‘Thank you a hundred times over’: Friends of Gatewood postscript

(WSB photo: Gatewood Elementary, SW Myrtle side)
Three and a half hours after publishing our Wednesday update on the Friends of Gatewood “keep a teacher” fundraising drive, we updated it with the official district announcement that the drive had met its goal. But the final word comes from the parents who organized and took action so quickly, and their public message of gratitude:

Today we received the wonderful news that we raised enough funds to keep our teacher that ensures that there will be no relocation on October 10th as the district letter originally mandated. Friends of Gatewood raised $66,758.52, the Go Fund Me account that was created last night raised around $1000. The online donation site will be closed since we met our goal.

This accomplishment is shared with many, many people with our school, West Seattle and supporters beyond. The vigor, concern and passion expressed by so many people made this goal a reality; the process exemplifies that improvements need to be made in many areas, that the problems are real and complex, and that our students and teachers will not take the brunt of the inadequacies of an imperfect public school system.

All schools are unique by virtue of the individuals who occupy them. Gatewood Elementary’s infrastructure is more unique than the typical public elementary school. We stand by our students’ needs and our teachers to set them up for success. Thank you a hundred times over for answering the call for help.

With gratitude,
Friends of Gatewood
Nicole Sipila
Laura Kincade
Natasha Turcinovic-Hissong

Previous WSB coverage:
Wednesday 10/8
Monday 10/6
Saturday 10/4
Friday 10/3
First report, Thursday 10/2

27 Replies to "'Thank you a hundred times over': Friends of Gatewood postscript "

  • GW Dad October 9, 2014 (6:26 am)

    Thank you to these wonderful Lady’s for there tireless effort and no quitting attitude, and to the teachers for the love they show our kids.

  • Nutmeg October 9, 2014 (7:25 am)

    My son is in 1st grade @ GW & would have been directly affected if the transfer took place. I am so incredibly grateful for all of the hard work & support from the parents, staff & W Sea community. Reaching this goal was truly amazing!! Thank you to everyone who sacrificed & donated to help our kids, and save our teacher!

  • Sarah October 9, 2014 (7:47 am)

    Food for thought: A single military drone costs 12.5 million dollars. We could hire (at the $90,000 price tag Gatewood was hit with by SPS) 138 teachers.

  • joel October 9, 2014 (7:49 am)

    great job on raising the money….should NEVER have had to do that though. let’s remember when Biden’s plane touches down today it’s going to cost Seattle $45k in extra expense. the city chooses to not be reimbursed by the DNC for their expenses. How many times have Biden and Obama been in town over the past years?….each time it costs $45k which the city elects to not get reimbursed. That money could be used to pay these teachers……nice priorities Seattle has in place.

  • goodgraces October 9, 2014 (9:20 am)

    I am happy that the students and teachers will not need to be moved around and forced to adjust to new situations; this is a great resolution.

    However, many questions remain, and I am hopeful that the WSB will pursue answers for all of us. Namely:

    1) $66,758.52 was raised, yet what became of the “$90K” that the district claimed was needed to save the teacher?

    2) Can anyone speak to the “legality” of individual schools supplementing their staff out of their own pockets (like Gatewood has done here)? Many commenters have questioned the ethics of this (because it leads to inequity in schools in the district).

    2a) Do ceilings exist for this kind of school-by-school fundraising? And is there any kind of fundraising “pooling” that occurs? If not, then what is to prevent individual schools from becoming in essence “private schools” in terms of the amount of resources they offer to students in elite neighborhoods in the city? I realize that this already goes on by way of “Direct Give” campaigns and other PTA-sponsored fundraising activities (auctions, etc.) And so disparity already exists in the schools in the district. I’m just curious how far a school could technically go to customize the experiences for “their” children.

    I really hope that the Gatewood experience will function as a springboard for greater understanding and transparency about these types of issues. My fear is that now that the status quo has been (literally) purchased by well-meaning folks in our commnuity, these larger concerns will simply fade quietly into the night . . . only to rear their head when yet another crisis inevitably occurs next year, and the year after.

  • J October 9, 2014 (9:33 am)

    I don’t expect these Gatewoid advocates to fade quietly away. They have mobilized quickly for the short -term solution, and built an organized, empowered coalition ready to advocate for changing policy affecting all of Seattle’s school children and teachers.

  • Robert F October 9, 2014 (9:48 am)

    I’m glad they were able to do this. Still, let’s not forget that schools aren’t charities. Every time I see a school billboard thanking a local business for its contributions, I’m reminded of our larger failure to provide basic needs. It’s tragic.

