West Seattle, Washington
First, that’s a quick bit of video from tonight’s Chief Sealth Mariachi and Honor Choir fundraiser, the annual tamale dinner at which diners were serenaded by the student musicians; you can hear the CSHS mariachis in our clip. Find out more about Chief Sealth’s music program at its website.
Second, almost a month after the Denny/Sealth shared-campus vote, the School Design Team meetings — which are open to the public — are starting up again next week, 3 pm Tuesday at CSHS. Organizers say the next meeting will include a project update and “discussion of next steps.”
So said one Option 2 (shared campus) opponent, right after the school board vote. You’ll see that clip at the end of this post. First, let’s backtrack:
There, you see the opponents of the Denny-Sealth shared campus who stood silently throughout much of tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting (WSB liveblog archived here), until and during board members’ 5-2 vote in favor of the project — here’s the roll call:
Ahead: More clips including West Seattle’s board rep Steve Sundquist explaining his support for Option 2 and board member Harium Martin-Morris explaining why he opposed it, plus public comments before the vote (including one FOR the shared campus), and that “it’s not over” vow:Read More
9:50 PM: Back at WSB HQ now. Processing video for a separate wrap-up post on tonight’s School Board vote.
9:10 PM: Just back from wading into reaction interview central in the foyer outside the board room. Talked to Sealth staffers Delfino Munoz and John Wright, both of whom spoke against Option 2 tonight. Munoz quote: “It’s not over.” But what’s next – he says it’ll take some time to step back and reassess. (The board meeting continues, by the way; we will continue monitoring in case of anything WS-related.) P.S. The opponents were clearly disappointed as they cleared the chambers after the vote, but were classy about it – no loud boos or other disruptions – in case you were curious (and didn’t happen to be watching on TV). The board’s now discussing future transportation plans for students; high-school students are scheduled to stop getting “yellow bus” transportation as of next year, and are to be given Metro passes instead. WEST SEATTLE-SPECIFIC NOTE: District staff confirms this is the last year that Spectrum kids (one of the district’s gifted programs) from West Seattle who go to Washington Middle School will have the opportunity to ride regular school buses; that ends next year, though Metro passes would be made available for them too. (Meeting adjourned at 9:20 pm.)
9:05 PM – The vote is 5-2 for Option 2. The no votes are from Mary Bass and Harium Martin-Morris.
After the jump, the rest of our liveblogging of tonight’s meeting, in reverse chronological order, exactly as we filed it during the meeting:Read More
Tonight, the Seattle School Board is scheduled to make its decision on the Denny Middle School/Chief Sealth High School shared-campus proposal. (All WSB coverage is archived here.) What board members specifically are being asked to approve or reject is a resolution to move $10 million from elsewhere in the budget to support Option 2 (district rendering below), the option recommended by district administration — going ahead with building a new Denny on the Sealth campus, but adding money to the required renovations CSHS was already scheduled to get:
WSB will be there tonight with live online updates; as the day goes on, we’ll report any late pre-vote developments, starting with this: Sealth teacher John Wright forwarded a petition signed by staffers who support Option 3 (building a new Denny on its current site; renovating Sealth with the basic upgrades it is scheduled to get no matter what). Here’s the petition text; Wright says of the 93 CSHS staffers contacted yesterday, 83 signed it (they hadn’t yet reached 16 staffers):
We the undersigned staff at Chief Sealth High School strongly urge the School Board to vote for Option 3 to keep the campuses separate. We strongly urge all available funds be utilized to build the absolutely best possible Denny Middle School to support our entire community.
There have been multiple admissions of community and staff engagement flaws in this entire process, some accidental, some intentional. Ultimately, however, we request Option 3 be chosen as there has been no evidence towards academic benefit for any co-location campus model.
1. All or almost all of the existing 6-12 models in the country referred to by the school district are either private, charter or magnet schools with self-selecting application processes. The models of 6-12 schools which exist were pre-planned projects, not mergers of existing schools. Successful 6-12 models had staff heavily involved in every phase of the development of the school and, in many models, the schools were created gradually (ex. one grade level at a time).
