Students campaign to keep wood-shop class from chopping block

(WSB photos)

In the photo are Elliott, Jennifer, Diana, and Jennifer. They are Chief Sealth International High School seniors, and they have spent the past few days collecting hundreds of signatures in support of the school’s wood-shop class, which they say they have learned is in danger of being cut.

The school’s budget and staffing decisions for next year will be made soon, and while no decisions have been finalized yet, the students want to make sure the class is kept; they contacted us to let us know about the petition drive, and met us in the rain, off-campus, after school on Wednesday afternoon.

Wood shop, they explained, is the last shop class at Sealth. Teacher Nan Johnson is an inspiration, they told us, mentoring students, giving them the chance to express their creativity while mastering real-world skills during the wood-shop work – calculating measurements, using tools, overseeing projects. Elliott showed us a pen that students often make:


(The pens were also featured in this story from our archives.) She said she’s been building a chicken coop, too.

All of the students who spoke with us said it would be a mistake to remove this class from the curriculum – and remember, they’re seniors, so they’re campaigning on behalf of students coming up behind their class. What they’re seeking now is community support. They’re continuing to circulate paper petitions for signatures at school; as of today, we’re told, they had collected more than 400 signatures. They also have an online campaign going, with almost 200 names and a space for community comments – find it here. The final decision is expected next Wednesday; we’ll be following up.

40 Replies to "Students campaign to keep wood-shop class from chopping block"

  • dsa March 10, 2016 (10:30 pm)

    Signed, thanks for the opportunity to help this way.  Good luck.

  • Trickycoolj March 10, 2016 (10:42 pm)

    Signed! It’s asinine to cut a class that teaches valuable beginner skills in the basics of mechanics and engineering in an area where the community college down the street was just donated a brand new 777 airplane engine! 

  • Jeannie March 11, 2016 (12:16 am)

    Happy to sign this petition!

  • Kipseawa March 11, 2016 (1:00 am)

    Signed! Help keep the arts alive in all schools!!

  • kg March 11, 2016 (3:04 am)

    I think this is an excellent idea to foster a relationship between the SPS and the Trade Unions in Seattle.

    Union members could step up to teach in the classroom/shop classes.

    Hopefully, professional certificates could be earned by students. This would be non negotiable.

    Of course this would require a little thinking outside of the box and break with the traditional certificate earning process.

  • Andy March 11, 2016 (4:46 am)

    It would be a real shame to eliminate this class. I took wood shop for a semester while I was in high school. I learned lots practical knowledge about the proper use of tools and safety that has served me well as a home owner. Keep this class!

  • KAP March 11, 2016 (5:15 am)

    Both of my kids had very positive experiences in this class, and not just related to woodworking. Nan is fabulous!

  • Nora March 11, 2016 (6:01 am)

    Signed! That was my favorite class in high school. It taught me some very practical skills, and I still have some of my projects.

  • Marianne March 11, 2016 (6:34 am)

    I will sign too!  Great job students for speaking up for what you need/want/believe in.  The budgets for the 2016-2017 school year in SPS are ugly.  There is no money for counselors, nurses are being cut, assistant principals are not allocated unless the school is very large.  It looks worse than it has in years.

  • Marko March 11, 2016 (6:37 am)

    A class that gets a kid in school is a class that helps them stay in school. Let there be opportunities for students to express their talents. It’s good for the brain.

  • Delfino, Class of '78 March 11, 2016 (7:11 am)

    My -shop training at Denny and Chief Sealth has served me well.  I learned how to handle tools and gained a sence of confidence that allowed me to graduate with honors.  It led to me being hired at Boeing and ultimately brought me back to Chief Sealth.  There is talk that the old skills learned in shop aren’t of any value today.  I beg to differ!  Because of the skills and confidence I learned in shop classes, I don’t call the mechanic when my car breaks down, I call the auto parts store.  When something need repair, I dont call a contractor, I call the hardware store.  Mr Horst and Mr McGinley played no small role in my deciding to come back to Chief Sealth where I have been a staff member for the past 30 years.  I have seen so many students benefit from wood shop, in so many ways.  This our last hands on shop class.  It cant be eliminated!  Please sign the petition and share your story.   Proud member of Class of ’78

  • jessica lhotka March 11, 2016 (7:55 am)

    Class of 2006- we support you fully

  • rob March 11, 2016 (8:08 am)

     maybe if SPS were to cut back on the cost of these new monuments to  architects as in these new schools they mite have the money to keep a class like this up an running. Not everyone can be a computer tec or a brain surgeon. As a contractor it is getting harder and harder to find young talent  to come into the trades. In todays world  swinging a hammer for a living is considered  a last resort  to earn a living.      . Metal shop wood shop auto shop are all super important.   Remember that when something breaks at your house someone needs to fix it.  Keep this class open  

  • TheKing March 11, 2016 (8:16 am)

    It’s too bad these classes are the first to go. Even basic automotive skills aren’t being taught to kids with a drivers license. I had a kid in his early 20’s ask me if I knew how to change a flat tire at the Burien Fred Meyer!? Every student will not be going to college, as upsetting as it may be to the parents, trades lead you down many paths.

