services: Highly Capable
    “For highly capable students, access to accelerated
    learning and enhanced instruction is access to a
    basic education.”
    Excerpted from
    WAC 392


    , but my kid’s principal said that the Spectrum kids are going to be integrated into all the classes in their school because, “If we have highly capable teaching, then each student will be highly capable.” Um, what? Perhaps “highly capable” individualized to each student, but sticking the really high functioning kids in with typical kids, as “examples to follow,” does a disservice to BOTH groups of kids. What a sham.

    Well, at least they have a section on special ed this time– in the past they have always left this off their plans. Guess the SpEd PTA is finally being heard? [hope,hope,hope!]

    And in case anyone is wondering, my kids are IEP, 504, Spectrum, and APP.

  • Mary May 29, 2013 (5:19 pm)

    The “highly capable” required by law is for APP. Spectrum is a program that’s optional for the district. I agree, I think Spectrum is a great program that allows kids to stay in their neighborhoods and a good alternative to APP. Unfortunately, it isn’t required, but I will advocate keeping it!

    • WSB May 29, 2013 (5:25 pm)

      I know that, as a former Spectrum parent … will doublecheck to be sure the copy is clear; thanks.

  • CSWS May 29, 2013 (5:24 pm)

    I have heard from 2 people that K-8’s will be K-5 in two years-if you hear anything about that will you mention it here please? I really hope that it’s NOT the case…..

    • WSB May 29, 2013 (5:53 pm)

      CSWS – absolutely nothing about that in this presentation.

  • Bonnie May 29, 2013 (6:02 pm)

    I heard the same about the K-8’s becoming K-5’s but it was just word of mouth.

  • Amanda May 29, 2013 (6:57 pm)

    Thanks for asking about EC Hughes Tracy.

  • StringCheese May 29, 2013 (7:21 pm)

    Tracy, thank you so much for covering this! It seems more than a bit underhanded to send out notices of such great import within less than 24 hours of the meeting. There were many STEM families who wanted to attend but were unable due to the complete lack of appropriate notice given. You are our hero again!
    If you get a chance to ask any follow-up questions in the near future, would you please ask, “Where is the data to support your recommendation? Where is the side-by-side comparison of the scenarios and their projected effects 2, 5, 10 years out?”
    If the data is truly there to support this recommendation, I will get behind it. Until then, I can’t help but believe that there were political factors pushing this forward.

  • BMC May 29, 2013 (7:44 pm)

    Does that mean k-8 schools as in Pathfinder might be changed to just k-5?? Is that what you all are referring to? thanks

  • mama3boys May 29, 2013 (8:02 pm)

    I am 100% with String Cheese – show me the data. Thank you so much for covering!

  • Outraged Parent May 29, 2013 (8:04 pm)

    Of course Marty McLaren is “fine with it.” The Schmitz family was one of the biggest funders for her campaign. McLaren doesn’t seem to care about parents or students. Personally, I would like to see a vote of no confidence in McLaren.

  • K8 May 29, 2013 (9:15 pm)

    I’d be”fine with” having someone with a backbone represent West Seattle on the school board.

  • Outraged Parent May 29, 2013 (9:29 pm)

    Tracy, I’ll look into it. I had heard that information from a number of sources. Obviously, if it is not correct I’ll retract it.

  • evergreen May 30, 2013 (12:57 am)

    K5STEM is going to be crammed somewhere due to a lack of facilities and funding. That’s just our reality, but at least we will continue as a STEM option school in WS. I think administration and the board have a tough job, for inevitably huge numbers of people will be unhappy with the outcome. We can make this work, whatever the outcome. I don’t like portables, but Schmitz Park has a wonderful natural setting for environmental studies.

    Wondering why K5STEM can’t be a neighborhood school at Fairmont Park. This could still leave potentially 250-300 seats open to those who apply.

  • Bonnie May 30, 2013 (6:44 am)

    BMC I just heard a rumor that the district is trying to do away with all K-8 schools and make them all K-5. It was just something I heard about 6 weeks ago and don’t know if it is true. Obviously since CSWS posted about it there might be some truth to it. I don’t know.

  • Heidi A May 30, 2013 (7:30 am)

    This is supposed to be the beginning of the conversation with community meetings in the Fall for real input. Yet, Marty twice mentioned an urgent need to hire a new Principal for Fairmount Park. If steps are taken to implement what is supposed to be a recommendation before the community meetings, then the promise of community in put is a farce.

    No confidence. But we should all encourage our board members to reserve judgment until we see data and the fiscal impact overall and be confident that decisions are made based on the stated “guiding principle”.

