West Seattle, Washington
Another West Seattle celebration today for a departing longtime principal – Gerrit Kischner, leaving Genesee Hill Elementary after 13 school years. After the last day of school, he was the guest of honor at a rooftop reception hosted by Kevin Broveleit of West Seattle Realty (WSB sponsor) atop Element 42, the Admiral building that’s home to WSR. Surrounded by Genesee Hill PTA leaders past and present, Kischner was presented with the plan for a tribute funded by community donations – a “buddy bench“:
Organizers hope the bench will be installed at the school by fall. Kischner will be well into his new role as principal of Thornton Creek Elementary by then.
He told those gathered this afternoon that it had been a “huge honor and privilege” to watch their kids grow. Before opening the newly built Genesee Hill in 2016, the school was Schmitz Park Elementary, and members of the Schmitz family were at today’s celebration to join in the tribute:
Dietrich Schmitz and Vicki Schmitz Block recalled the first-day-of-school flag ceremonies at the old school (which will be in use as an elementary school next year as temporary home to West Seattle Elementary, while its High Point building is expanded). Meantime, at Genesee Hill, assistant principal Liz Dunn has been chosen as Kischner’s successor.
On this final week of school, another West Seattle school is getting ready to say goodbye to its longtime principal, and planning a tribute. The Genesee Hill Elementary PTA is inviting community participation beynd current students/families. Here’s their message:
As announced in April of this year, our longtime Principal and friend Gerrit Kischner will be stepping down as the Principal of Genesee Hill Elementary. The current Assistant Principal, Liz Dunn, will replace Gerrit starting in the fall of 2021, keeping Genesee Hill and our community in very good hands.
Gerrit has been a tireless leader and advocate for our children and schools since his arrival at Schmitz Park in 2008. To celebrate and honor Gerrit’s many contributions to our West Seattle community, a group of current and former PTA leaders and other community members are organizing a fundraiser and commemorative gift for Gerrit.
The PTA volunteers involved in this effort are finalizing the exact gift to honor Gerrit, but we anticipate it will be a visual reminder of his years of work to support our children and our community that will be located on our around the Genesee Hill Elementary grounds. Wouldn’t it be lovely to sit with your child and reflect upon their years in elementary school on a peaceful bench? It’s just one of a few ideas we have, and we’ll update everyone on our progress.
Your child’s classroom may be organizing a gift or other activity to honor Gerrit, and you are welcome and encouraged to support those efforts. The PTA leaders and other volunteers have come together to celebrate Gerrit on behalf of our entire West Seattle community.
Our fundraising goal for this effort is $5,000, which will fund this commemorative gift and support the work of the Genesee Hill PTA.
Any unspent donations will go to benefit the current and future students at Genesee Hill. The past year has been very challenging for our children and the Genesee Hill Elementary community, and your gift in honor of Gerrit’s contributions and your support of our PTA are appreciated.
Please use this link to make an online contribution to our gift to Gerrit Kischner.
10:54 AM: The photo and report are from Alexis:
My husband’s van was stolen from in front of our house sometime between 8:00 pm last night and 8:00 am this morning. It was locked and parked in the street. We live in the Genesee Hill neighborhood (in the 4000 block of) 51st Ave SW. It is a white 2003 Ford Econovan 250. It has my husband’s logo on both sides and the back of the van – “Toma Construction LLC.” It contained many tools.
We have notified the police. This happened to us about 6 years ago in a different neighborhood, and neighbors found it dumped and emptied out nearby. If anyone has seen it, please contact us at email@example.com, at 602-326-7262, or at 206-697-5087.
But first call 911.
2:43 PM: Alexis says they recovered the van – someone spotted it at 40th/Edmunds and called police.
Five years after presiding over the move of Schmitz Park Elementary‘s staff and students into the newly built Genesee Hill Elementary, principal Gerrit Kischner is moving on. Seattle Public Schools has just announced that he’s being transferred to Thornton Creek Elementary in North Seattle after the school year ends, and assistant principal Liz Dunn will succeed him. Here’s the letter Kischner sent to the school community:
Dear Genesee Hill Families and Community,
I’m writing today to share some news that may come as a surprise to many of you. On July 1st, I will be transferring to be Principal of Thornton Creek Elementary. While I am very sad to be leaving the community that I have been privileged to serve for thirteen years – time for a full generation of students from Kindergarten to graduation — I am also thrilled to announce that Liz Dunn has been tapped to replace me as Principal of Genesee Hill.