  • Jake March 11, 2016 (8:36 am)

    Question – does Chief Sealth have one of the race & equity teams that were supposed to be part of the teachers contract after the strike? As I understand it, those teams can review decisions like this from the point of view of what the impact is on students of color and Native students. 

    • Delfino, Class of '78 March 11, 2016 (5:47 pm)


      We do have the Race and Equity Team at Chief Sealth.  I am on the Budget Committee, Race and Equity team and Building Leadership Team.  The proposal was brought to the Budget Committee by at least three members and ignored. One area I plan to follow up on

  • Sarah March 11, 2016 (8:43 am)

    Fine arts, crafts, applied arts, music, dance, and drama classes Increase attendance, Increase student happiness — and most importantly — Increase test scores.

    So why-oh-why do the Arts get the ax when, in fact, the Arts boost test scores more than any other program?  And isn’t this the goal of the bean counters? The irony is appalling.

  • John March 11, 2016 (10:10 am)

    I too have fond memories of wood shop, drafting class and metal shop all at Denny in the mid sixties.  

    These opportunities educated me far beyond their scope, fomented a discerning eye and dovetailed with many later experiences.

    How about some of the West Seattle tradespeople who have benefited from these programs get involved? 

  • Mirabella March 11, 2016 (10:28 am)

    In a male dominated trade, it is great to see that this class is not only taught by a female, it’s being fought for by females.  Please share this story and help these students keep this opportunity available for future generations!

    • Delfino, Class of '78 March 11, 2016 (8:18 pm)

      Mirabella ,

      Nan is a special person running a special program.  I hope many more students get to experience her .

  • Seaweedtoasted March 11, 2016 (11:46 am)

    I met The woodshop teacher, Nan, at the school auction this year. She donated a handmade solid wood body guitar and mentioned that the students were learning to make guitars too! Amazing. I know many Freshman that want to take woodshop, but it’s not open to Freshman for some reason… I think the shop size has been decreased too? I’m part of the Family Engagement Action Team and I hope I can find more info about this class. Also, good point about the racial equity initiative… I bet this will affect more students of color and also the progress made by Girls!

  • NW March 11, 2016 (12:56 pm)

    Signed great job keep up the service to our community! 

  • Jose Arreola March 11, 2016 (2:30 pm)

    I was in this class for 3 years. With Ms. Nan one awesome person who I see as another mom/mentor. This class is probably the most essential to life other than math and reading because it builds confidence, maturity, shows you how much potential one has. That if you put you’re mind and work and skills together you can really archive big things. Also to be proud of what your made of. It will be the biggest mistake the board would do if they eliminate this class. You will be eliminating the future builders of the nation. The future craft designers and architectst. What’s a city with no buildings a town. YES TO WOODSHOP

  • nomothete March 11, 2016 (2:42 pm)

    Signed and passing on to fellow woodworkers.

  • Samuella March 11, 2016 (3:07 pm)

    Signed and distributed.

  • Anne Van Meter March 11, 2016 (4:53 pm)

    As a middle school math teacher in a district where both shop and home ec were cut, I can tell you that those subject areas are sorely missed by students, parents, and teachers. They were the only classes where students were able to use all of the math skills I’d been working with them to develop. The life skills they learned were useful and gave students confidence. For other students, it was a first taste of a skill that would lead them to the Vo-Tech school for culinary arts, fashion design, carpentry, auto repair, and HVAC. These classes are useful and necessary!

  • Michael J Lawson March 11, 2016 (5:19 pm)

    Nan has been around a long time and has spent a lot of her tenure on the edge of the budget chopping block. This is ridiculous.  She has brought all the skills you want your children to learn, as well as the intangible skills that woodshop fosters and develops; accuracy, safety, group learning, time and material management, community service, etc. The list really goes on forever. I am prejudiced because I am one of the other 2 woodshop teachers left in the district @ the HS level. I work @ Franklin and am blessed by the support of my admin, who recognize that what I bring to the table has value in our lives, our students lives and to our communities fabric. Unfortunately there is a lack of vision on the part of SSD leadership. I say this because 20 years ago when I got my dream job there were shops of all sorts in the district. Every HS and MS had @ least one opportunity for kids to see if they had an aptitude for things like this, but one by one they have disappeared, until now when we have just a handful of theses classes left.

    Some of us learn best when our learning demonstrates itself through our brains AND our hands.

    • Delfino, Class of '78 March 11, 2016 (8:23 pm)

      Nan is truly one of the hidden treasure of our school.  Many of my students have benefited by taking her class, and attending the school trips she helped make possible .  Thank you for your support!