  • Fair for all kids May 30, 2013 (2:10 pm)

    We need to see the ALO program expanded to ALL schools in West Seattle to allow ALL gifted kids to get appropriate education.

  • Heidi A May 30, 2013 (3:10 pm)

    For those that asked about K-5 STEM PTA’s response, we have posted the executive board’s initial questions and comments to our website http://www.k5stempta.org

    The district has adopted “guiding principles” for making these decisions, so our comments are organized around those. Those principles are published here on the district’s growth boundaries. At this stage, we are simply asking that these truly be considered and that the decision is not just based on the squeaky wheel syndrome.

    The Arbor Heights community and those on the waitlist hoping to join it should carefully look at this as well. If we are co-located at Boren, Arbor Heights cannot grow to the new capacity it will have. Classroom space and logistics will be big issues – have you seen the tiny playground at Boren? How are two schools going to get fair time in the library, gym, etc.? Lots to be worked out if that happens and I am cynical given our experience that there will be any district help to support co-location. It’s just throw them together and let them sort it out. Not that we would not welcome Arbor Heights and try to make it work, I just think it will raise some big problems and costs.

    On the other hand, if K-5 STEM leaves Boren, Arbor Heights can grow with its invigorated curriculum and anticipated size. There’s an easier solution that benefits both schools and West Seattle as a whole by having a central option school at Fairmount Park that straddles both middle school service areas.

  • pagefive May 30, 2013 (6:17 pm)

    Thank you for sharing the K-5 STEM PTA’s response, Heidi A. Very rational and well articulated observations and questions for SPS. Appreciate the information about how we can make our voices heard, too!

  • NotAHave May 30, 2013 (6:37 pm)


    If STEM moves to Schmitz Park, wouldn’t the relocated STEM share Schmitz Park’s geozone?

    Wouldn’t that mean that the residents of the SP area would get to choose between two dynamic Singapore Math based programs… while the rest of us sweat it out, vying for the leftovers?

    How is it fair to double down in the most economically advantaged area of West Seattle, instead of providing support and OPPORTUNITIES in the ‘have not’ areas – – like the current STEM geo zone???

    …I find this to be a deal breaker for the discussion of placing STEM at Schmitz Park. It’s providing yet another educational opportunity to families who could go to SP (and who are, based on their addresses, most likely to be able to afford private options). Disgusting.

  • beef May 30, 2013 (11:23 pm)

    Thanks Heidi A. I appreciate the response letter from the PTA. Reads well and points out the obvious problems with the school district’s plan as it has been initially presented.

    It would be interesting to see what data led them to the Fairmount Park as a neighborhood school.

    One other question – what is the SPS going to do with EC Hughes?

  • Delridge Mom May 31, 2013 (6:50 am)

    NotaHave, the district is planning to replace Everyday Math in the next 2-3 years. I absolutely agree with you on this issue though. The district talks about equity, but curriculum equity is a joke when you allow schools with wealthy PTA’s to buy a better curriculum and/or pay for new schools like stem to have a different/better math curriculum. I believe all of the north end “wealthier” West Seattle schools except for Pathfinder and Gatewood will have an alternative math curriculum as of next year. It is frustrating to see that while the teachers at my kid’s school have to cobble together a functional curriculum because Everyday Math is so bad. If you care about the math curriculum start paying attention now, write letters to the district, push for a curriculum change sooner in middle school (which has to wait longer than k5 at this point). At any rate, you make a very valid point. I am also sure this is one of the reasons AH is being turned into a STEAM school.

  • Heidi A May 31, 2013 (8:46 am)

    NotaHave and Delridge mom – please make your voices heard. NotaHave, you are exactly right. We have an opportunity to place a great option school in a central, diverse location that can serve approximately 500 kids with the geozone around West Seattle Elementary (the current geo-zone). K-5 STEM is diverse and we would like to keep it this way. We have worked hard to raise funds for scholarships for lego robotics club, buy basics that all kids need, stock the uniform closet, and be inclusive (all of us on the executive board live south of the junction or east of 35th).

    But instead of the solution that seems to be one that would provide the most equitable access to a great school, the district recommends that it be placed far north with the ability to serve maybe 300 (unless more kids are shoved into portables). What definition of equitable access is the district using?

    Yesterday, Marty McClaren told me that she believes Fairmount Park as a neighborhood school is what the “majority” of WS wants. Hmmm, how did she come to that conclusion when the recommendation was released Monday evening and there has not been a single community meeting regarding this???