  • Chris October 9, 2014 (9:49 am)

    I’m glad Gatewood was able to do this but what happens with Fairmount Park? Wasn’t it determined that they needed another teacher to address a higher than expected enrollment?

    • WSB October 9, 2014 (9:50 am)

      Hi – that’s in our earlier story (see link in this one, Wednesday 10/8). Marty McLaren said at Tuesday night’s meeting that FP gets extra funding from the state for extra students (and Gatewood gets less from the state for fewer students), and that they are hiring a teacher. I linked the job listing in the story. – TR

  • AG October 9, 2014 (9:57 am)

    The SPS’s budget is $600 mil. Enough to educate our students well. The problem is, the district is too big, and it is filled with layers of bureaucracy that make it inefficient. I’m a public school teacher and I experience the large class sizes due to revenue decisions by the district. The most important component to education is teachers, and the student to teacher ratio is too high to reach every student, especially with the variation in learning abilities. I am also a GW parent, and I appreciate the efforts to keep the teachers that are there. It is a great school with wonderful and dedicated teachers.

  • gary October 9, 2014 (11:13 am)

    I feel sad for the other WS schools that can’t even raise $50,000 for their PTA fund.

  • JanS October 9, 2014 (12:37 pm)

    Gary, I do , too…Highland Park Elementary comes to mind.

    If the state provides extra funds for overcrowded FP school so a teacher can be hired, why didn’t they do that in the first place, so as to avoid all of this?

  • Heidi A October 9, 2014 (12:39 pm)

    I am so happy for Gatewood, but still outraged that they had to break the US policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Seriously, I don’t think that’s an overly dramatic description. This is nothing short of a ransom held over the heads of hardworking families and teachers.

    The district does have a budget of $600, but that’s the budget – not the amount of funds available. And who knows if that number is really adequate to educate our children. Our State Supreme Court, in the McClearly decision, held that the per pupil method of funding is arbitrary and our state/districts have not actually assessed what it takes to educate children. The per pupil method is what drives schools to open their waitlists and recruit more. Some overhead is the same everywhere, all elementary schools need counselors but you only get them and other resources at a certain size.

    A lot of people have posted their opinions on these topics with passion. If you stand by your comments about the inequities and broken systems, get involved. It’s easy to post on a blog. But just as easy to email the Superintendent, your state reps, the mayor and city council and board members. Attend the public meetings. Make your opinions be known where it matters. We can sit idly by now that the urgent issue is resolved, guaranteeing that the issues won’t be addressed, or we can keep the pressure on to demand that these issues be fixed before they create urgencies and hardships on families.

    Nicole, Natasha, and Laura – you rock!

  • skeeter October 9, 2014 (3:47 pm)

    When I go to work, I ask myself “who am I accountable to?” The answer? The person who pays my salary. Which makes me wonder who this extra teacher is accountable to.

    Gatewood is a private school, at least to a certain extent, in that the parents pay for a teacher directly instead of the teacher being paid by the tax pool. It really is a fascinating story with very far reaching implications for the future.

  • gary October 9, 2014 (3:48 pm)

    The Highland Park’s, Sanislo’s, Roxhill’s, West Seattle El., AH, STEM can only dream what its like to pop $65,000 in a single week for an extra teacher. Must feel good. Whether the system is broken or not, it still comes down to demographics. You either have it, or you don’t.

    And, lets get rid of this stupid Oct. 1st enrollment cutoff. You’re either in or you’re out.

  • Heidi A October 9, 2014 (4:21 pm)

    1. The money is given to the school district’s general fund. The school district pays the teacher from its general fund. No teacher is being paid directly through these funds. Another way to look at this is that it’s for a teacher at Fairmount Park. Does that make Fairmount Park a private school? Nope, just means the district isn’t managing tax payer resources to the extent they have to demand this ransom.

    2. Who should teachers be accountable to? Their clients, the students they are there to serve. I don’t know any teacher who takes on this tough job with any other belief about who they are “accountable” to. Raising money to pay a ransom to the district doesn’t change that. My son’s kindergarten teacher (when he was at Gatewood), once said “I’m here to serve my clients who come through my door as they are.” It’s something that stuck with me as a testament to Gatewood’s inclusion philosophy.