  • Wb March 11, 2016 (10:54 pm)

    Where I grew up, boys took shop and girls took home economics. So yeah, there are a lot of things i can’t do to this day. It really is amazing that these young women had the opportunity to take shop and are fighting for it. Signed! 

  • Andy R March 12, 2016 (7:48 am)

    Signed!  I think it is very important to introduce young people to arts, wood working, metal working…..  It not only gives them some knowledge that will help them in everyday situations that come up in life but there are many, many job/career opportunities that relate directly to these types of classes.

  • D-Mom March 12, 2016 (7:55 am)

    Kudos to these kids for standing up for something they believe in. We should not only be saving wood shop, but we should add back other shop classes. Arts and trades should be a big part of high school and middle school. But to keep those, we need to keep pushing on the politicians to properly fund the schools and not resist tax increases to make that happen. I imagine the people creating the budget would like to keep these classes too if they could afford it. 

    • Delfino, Class of '78 March 12, 2016 (12:58 pm)

      I agree that the affordability is , unfortunately, the question.  However, when we look at where and how we should save money, the stake holders should be consulted.  We should also look at who is served.  Often the quickest, most painless way to make a decision is not the best. There are obviously many reasons to support shop classes.  One,I ask,  is where else can young women gain the skills, experience and confidence to with with hand tools?  No where I can think of.  It does makes the numbers on the bottom of the spreadsheet come out right, though.

  • Born on Alki 59 March 12, 2016 (8:18 am)

    The three most important classes I took in high school were auto shop, metal shop and vocational machine shop. These classes fostered my life careers in mechanics and engineering. Instead of cutting these classes, SPS should be expanding them. The tech industry would not be thriving without engineers and mechanics. Of course anything blue collar trade related may not be welcome by our current administration, or so it would appear. IMHO, the best investment we could make are career choices for our students. Just my $.02.



  • dsa March 12, 2016 (10:53 am)

    What is going on? I thought we voted yes on the school levies.  If they needed more money to keep the curriculum they should have so stated.  I’m a bit ticked off about that part.

  • Susan March 12, 2016 (6:03 pm)

    The school “reformers” who think that what really matters in life is your score on a standardized test are INCREDIBLY shallow and short-sighted. It is not a coincidence that we are losing some of the most practical and useful classes kids will ever have, classes which as others have said, contribute to their academic and brain development as well.  The problem is that the corporations have a hard time profiting from these classes.  The school “reformers” are playing into the hands of the corporations that are profiting from our kids by selling kids/schools the standardized tests and then selling them the prep programs to prepare for those tests.  As well as selling them the specific curriculum — which is not even developmentally sound — which requires the textbooks which those corporations publish. Parents are encouraged to evaluate schools by their standardized test scores, which also plays into it.  Teachers are encouraged to become National Board Certified (this is also run by one of the largest for-profit corporations) — To do so, they must pay the corporation over $2K, but their BONUS of $5 – $10K is paid not by that corporation but by our state!  Check into the requirements for this, and you will see that certification is not a measure of excellence in teaching but rather of ability to jump through a few meaningful and many meaningless hoops.  The emperor ain’t wearing any clothes, folks.  Public education is in a sad state, but we can save it!  I congratulate these young people who have their head on straight and are fighting for what they deserve from our schools – a good, well-rounded education.

  • Delfino, Class of '78 March 12, 2016 (8:45 pm)

    Here’s video produced a couple of years ago about  a couple of students of Nan’s and mine of a project they worked on during a summer school credit retrieval class.  This play house was auctioned off for El Centro de la Raza for  a few thousand dollars.  It was then donated back to El Centro and is there in the day care program till this day.

  • Beth Petrick March 13, 2016 (9:18 am)

    As a future Industrial Arts Teacher, you have my full support. Don’t give up. Make them understand why learning  trade skills is critical to your futures and the future of industry in this country. One of our main problems is hardly anyone aspires to be a trades person these days, therefore resulting in cheap, outsourced, shotty craftsmanship and a reduction of employment in livable wage jobs.  As a trades person and Graduate Union Apprentice I can tell you how important trade skills are and how much they correlate and work with many other subjects including Math,  History, Art and Economics.  

  • Rick Atkinson March 13, 2016 (5:08 pm)

    The Maker Movement is gaining momentum and recognized  as an important resurgence of re-learning the creative problem-solving and hands-on skills that our grandparents used to build the neighbourhoods we live in. Our children will need these critical skills to deal with even more complex issues facing them in the decades ahead. 

    It amazes me how short-sighted the school administration is when it comes to seeing into the future.

    It’s our job to equip them with the tools they’ll need to thrive.

  • Jenny March 16, 2016 (10:50 am)

    This class is amazing ! I Iove being able to work with tools and having a great teacher to help. I have learn a lot of things that i wouldn’t have other wise . Would be a shame if they let this class go. 

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