This news came as a surprise to me, and I did not ask for this transfer, but I am ready to take on this substantial challenge at Thornton Creek, a school which has struggled with frequent leadership turnover since its long-time principal retired. I hope that I can help to build the same collaborative community spirit that has made my job such a joy here in West Seattle.
While the substantial changes we have all faced in the last year make the timing of this transition somewhat difficult for many of us, Genesee Hill is in a great position heading into this next chapter. After year-after-year growth and the construction of a new building, we have thrived as a community. Ms. Dunn’s deep knowledge of the families she has served for now twenty years will give her an opportunity to bring a new leadership lens to the things we return to and the new lessons we have learned throughout this pandemic. In many ways, it’s a perfect time to make this transition, and I will be dedicated in these remaining months to laying the groundwork to make that possible.
There are too many people to even start thanking individuals for everything you have done to make Genesee Hill a great place for kids over these years. I will make every effort to connect in the coming months.
With that, best wishes for a restorative and hope-filled Spring Break.
Kischner’s 13 years at Schmitz Park/Genesee Hill is one of the longest principal tenures in West Seattle.
As Seattle Public Schools prepares to offer some in-person learning to students after a year away from classrooms, one local school’s staff has concerns beyond safety. Genesee Hill Elementary is the most populous elementary in West Seattle. Its staff has taken an action that they and the Genesee Hill PTA want you to know about. PTA co-presidents Michelle Comazzetto and Scot Duffield sent us a letter that they explain “was written by the Genesee Hill staff to officially notify the Seattle School District that they reject the proposed 2021-2022 budget.” This is the budget that was specifically proposed for their school for next year. The PTA co-presidents asked us to publish it, adding, “The Genesee Hill PTA would like to bring more awareness around school funding, and the difficult choices that school leadership has to make because schools are still not properly funded . As part of our PTA mission, we need to advocate for our school’s staff and teachers and help them amplify their voices.” Here’s the letter in its entirety:
Dear President Hampson and Superintendent Juneau,
The Genesee Hill staff, with consideration for the fiscal challenges faced by the District in the coming 2021-2022 school year and with respect to our leadership team for their efforts to stretch the inadequate funding they were handed, have decided not to approve this year’s proposed budget for the following reasons: it does not support students’ physical safety; it does not provide the social and emotional supports needed by a potentially fragile student body; and it does not equitably address the wide disparity in learning that our students have experienced during remote instruction. We are hopeful that an amended budget can be implemented that returns funding to a level that supports these essential functions.
After a full year of remote learning, students and staff are understandably excited to return to the classroom, but we must not let our enthusiasm obscure a mandate that is even more critical now in the COVID age: the physical safety of our students. Protocols have yet to be fully established, but it’s clear that reducing the already inadequate allocation of .6 FTE for our school nurse down to .4 FTE does not support the increased focus on safety required during a pandemic. Couple this with the loss of half of our office support staff (Elementary School Assistant position reduced from 2.0 FTE to 1.0 FTE), who monitor our nurse’s office when the nurse is off-campus and who tend to students with serious conditions like diabetes as well as the common illnesses and injuries concomitant with a school of around 600 K-5 children, and you have a dangerous situation. With the increased need to train staff and students, along with monitoring for COVID compliance and treating existing and emergent conditions, cutting these critical positions is flirting with negligence.
Ensuring the physical well-being of our students is paramount, but the need to prioritize their emotional well-being in the coming school year cannot be overstated. With currently no funding in the budget at all for a school counselor, we are faced with the uncomfortable choice of either ignoring those emotional needs or “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” funding a counselor by shifting resources away from critical academic supports as we return to in-person learning. We certainly anticipate growing pains as kids readjust to (or experience for the first time, in the case of our Kindergarteners!) peer interactions and the emotional intensity of learning outside the home. In fact, never in recent memory have we had a more dire need for SEL support than we will in the coming year, and yet the current budget ignores this reality.