2. There is no academic plan for a 6-12 co-location model. Vague affirmations from the district that it â€œcould workâ€ as well as the Facilities Department websiteâ€™s Academic Benefits (actually just copied from the Denny principalâ€™s letter) do not constitute an academic plan. An academic plan requires considerable deliberation and intensive wide-ranging input prior to construction according to best practices.
3. Any large-scale educational program change absolutely needs teacher support for it to be successful. Combining the campuses without an educational plan for shared programs, shared planning and collaboration time for teachers, will lead to a lack of support and poor implementation.
Ultimately the reason why Sealth staff cannot find a single research study to clearly refute the proposed 6-12 model for Sealth & Denny is because something like this appears to have never been tried before. Never before have two existing schools with a significant FRL rate and no self-selecting application process had a building built prior to the development of an educational plan with the expectation that it would somehow work out. There are no studies to support or refute this exact model because it is a massive experiment on our kids â€“ it has not been tried elsewhere and we believe it has not been done because it is an inadequate model.
Wright says Sealth principal John Boyd (WSB interview from yesterday morning is here) was presented with this petition late yesterday afternoon, before it was sent to the School Board. He also notes “this is a staff petition because the district still maintains that all of the other ‘Sealth staff polls’ were unofficial. So to avoid charges of ballot stuffing or any other classic attempts to discredit the integrity of the staff’s position, the original petitions will be given to the Board along with the staff list so they can verify the accuracy by contacting anybody they want.” He says that will be done at tonight’s meeting.
The agenda for tomorrow night’s Seattle School Board meeting, including the vote on the Denny-Sealth combined-campus project, is now updated on the district website. In the public-comment section at the start of the meeting, 18 people are listed as signed up to speak about the Denny-Sealth proposal (you can see the entire list on the agenda posted online). Also added to the agenda since this morning is the “updated report” on the actual item on which board members will be voting, whether to “transfer” $10 million to the Denny-Sealth project in support of Option 2. Here’s a link to that; its list of the sources for the $10 million is: “$1.5 million from Debt Service Fund, $3.5 million from BEX III Technology, $5 million from BEX III Infrastructure.” Again, the meeting’s at 6 pm tomorrow, district HQ in Sodo; we’ll be there and plan to liveblog it with continuous updates here, start to finish (you can also watch live on cable channel 26).
Within the past half-hour, as promised, several dozen Chief Sealth High School students walked out in protest of the proposal to build a new Denny Middle School on their campus. They walked up Thistle and past Denny, as shown in the clip above. We watched the walkout from their Sealth departure and it appeared orderly; according to an e-mail sent to the CSHS staff by principal John Boyd, any student who missed a class will be marked for an unexcused absence in that class. ADDED 4 PM: Another angle from our video, as the protesters walked uphill on Thistle toward Denny:
Tomorrow night is a particularly important night for Chief Sealth High School principal John Boyd (left). Not just because the Seattle School Board is scheduled to make its final decision on the controversial proposal to build a new Denny Middle School on the CSHS campus — two other events will keep him from being at district headquarters for the vote: A mariachi concert with the CSHS musicians and visitors from California, and a basketball game with the 8th graders he’s coaching (including his son) across the street at Southwest Community Center. This morning, though, not quite as hectic, so he made time to talk with WSB — not just about the much-discussed impending vote, but also about what else is happening at his school:Read More
In case it’s fallen off your radar — the Seattle School Board‘s final vote on the Denny-Sealth project is four days away, at the board’s next regular meeting on Wednesday night. The agenda for the meeting is now posted online (including information as always on how to sign up to speak at the meeting – you can call starting Monday); find it here. There are two items on the agenda regarding Denny-Sealth:Read More
President Steve Fischer of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, which organized last Tuesday’s panel-discussion meeting at CSHS (WSB text/video coverage here), sent the list of audience questions that remained when time ran out. As promised, he has forwarded them to the district to request answers online the same way they answered questions (here) from their 2/4 meeting at CSHS. Here’s the list (reading it, we see there is one toward the end that we can answer, as it involves WSB):Read More
With the public meetings over, discussion and feedback are all that’s left till Seattle School Board members vote on the Denny/Sealth project one week from Wednesday. (All WSB coverage archived here.) The feedback that matters the most is that which you give to board members — once again, their contact info is here. There also has been a lot of spirited discussion online, on this website and elsewhere (including here and here), as well as in the public-testimony time at the start of board meetings. One of the Chief Sealth High School students who has spoken to the board, and at public meetings on the project here in West Seattle, is Duron Jones. He sent WSB a copy of a letter he said he has sent to the board, and asked us if we would post it. We are doing so with an invitation for any student with a different opinion to send us their thoughts, which we also would be happy to post.