  • Sarah October 9, 2014 (6:26 pm)

    goodgraces and other who commented on parents funding teachers: parents and PTA’s have ALWAYS been funding schools out-of-pocket! School auctions at Gatewood and other schools have for ever been using their funds to offset ginormous class sizes by off-setting the costs of more teachers. Art programs also are funded, often, by PTA’s. The inequity of using property taxes as a means for funding schools is in and of itself the evil denominator. Parents are left scrambling after crumbs when the funding of education (state and federal) is circumnavigated by military and other over-budgeted non-socially responsibly and helpful programs. (See my post at the beginning.) It’s not eachother we need be bickering with but the systemic negligence of education by our country.

  • joel October 9, 2014 (11:01 pm)

    sales tax revenue is up, there is full employment in Seattle, home prices are up, property taxes have been increased, homes are selling, people are moving to Seattle, businesses are being built with increased employment……all of these items mean more revenue for city, county and state yet they are always crying broke? where does it all go?

  • skeeter October 10, 2014 (8:09 am)

    I didn’t realize it was customary for parents to fund teacher positions in public schools. Thanks Heidi.

    I’m still not convinced we underfund education. SPS is spending over $11,000 per student. Perhaps those dollars don’t end up in the classroom though.

  • gary October 10, 2014 (8:59 am)

    Sorry Sarah. While I believe in education, enlarging a class room by a few students outweighs seeing them get slaughtered, kidnapped, executed by drug lords and going hungry. We have a great life here and its hard to complain about losing one teacher in the face of whats happening overseas and Mexico.

  • nbc October 10, 2014 (9:31 am)

    From Wednesday’s Seattle Times article:

    It’s common for PTAs across the city to raise money to pay for librarians, counselors and instructors in music, art and language, said Katherine Schomer, president of the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations.

    She tallied it up a few years ago and estimates that PTAs are kicking in about $3 million a year to help staff Seattle Public Schools.

  • xyz October 10, 2014 (10:54 am)

    Gary – I second that. Failed to see the ’emergency situation’ here. Student and teacher shifting happens all the time..

    I hope the GW parents realize that now SPS will likely send new students to their classrooms because by district standards they have room and are not full.

    When you think about what you can do with 60 or 90 thousand dollars … I hope they feel its worth it at the end of the year..

  • wsk October 10, 2014 (11:52 am)

    I recommend everyone interested in this topic read the Seattle Times article that was published on Wednesday — it gave a clearer picture of how fundraising at schools has worked and is working. Is it ideal? No. Do we need massive change in the public school system and greater accountability? Yes. Public schools raising additional funds has ALWAYS been. I certainly remember PTA fundraisers at my public elementary school 30+ years ago. And as the beneficiary of those fundraisers and of a good public education despite flaws and struggles, I feel obligated to pay it forward. And while there’s a place for pointing fingers, those fingers don’t teach the first graders sitting in classrooms right now how to read.

    And I agree, it would be wonderful for schools such as Highland Park, Sanislo, Roxhill, etc. to raise a similar amount of funds for their PTA. I challenge everyone who has climbed on a high horse on this topic to get out their checkbooks and write a check to those PTAs right now.

  • Gatewood Mom October 10, 2014 (8:51 pm)

    I was appalled when the announcement came out. It seemed like an unreachable goal. I am amazed that it was achieved. Thank you to everyone who helped and I hope this doesn’t happen again.

  • SPS Parent and SPS employee October 11, 2014 (10:30 am)

    Yes, SPS has problems. Please remember that public education in this state is criminally underfunded. The state Supreme Court has found the legislature in contempt of the McCleary case decision. You can’t get blood from a turnip.

    I have children who attend a high SES school, and I’ve worked in low income schools for 15 years. The disparity between the two is mind boggling. And it is due directly to the extra funds and time donated by parents who have it to give. It’s great that those of us who are educated, have food security and stable housing can do that for our kids. It’s great that we can make that choice. Wealth is an extremely relative concept.

    I’m not sure what makes Gatewood’s “infrastructure more unique,” maybe the EBD kids (for whom the state provides extra funding)? I think it was meant that the community is unique, which it is. I wholeheartedly agree that all schools are unique communities. I applaud the passion of the Gatewood, and wider West Seattle community, who have made this happen.

    I urge voters to vote YES on Initiative 1351 in November. THIS is exactly what it’s about. ALL of our students deserve smaller class sizes.

  • TFT October 12, 2014 (10:05 pm)

    Kudos to the parents that spearheaded the fundraising! Our WS community is amazing!
    Our SPS district leaders, however are not. If you think auctions and fundraising to buy teachers to lower class sizes, etc happens in other districts, you are wrong. This is not the norm in other districts; SPS just does not manage their funds well enough to fund schools properly. There should have been communication within the region of WS long before this mess happened as well. We need to put pressure on the district to change their practices.

Sorry, comment time is over.