Not only does this budget erode safety protocols and social/emotional supports for this vulnerable cohort of young learners, but it also cuts deeply into our core academic programs. We are projected to lose 3.0 FTE for classroom teachers; our PCP staff stands to lose .5 FTE; our library position is being reduced from 1.0 to .5 FTE (making it unfeasible to both maintain the library and teach lessons, putting even more pressure on our overworked PCP teachers); and finally, this budget cuts 2.2 FTE (down from 3.4 to 1.2 FTE) from our academic interventionists, who should play a pivotal role in ensuring that this year’s “learning gaps” are bridged, particularly amongst our students who are furthest from educational justice and who may have a hard path back to grade level performance without targeted interventions.
Given the financial hardships that many of our families are facing, not to mention the difficulties of raising money in the current social and economic climate, this isn’t the year to bridge the shortfall with private funds. However, this also isn’t the year to strip the budget in March only to return staffing and funding over the summer, undermining public confidence in the District’s ability to transition back to the classroom without compromising students’ physical and emotional well-being, not to mention their continuity of learning. Whether or not this year’s lower enrollment projections are a reflection of community mistrust, there is no doubt that the past year has been one of uncertainty for all, and downright instability for many. Our schools can and should be part of the recovery. And while we all anticipate “tightening our belts” a bit, it cannot be at the expense of our students’ physical and emotional safety, nor can it ignore learning gaps that will persist into high school and beyond if inadequately addressed. We do not oppose this budget lightly, as we know that these are hard times and that the District has been hamstrung by a very difficult school funding model, but we cannot endorse a budget that puts our students further at risk, and we hope that decisions can be made that restore and even augment the core supports that are so needed at this time.
Genesee Hill Elementary School Staff
Most other local schools are facing cuts for next year, according to the Genesee Hill PTA leaders, but no other school is facing as many cuts as theirs.
So what does the staff rejection of next year’s budget proposal mean? It’s supposed to trigger a process in which a representative of the district and one from the Seattle Education Association union meet with the staff to try to work out the issues. The PTA leaders say that while the budget-rejection letter was sent last Friday, no mediation meeting has yet been scheduled.
We’re continuing to feature school-group fundraisers – and tonight we have an unusual one, involving a scavenger hunt (and more)! Here’s how the Genesee Hill Elementary PTA explains it:
We have a cool way to do fundraising for a unique kind of year at Genesee Hill and invite the community to join in!
To state the obvious, school looks very different for everyone this year. What hasn’t changed is the need for the Genesee Hill PTA to partner with the Genesee Hill Administration to ensure the necessary programs are in place for all of our kids to be successful. Fundraising allows us to be flexible and “fill the gaps” on services that are unfortunately not covered by the school district or the State of Washington.
To make it a bit more fun – we have added some fun twists.
YARD SIGNS! With a minimum of a $50 donation, you will receive a yard sign delivered to your doorstep. There is a spot for you to be creative and create something fun for kids to find. Draw, paint, attach something – the sky is the limit! Once done, put the sign out in your yard for the scavenger hunt.
RAFFLE! We are hosting three raffle drawings throughout the campaign. We are incredibly grateful for the strong support we received from so many local businesses and are happy to feature them here.
SCAVENGER HUNT! All of the yard signs are numbered and Genesee Hill kids are invited to find as many as they can then enter their own raffle drawing. Click here for more details.
Join us in helping to support all kids to succeed in our school!
You can donate to the Genesee Hill PTA by going here.
Here’s another tqsty way to help local students. Received from the Genesee Hill Elementary PTA:
January Dine Out for Genesee Hill – Mission Cantina
The Genesee Hill Elementary Restaurant of the Month is Mission Cantina! This is a two-day fundraising event taking place on January 24 and 25 (next Sunday and Monday)! Mission Cantina will generously donate 20% of ALL sales that the restaurant makes on those days. This includes all food, alcohol, gift cards, and Mission Cantina’s “Whole Enchilada” take-and-bake kit. To order regular menu items, please call Mission directly at 206-937-8220. The restaurant will begin to take phone orders starting at 11 am both days. Please note, we are trying to encourage families to work with the restaurant directly rather than use 3rd-party apps such as GrubHub and Ubereats to help the staff get more of the funds from tips and orders.
“The Whole Enchilada” Take-and-Bake Kit
This delicious kit gives you all of the items below for ONLY $60 plus tax (gratuity not included). We are taking orders in advance for this awesome deal until January 21. Please click on the Signup Genius so that you can reserve your dinners for pick-up on one of the two days, with payment at pickup.