Iâ€™m Duron Jones, a sophomore at Chief Sealth High School (CSHS). Iâ€™m sure this opening is something that sounds familiar to the Seattle Public School (SPS) board, as it should since I have spoken to them in public testimonial on several occasions. However I feel that my voice and opinion has fallen on deaf ears as well as the voices and opinions of every single student who let their voices be heard via survey and polls.
The first attempt to gain student body voice resulted in 278 against the co-location of the schools and 5 were for the co-location of the schools. To prove that these results werenâ€™t a fluke we recently surveyed the students with a survey that allowed them to state their concerns and what they believed to be the positives of a co-located school, a survey in which John Boyd himself looked at and fixed up, might I add. That survey resulted in 70% of the students being opposed to option 2, 19% being neutral, and 11% being for option 2, however when it came down to option 3, 25% opposed it, 16% was neutral, and 59% were in favor of option 3. This shows that the Chief Sealth student body may not agree with every aspect of option 3 but we believe it to be in the better interest of the students compared to option 2. Might I also add the students will be the ones who have to deal with the fallouts of a merge campus and not the SPS board.
Iâ€™m sure you as well as the board are wondering why there are not masses of CSHS students standing up to speak their voice as they do on surveys, but they do not wish to stand up because they fear the consequences that they could possibly face for just using their right to free speech. Then when they do decide to get involved they are made to feel not welcomed.
But my reason for writing this is not to talk about protocol on how to do things when it comes to students speaking. I am writing this to air the opinions and stances of the students. It has been stated that the board believes violence wouldnâ€™t increase with option 2, safety wouldnâ€™t decrease with option 2, and more students would apply to Sealth via option 2. The life blood of Chief Sealth High School, being the students concur with their thoughts as 67% of the student body believes violence will increase with option 2 as 8% believes it will decrease and 25% believes it will stay the same. When it came down to students applying to Chief Sealth if option 2 was to happen, only 20% believed more students would apply and 54% believed less would apply as 26% believed it would stay the same.
Before I get into the commentary of the students I believe it needs to be stated for the record that when it came down to the academic benefits question, a horse the board has rode to death for why itâ€™s a good idea to combine the campuses, as well as the question of what positives come from option 2. No students who were in favor of option 2 were able to answer those questions however students who were for option 3 were able to answer those questions. But when they were asked what academic affects would option 2 have they responded with middle schoolers imitating the high schoolersâ€™ actions thus doing terribly in class, the drop out and skipping rates will increase, as well as a new building placed next to Sealth causing distractions and animosity. But there was a positive comment in the crowd and that was there would be more options for what you could do in classes, so the board should pat themselves on the back for that small achievement.
When it came to the question of what are your concerns about BEX III option 2 we received countless statements about the safety of Dennyâ€™s students, the negative influences of high schoolers to middle schoolers, the loss of identity for both schools, Sealth students admitted they wouldnâ€™t receive Denny students with open arms, fears about it becoming a repeat of Pathfinder, fears about it becoming an exclusive international school, as well as concerns about being targeted due to us being a colored school. Also one of the biggest concerns addressed was the loss of a great group of teaching staff. However when asked about some of the positives this project holds we received replies of and I quote, â€œNothing that truly couldnâ€™t be done with the schools staying on their own separate campuses,â€ so the board should give themselves a hand for that one.