    I have the privilege of owning a car, I can go to Marty’s community meetings and board meetings, Lafayette and Schmitz Park are well represented. Rarely is there anyone from east of 35th Many of those schools don’t have PTAs and the same affluence, so their voices aren’t being counted in the “majority”.

    Yes, we should strive to improve all neighborhood schools. But, the thing lost in translation is that K-5 STEM, as a distinct school, is not just about better science and math. I loved our neighborhood school, our teachers were great, supplementing math and science – but my son was not engaged and said he hated school (in the first grade). His teacher said he would do well with project based learning.

    What is different about our K-5 STEM school is the decision to make it a project based learning school. My son’s prior teacher was right, he is thriving and there is a light in his face at the end of the day when he’s telling me about class projects and how much he loves his school. I want all schools to have good math and science, but some kids learn differently and we could serve a lot more struggling kids who would do well with an alternative approach at a building with a capacity for 500.

    Ok, off my soap box, but we are frustrated by talking to brick walls while we point out the lack of data, inconsistent and shifting rationales, cost considerations, and equity.

  • StringCheese May 31, 2013 (1:00 pm)

    Well said Heidi A!

  • StringCheese May 31, 2013 (6:58 pm)

    A piece that continues to get overlooked is WHY STEM wants to expand. Aside from the fact that we are absolutely thrilled with the curriculum, instructors, and project-based learning and feel as many children as possible should have access, there is the economic reality that we NEED more students.
    Staff positions are allocated based upon enrollment numbers. Do you know why we don’t have art this year? We aren’t funded for it! A very tough decision was made by the design team in choosing between music and art. Music was picked because it seemed that art might more easily be added by teachers in the classroom. It wasn’t and isn’t a matter of wanting. It is a matter of fact.
    To be a successful STEM school, you need tech and science specialists as well. How does a school get the extra staffing they need? They ask the PTA! Those of you from Schmitz, GW, AH, that say we should be happy to stay small, how much did your PTA raise and fund this year? Last year? I’m guessing it is more than the $20K we were able to raise during our direct give. Auction, you say? We couldn’t have an auction. Auctions take money up-front. We began the school year with maybe $200 in the bank. And, no, we do not qualify for extra Title I funds.
    Our only option for many years down the road is to function as best we can within the system. To meet our vision and achieve our strategic plan, we need to be able to grow. The demand is there.
    So, before you say that we should be happy remaining smaller, take an honest look at where all of your school’s arts and extracurriculars are coming from. Look at your school numbers and find out how many PCP (specialist) positions you are allocated by the district. If you had to choose between art and music, what would you do? If you were a school with a focus on German, don’t you think that you should have funds to access someone with special knowledge of German?
    We are trying to work within the system. Growth is our only option at this point unless you know any corporate donors that want to grant us money and supplies…
    Here’s a link to the Weighted Staff Standards. The formula is at the bottom of page 2. Keep in mind that, by law, 1.0 FTE must go toward PE to meet state requirements:

  • AH Parent May 31, 2013 (8:25 pm)

    I don’t remember any community meetings either. I don’t recall much after the Levy proposals and don’t remember any about the future of Fairmont Park.

    Questions – What geozone would STEM serve at FP and would it still be West Seattle Elem.? Where do the kids in FP neighborhood go to school now? Could STEM at FP be a geozone for GW and West Seattle Elem?

  • StringCheese May 31, 2013 (10:27 pm)

    AH Parent, they can make the geo-zone whatever they want it to be. They like to say they follow a strict set of guidelines but there are exceptions, like Pathfinder, that do not follow at all. If it did, the entire Lafayette attendance area would be the geo-zone for Pathfinder. Logic would dictate that the geo-zones be equivalent to the walk-zones to encourage more people within walking distance to attend and reduce transportation costs… Apparently not.

  • Rachel June 3, 2013 (10:04 pm)

    How can we tell exactly where the boundaries fall – which specific streets?

    • WSB June 3, 2013 (10:15 pm)

      The proposed boundaries haven’t been set yet, nor have even draft versions been made public yet.

  • resident June 3, 2013 (10:13 pm)

    Who’s to say K-STEM wouldn’t be housed in the new arbor heights building when it’s reopened? It will house 650 kids, and it’s also going to be a eSTEM school. Seems odd to have TWO STEM schools. Doesn’t it?