· Chips and salsa
· Child-sized black bean and cheese enchiladas
· Potato, carnitas, chicken, green chili enchiladas
· Red rice and Black beans
· Cheese and three different enchilada sauces
In addition to takeout/pickup, Mission Cantina (a WSB sponsor) also has outdoor dining.
Thanks to Susan Weir for the photos and report from atop Genesee Hill:
You’re never too old to clown around! That’s the motto of Patricia (Pat) Nelson, age 93, and Elaine Katz, age 68. If you’re out in the sunshine and happen to be driving by the intersection of Genesee and 55th Ave. SW, you may see these ladies waving, smiling, and putting smiles on the faces of those who drive by. Pat and Elaine routinely clown around on this corner. Please smile, honk, and wave back!
Even with school starting remotely for most local students, supplies are still needed, and as we’ve noted before, that means fundraisers are too. The Genesee Hill Elementary PTA invites the community to be part of a tasty fundraiser it’s planning next Wednesday (September 9th):
Join us to eat ice cream at a distance!
Buy an ice cream cone from the Full Tilt Truck while it’s across the street from Genesee Hill. $6 per cone, with part of each sale going to the GHE PTA Supply Drive. All are welcome!
Check out the new GHE swag samples when you stop by!
Wear a mask. Social distancing guidelines will be followed. Vegan option available.
The truck will be at 50th & Dakota, 3-6 pm that day. Looks like ice-cream weather – could be in the 90s!
Three more school-related reminders:
— Genesee Hill School (@GeneseeHill) June 18, 2020
Tonight, Highland Park Elementary is celebrating its 5th graders with a drive-up/walk-up event in front of the school 5-6:30 pm.
It’s become a tradition by which many will remember this pandemic spring – the car “parade” for school staffers and students to see each other even though the campuses have been closed since March. Next West Seattle school planning one, Genesee Hill Elementary, which just sent the map (full-size version is here in PDF) for its Thursday plan:
Thursday, June 18th, at 11 am: Virtual Field Day and Teacher Parade
While students are completing their Field Day activities, the Genesee Hill staff will be having an end-of-the-year parade. Wear your GHES shirt or tie-dye and get ready to make some noise, play, and celebrate all of the hard work put into this school year! The parade will weave through our service area and we encourage families who are outside our service area to join us on GHES’s surrounding sidewalk, using appropriate social-distancing measures. For safety reasons, please remain on sidewalks and yards. We will end the parade with a final victory lap around the surrounding GHES block!
Neighbors are welcome to join us in celebrating our students.
Friday (June 19th) is the last day of the school year, and the day Seattle Public Schools plans to announce its plan for next year.
The West Seattle Turkey is on the move again …
After hanging out a while in North Admiral, today we got three sighting reports from Genesee Hill. The photo above is from Larry; below, from Wendy, who explained, “Pleasantly perched in the upper right of the cherry tree, the famous West Seattle turkey! It’s the most exciting thing to happen to us in a month… ”
And via Twitter:
— Kristin (@kkSeahawks) April 8, 2020
Thanks as always for the photos!
Emily is hoping her son’s stolen baseball gear might turn up somewhere. Her report:
We had our car broken into last night while parked on 54th (off Genesee). Stolen was a pair of sunglasses and a black Northface jacket but the big loss was they stole my 10-year-old son’s baseball bag … If by chance the thief decided to toss the bag and gear, we would love for people to keep eyes open on Genesee while walking and if found, a reward will be given.
We asked Emily for details on the gear in the bag: “The bag was an Easton bag and it in were an Easton Ghost X bat, black batting helmet with a D logo on front, a Wilson size 12 mitt, some accessories and a team hoodie with (surname starting with G) on the back.” Still awaiting the SPD incident number; the temporary number provided with filing was T19003684.
That’s Brenden‘s bike. His wife Jill hopes you’ll be on the lookout for it:
My husband’s Rad power bike was stolen from our double-locked shed in our alley on the night of either 12/10 or 12/11 (44th between Genesee & Dakota). Please let me know if you have seen anything, or might have security cameras near the area. We’re incredibly bummed as it is used for transportation/ commute nearly every day.
It’s been reported to police.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:10 PM TUESDAY: Tonight, Seattle Public Schools teachers voted to authorize a strike if there’s no contract agreement before school starts on September 5th. One local school will be the site of informational picketing the next two days, according to this announcement just out of the WSB inbox:
This evening Seattle Education Association members voted to approve a strike, pending no tentative agreement by September 4th.