As I looked over the boards reply to the meeting on February 4th I realized we truly donâ€™t have the option to pick an option as we are stuck with option 2. Something that truly disturbs me is when a member of the design and construction team answers my question of, â€œWhy arenâ€™t there any drawings or figures of option 3?â€ with â€œWe were told to do drawings of option 2 only and not option 3,â€ Now I love money as much as the next but when you compare it to the well being of a child and itâ€™s future they donâ€™t equal out. Then I listened to one of Steve Sundquist replies for the meeting at Sealth on the 5th of February where he talked about this project is being used to stop the drop out gaps from 8th to 9th, well maybe it hasnâ€™t made it to the boards doorsteps yet but there is an excellent program currently in Sealth called Ignite Mentors where we the students aid Freshmen through their Freshman year and make sure they do what they have to and Iâ€™m sure any of my colleagues or mentees would speak and say this program has worked so far and will continue to work and with that statement, if you havenâ€™t processed it yet, my point is the drop out rates are covered. I used to believe the board to be the protectors and justice seekers of the students however now I see they are no different then the men & women who currently hold office in the United States of America. I asked them to prove me wrong on that thought and actually listen to us. However we will see if that falls on deaf ears as everything else has.
Again, we would love to hear from a Sealth — or Denny (middle-schoolers can be eloquent too; we know this firsthand) — student who supports the shared campus; we have certainly heard a lot from adults on both sides. E-mail us any time.
34TH DISTRICT DEMOCRATS’ RESOLUTION: A comment under our report from last night mentioned the 34th DDs voted last night to support the Westwood Neighborhood Council and Denny/Sealth school staff in pursuing an “authentic” public process. We received a copy of the resolution this morning; you can see it here.
SPEAKING OF PUBLIC PROCESS: West Seattle’s school-board rep Steve Sundquist asked district staffers last night about reported discrepancies and omissions in the information that’s posted on the district website as answers to the public questions from last week’s meeting. District staff acknowledged some “confusion.” One point of ongoing dispute/confusion that was not addressed clearly last night — board member Harium Martin-Morris wanted clarification about the oft-repeated complaint that the language on the ballot did not mention the shared campus. He didn’t get a complete answer to that during the public meeting we observed last night (and it’s not fully answered in the district Q/A, either; see Question 14 under Pink Room on this page); fellow members Sherry Carr and Peter Maier talked again about the pamphlet mailed to all 45,000-ish households with Seattle Public Schools students, which did talk about the shared campus, but what was left out was the indisputable fact – whether or not you think it matters – that the actual text seen in the official King County Voters’ Pamphlet by voters casting ballots in the February 2007 election (direct link here) explaining what the money would go for, was this:
Section 2. Authorization of Construction and Modernization Improvements. The District shall modernize and expand its school facilities through the following programs:
(1) Middle /K-8 school improvements including full renovation of Hamilton, and replacement of South Shore and Denny.
(2) High School improvements including renovation of Chief Sealth and Nathan Hale, addition at Ingraham and modernization of Rainier Beach Career and Technology facilities.
(3) Infrastructure improvements for water piping, indoor air quality and synthetic sports turf, including contributions to Hiawatha Playfield with Seattle Parks for conversion to synthetic turf.
(4) Technology equipment and training.
On the ballot itself, before checking approve or reject, voters saw this:
The Board of Directors of Seattle School District No. 1 adopted Resolution No. 2006/07-3 concerning this proposition for bonds. This proposition approves a program to renovate or replace four high schools, two middle schools and one K-8 school and make other capital improvements, to issue $490,000,000 in general obligation bonds with a maximum term of seven years; and to levy excess property taxes to repay the bonds and to replace the expiring capital levy, not to exceed $81,666,667 annually for six years.
Just for the record, since this keeps coming up. There certainly was coverage, on our site and elsewhere, before the election, talking about the shared campus — but the official voters’ pamphlet and the actual ballot did not include that point, as project critics frequently note.