  • george June 3, 2013 (10:58 pm)

    No one put a gun to your head and said “Go To STEM”. YOU made the choice, knowing full well what pitfalls lay ahead. So don’t go throwing stones at other neighborhoods who cough up plenty of tax dollars to support all the schools. And PTA dollars don’t just fall into their laps. Its not all fancy, smancy families that live in the northern school zone. A lot of hard working, blue collar folks who believed in the sacrifices it would take to find suitable housing (its not all expensive, over the top mansions in case you haven’t noticed) so as to benefit their childrens education. YOU had the choice, don’t go shooting off at other poeple about “how poor” the situation at STEM is. East of 35th? right….

  • 2boyzmama June 3, 2013 (11:55 pm)

    To AH Parent Above: “Where to FP kids go to school now?” The answer from a FP neighborhood parent: We go to Lafayette where we luckily lottery’d in the year FP closed. Then, our ref became High Point. . .then West Seattle. . .now Gatewood. It’s been ridiculous! Our youngest now goes to Lafayette too, but would happily transfer to FP if it becomes STEM. Our neighbor kids are like dust in the wind…Alki, Schmitz Park, Gatewood, Thurgood Marshall, Westside, Community School, etc. My sincere hope is that they bring STEM to FP school as it will finally stabilize this neighborhood in terms of a school. I agree with all comments that putting another privileged school in the north section of W. Seattle is a poor idea. Put the option school in the middle with better access to ALL (not just North) West Seattle.

  • george June 4, 2013 (9:39 am)

    Let’s not forget Pathfinder was in this “prvileged” neighborhood at one time. Was there anger then? No, anger that it was moving away from the area. Make no mistake, I agree that FP is THE BEST location for STEM.

  • Kim June 4, 2013 (1:05 pm)

    Fwiw, AH is not title one, we also had to choose between music and art, and a lot of our auction funds go to pay for things like computers and whiteboards and things other schools already have because they’re not still using facilities that have remained relatively unchanged and neglected for 60+ years.

  • StringCheese June 4, 2013 (1:29 pm)

    george, I don’t understand where you anger is coming from. The proposal is out there to keep STEM small. I explained why small isn’t an option for success. The “twilight zone” of funding for us is a reality. I do not fault anyone for making educational choices for the benefit of their children.
    I honestly believe that very few people truly understand how school funding works and how federal dollars and PTA funds play a role in what schools are able to offer. I know that I didn’t fully understand it until I was sitting on a Building Leadership Team trying to find dollars for all of the things that families want and, in many instances, things that were promised by the district to the design team and then never appeared. I believe that our internal fundraising efforts were also hampered by the fact that our own families don’t understand that a lot of the things that people have taken for granted in their prior schools were actually funded through federal assistance and/or PTA efforts.
    No one said anything about “fancy, smancy”. No one doubts that there is a wide variety of socio-economic realities for families living in the north end. No one is trying to debate that. However, what you can also not debate is that the north end schools have been able to raise substantial amounts of money through their PTAs. Nor do I begrudge any of these communities for their success. Why is it suddenly wrong to point out that not every school has the resources in their parent communities to achieve funding on the same scale? We are not asking anyone to take money from their neighborhood school and give it to us. We are asking for the ability to grow so that we can have greater access to district resources.
    No one at STEM is angry at anyone’s success. We are a strong, vibrant, and enthusiastic community. Our students are thriving and our 5 year strategic plan is outstanding. We are on a great path. We also recognize the harsh realities of our current situation. Again, we are trying to achieve what we need by working in the district system. We know that we do not currently have the ability to raise the funds we need to hire extra staff. However, we can still achieve our goals by successfully growing. Why does this anger you?

  • WS Jade June 6, 2013 (5:19 pm)

    I think I may have missed something…but if FP is taken over by STEM, what will happen to the current Schmitz park school? Will that be a neighborhood school along with Shmitz Park at Genessee ( or whatever they will call it?) I know the AH school has already looked at how they will co-house with STEM for two years at the Boren building, so I think that the “plan’ to move STEM to Schmitz Park in three years is more an idea that is moving forward rather than just a proposal.

  • StringCheese June 7, 2013 (11:41 pm)

    That is what we’d like to see, WS Jade. Leave Schmitz Park open as a small neighborhood school (functioning within its intended capacity) and open the Genesee Hill building as a neighborhood school as well. That way, you are opening the most seats where they are most needed. Adjusting the boundaries in a common sense fashion would alleviate capacity issues for Gatewood, Alki, Lafayette, and Schmitz. With the expansion of AH, a common sense redraw of boundaries would alleviate any capacity issues in the south and allow Roxhill to escape its crumbling building and take over EC Hughes when Westside vacates the campus.

Sorry, comment time is over.