UPDATE #1: As has been the case for the past several meetings, the public-comment period at the start of the meeting was dominated by testimony from merged-campus opponents. The board’s in a brief break now, with what’s been described as a “presentation” and “discussion” yet to come on items including the formal introduction of the superintendent’s recommendation that the board approve Option 2. More to come; it’s live on cable channel 26. UPDATE #2, ADDED 9:55 PM: The Denny-Sealth presentation/discussion took more than an hour and a half. Read More
Tonight, Seattle School Board members will officially be presented with Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson‘s recommendation that they approve Option 2 for the Denny Middle School rebuilding/Chief Sealth High School renovation process, with the final vote in 2 weeks. Last night, at a public panel-discussion meeting organized by the Westwood Neighborhood Council, West Seattle’s school board rep Steve Sundquist announced which way he’s leaning, while also revealing what it’s been like to walk right into this turbulent controversy as a newly elected board member:Read More
Just back from both of tonight’s major meetings in West Seattle. Full separate articles coming for both. But in the short run, the headlines:
DENNY-SEALTH: West Seattle’s school board rep Steve Sundquist announced he’s “leaning toward Option 2,” the “go ahead with the shared campus but add $10 million for a few more Sealth renovations” option that district staff is officially recommending the board approve. However, Sundquist reiterated that it’s the board’s decision, and he invites EVERYONE to spend the next two weeks letting him and other board members (three of whom were at the meeting) know what they think. 10:30 PM ADDITION: Just in from Steve Fischer, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, which presented tonight’s meeting – results of the unofficial, voluntary straw poll they took (via secret ballot) after the meeting: Zero for Option 1, 16 for Option 2, 52 for Option 3. (100-plus people were there tonight.)
VIADUCT: This open-house-with-open-mike was part of the process leading up to a decision in about a year regarding what will replace the “Central Waterfront” section of The Viaduct. Some of those who offered open-mike comments urged reconsideration of the notion of NOT tearing it down, but retrofitting it instead.
Again, much more to come, including some video, from both meetings.
Several signs like those just turned up at 35th/Thistle, one day after district staff announced it’s recommending the school board approve Option 2 – building a new Denny Middle School on the Chief Sealth High School campus, while adding $10 million more in Sealth renovations than were originally proposed. Meantime, the Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting about the project is tonight, 7 pm, CSHS Commons. And the district has just posted a new section on its website with the answers to all the questions posed at last week’s meeting (WSB coverage here) as well as other information on the project — you can read it all here.
(rendering as shown at last week’s district-sponsored meeting)
ORIGINAL 3:17 PM REPORT: The agenda for Wednesday’s school board meeting has been updated with the district’s Denny-Sealth recommendation: Option 2, which means combined campuses, but more money, specifically $10 million added for Sealth renovations. This will be officially introduced at the Wednesday board meeting and voted on February 27. 5:10 PM UPDATE: At saveseattleschools.blogspot.com, Melissa Westbrook breaks down the info on the supplemental agenda documents that lay out where the extra $10 million is to come from. As of this writing, we haven’t seen an official district news release, nor anything new posted on the Sealth or Denny websites, regarding the decision to recommend Option 2, so the agenda info is all that’s on the record at this point. Here’s the direct link; side note of interest, that document from superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is dated January 31st, so she appears to have made her decision several days before last Tuesday’s public meeting at Sealth (WSB coverage here). Next steps: Tomorrow night (7 pm @ Chief Sealth HS), the Westwood Neighborhood Council has its moderated-panel public meeting regarding the project; Wednesday night, school-board members meet and the Option 2 recommendation will be “introduced”; they will vote yay or nay two weeks later. Since the final say is in their hands, if you want to express an opinion on the newly released recommendation, contacting board members is likely your best course of action; their contact info is here.
According to the agenda outline for next Wednesday’s school board meeting — viewable here on the school district website — details of the Denny-Sealth Project Recommendation item will be “posted Monday.” Whatever the recommendation turns out to be, it will be formally introduced to the board Wednesday night, with a final vote at their next meeting two weeks later (Feb. 27). Between the posting and the introducing, remember, the Westwood Neighborhood Council hopes you’ll attend its moderated-panel-discussion community meeting Tuesday night (Chief Sealth High School Commons, 7 pm; flyer here, news release here). Also remember, as reported Wednesday, the district materials (Power Point slides, drawings, etc.) presented at last Monday’s meeting at CSHS are now available online here.
Click for a few seconds of video panning across the full 150-plus crowd at the Chief Sealth High School cafeteria last night for the last district-presented meeting in West Seattle before the School Board makes its decision on the intensely debated Denny/Sealth construction project’s future.
That’s a photo by WSB contributing photojournalist Matt Durham, showing parent Gail McElligott at the meeting. What was seen – lots of PowerPoint slides – and what wasn’t heard – answers to audience questions – dominated the night. See most of the slides for yourself (since the district didn’t promise they’d be up online any time soon), and more, ahead:Read More
Much longer report to come. But here are the bullet points from the meeting in the CSHS cafeteria:
–Meeting lasted 2 1/2 hours.
–Big turnout; at least 150 people. School Board president Cheryl Chow and superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson were there for a while at the start; West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist, of course, stayed for the duration.
–District Power Point presentation featured lots of sales points for Options 1 and 2 (current version, current version plus $10 million extra Sealth work) and the barest of bones for Option 3 (rebuilding Denny on its current site, doing the bare minimum of required safety improvements for Sealth).
–Lots of audience questions, zero answers. Audience was broken into 4 groups to ask questions for half an hour; the questions were written down by facilitators; audience was reconvened so that each group’s questions could be read to the entire audience. The answers? The district will try its best to get them posted online before the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s Denny/Sealth meeting on Feb. 12, one day before the district’s recommended option is “introduced” to the school board. Much more to come, including the presentation details, some of the audience questions, video, photos.
Last reminder: tonight is the last official Seattle Public Schools-sponsored meeting expected in West Seattle before school board members vote on whether to go ahead with the Denny/Sealth project as is, or change it to one of two other options — “Option 2” with extra money for more Chief Sealth High School renovation work, “Option 3” with a new Denny Middle School being built on its current site instead of next to Sealth. All three options are to be shown and explained tonight — a “gallery walk” with one-on-one viewing starting at 6:30 pm, presentation @ 7, Q/A expected to start @ 7:30, Chief Sealth HS Library. Also this afternoon, we have additional information about who’s on the panel for the Westwood Neighborhood Council-sponsored meeting Feb. 12, one day before a project “recommendation” is introduced to the school board. Here’s the full text of the WNC’s new announcement:Read More
In our ongoing quest to publish as much information and as many perspectives as possible on the Denny/Sealth project, as a final decision gets closer, we had wondered here why supporters didn’t seem to be speaking out publicly. Tonight, in comments on this post below, a Denny teacher supporting the co-located campus has spoken out – the school’s music director – and especially considering not everyone reads the comment sections, we wanted to highlight it here:
Over the past year that I have had the opportunity to work on the BEX committee, I have had numerous talks with Mr. Clark, the Denny principal regarding this project and the ongoing debate surrounding it. I know for a fact that Mr. Clark supports option 2, the â€œadjoinedâ€ campus, because he sincerely believes option 2 is what is best for kids. (I posted his letter on this subject in my previous comment and I have the attachment if anyone would like it forwarded to them).
Having listened to everything for the past year and having consistently participated on the BEX committee, I tend to agree that an adjoined campus is in the best interest of our students. I say adjoined and not combined because I believe that â€œadjoinedâ€ is a more accurate description of what has actually been proposed and I have spoken to a lot of kids (and some adults) who have misconceived notions about what was actually proposed. The only â€œcombinedâ€ part of the campus, where the students would be regularly encountering one another, is our music department, which is largely combined already with students from Denny going to Sealth for orchestra and choir, and Sealth students coming up to Denny for steel drums.
In a recent survey of the Denny staff (January 30, 2008) 63% of the Denny staff supported or somewhat supported what is being referred to as Option 2, the adjoined campus. 22% were supportive or somewhat supportive of separate campuses, with the remaining 15% checking a box marked neutral. The Denny homeroom representatives, in their most recent meeting saw the districtâ€™s budget comparison of Options 2 and 3, including the list of upgrades to be performed to Sealth under the two plans, and saw the drawings that have been done so far of the adjoined campus. They listened to the input of their student represenative to the BEX committee, and discussed the pros and cons of having the middle school next door to the high school. After much back and forth, the Denny homeroom representatives issued a unanimous statement in favor of the adjoined campus. They are working with the administration on plans for grade level assemblies to occur next week, to present the information to the Denny students as a whole and to do a survey to invite their input. I think this is particularly relevant because, although the vast majority of the high school students will never have to attend school in the adjoined campus, the middle school students are the ones who will ultimately have to live with whatever is decided. Although I am personally of the opinion that adults, not students, should be making decisions about what is best for kids, if we are going to consider student opinion, the middle school students support for the adjoined campus should be given special consideration and weight.
As for me personally, I support the adjoined campus because I believe it affords us with an opportunity to build a 6-12th grade â€œnestâ€ around these students, to create the framework for collaboration and sequential instruction, to foster mentoring and tutoring programs between the two schools, to support the development of specialized programs for both middle and high school students, to support the maintenance of studentsâ€™ relationships with positive adult figures from their middle school experience, and to work together as a community to address the real challenges faced by many of our students. While there are undoubtedly going to be challenges that come along with any change, it is clear that we need to do something to help the many kids who are falling through the gaps, for example students dropping out of school. To the extent that we can create continuity and a sense of community for these kids, it is a good thing.
One of the primary concerns I have heard expressed with this project has been a reported danger of mixing the student populations. Personally, I think the risks are being overblown. In all the pleas for evidence to support the academic benefits, has anyone presented any real evidence that bringing a middle school and a high school in close proximity will bring about the doomsday I hear so many predicting? I student taught at Chinook M.S. and Tyee H.S. in the Highline district (two schools separated by a parking lot), and I was never aware of any issues there. Is there any data to suggest that this has worked out disastrously in the many other places where this has been tried? Or, are we just assuming the worst of our students?
Personally, I would argue that adjoining these two campuses has the opportunity to actually improve the security situation as it will enable the teachers and administrators to make concrete plans for how to move students around safely, and will put directly in our face the mixing, that is already occurring, and that our two block distance has previously allowed us to ignore. Furthermore, my understanding is that as with any new project being completed now, we will have security cameras and access points with ID card readers.
Students live up or down to the expectations of the adults in their lives. If we believe in them, educate them, and demand that they live up to high behavioral standards, they will. If we are convinced they canâ€™t, they wonâ€™t. Up until last year, Denny and Sealth students rode the same school busses to school every day with next to no incidents (and this was under the supervision of a bus driver who was watching the road). Today, the students still manage to commingle safely on the streets coming to and from school and in the after school hours at the community center and the Westwood Shopping Center.
The students at this adjoined campus will not be mixed. They will have separate schools and separate facilities, including a completely divided lunchroom facility. It is not a â€œcombinedâ€ school, but two schools adjoined.
Having been on the design committee, I had the opportunity to travel with the group that went to New York and Boston. My observation from the visits at the schools in New York and Boston was that the kids we saw in those schools were excelling, despite the fact that those buildings were not designed with the 6-12 environment in mind. In those schools, middle and high school students shared a single building, sometimes with just a sign and a door separating high school classes from middle school ones. In at least two of the three schools we visited, over 90% of the graduating classes were accepted into colleges and universities, and none of the students I spoke to expressed any issues about having middle schoolers and high schoolers near each other. While I have heard my colleagues make the case that those are different kids and a different situation, I am convinced that our kids are every bit as good and as capable as the kids in New York, Boston and anywhere else. If kids in other schools can excel in the difficult environment of multiple ages in a single building, I know our kids can excel in a well-planned environment where they will not be sharing one building, but a large campus with separate facilities for middle and high school programs.
Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I am convinced that as a community we can not only make this work, but we can ultimately realize all the potential benefits of better curriculum alignment, increased collaboration, improved programming, and greater continuity from middle school to high school. For these reasons, I strongly support Option 2.
Marcus J. Pimpleton
Music Director, Denny Middle School
Director, Seattle Schools All-City Band
Again, this originally appeared in the comment thread below this post, where the same author earlier posted a previously circulated letter from Denny’s principal Jeff Clark (a letter from Sealth principal John Boyd was circulated last week). WSB archives of Denny/Sealth coverage are here, including reminders about tomorrow night’s meeting @ CSHS.