Genesee Hill Elementary School educators will be picketing Wednesday and Thursday from 3:30-4:30 outside of our building. We are calling on our district to bring us a fair contract that adequately compensates all educators in a city that has become increasingly expensive, fund full time counselors, nurses and librarians in all our schools and deeply develop our commitment to equity and racial justice, among other essential demands.
Our staff appreciates all support by family and community members. Please join us, bring your kids, and wear red for ed!
ADDED 9:05 AM WEDNESDAY: Other schools’ teachers are picketing too. This photo was sent from outside West Seattle High School this morning:
We also were messaged about picketing this morning at Madison Middle School and Arbor Heights Elementary. And picketing is planned for an hour at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 starting just before 4 pm. And the district has updated its post on negotiations, noting that talks are scheduled to resume today.
Go out to dinner on Wednesday night, and you can help a community group in its quest to save a scrap of greenspace for community use. Five restaurants – two in Admiral, three in The Junction – are donating part of their proceeds 5-10 pm Wednesday night to “Dine Out for Dakota,” benefiting the Urban Homestead Foundation‘s ongoing campaign to raise money to buy the former Seattle City Light substation site at 50th/Dakota. Participating are:
If you haven’t heard about the project before, the backstory is here.
Mike e-mailed to say he’s called it in, and he advises that people and pets keep their distance. He saw the raccoon, appearing “severely injured” as he described it, on SW Dakota between 47th and 49th SW. Here’s what the Seattle Animal Shelter (aka “animal control”) says about injured/ill wildlife. Other animal-involved situations? Info here.
The “Scenario F” proposal to move part of the Genesee Hill Elementary attendance area into the Lafayette Elementary attendance area got final approval from the School Board last night. After a reader question, we just checked and just confirmed that via the recording of last night’s meeting (you can see the unanimous vote here). Current GH students in the affected area will be “grandfathered” if their families want them to stay at that school. The plan is meant to provide some relief for GH, the district’s most populous elementary and now 50+ students over “seat capacity,” per the district, while Lafayette is 100+ students under capacity. More background is in our report from two weeks ago; before the final scenario was settled on, we covered a briefing at GH last October.
P.S. Incoming kindergarteners’ families are asked to enroll them as soon as possible because schools already are making staffing and other decisions – you can do that now. GHES has two tours scheduled – 9 am January 25th and 9 am February 7th. Principal Gerrit Kischner noted in his enrollment-period announcement, “If you do have an older child currently attending Genesee Hill and you live in the zone that is shifting to Lafayette, you must apply for Genesee Hill during Open Enrollment, which runs for a short period between February 5 and February 16th.” Lafayette’s next kindergarten tour, meantime, is on the school calendar for 2:30 pm February 8th.
“We need a hero to save this land and legacy before it’s lost forever.”
That’s what it’s come down to for the West Seattle volunteers who founded the Urban Homestead Foundation, as they now have less than 8 weeks left to finish raising the money needed for a rare remaining open-space site in West Seattle, right across the street from the area’s most-populous elementary school.
The grass-roots group won a $281,000 matching grant from the King County Conservation Futures Fund, as reported here last June. That was a major achievement. But the key word there is “matching.”
The land at stake, dubbed the Dakota Homestead, is at 50th SW and SW Dakota [map], to purchase the lot, on the corner of SW Dakota and 50th Avenue SW. It’s city-owned – a decommissioned substation – and holds 20 mature trees, six of them with “exceptional” status. The foundation has been working for more than a year and a half to manage the land as a neighborhood preserve and gathering space, a hub for urban gardening and environmental education.
But they have to have the money to buy it by the end of the year. That’s where the hero, or heroes, come in, says foundation board member Phoebe Ingraham: “We are confident a visionary family, an energized community member or local businesses will respond to this call and save the day with a major gift. We need a hero to save this land and legacy before it’s lost forever. It’s the 11th hour on this unique opportunity. This green space represents West Seattle’s past, present, and future.”
The Urban Homestead Foundation has raised money and awareness, and along with securing the grant, they’ve pulled together $30,000 from neighbors. On the same June day that foundation supporters celebrated the big matching-fund grant, for example, a Girl Scout troop stopped by to donate $350:
And now, they need major gifts totaling at least $300,000 before the end-of-year deadline.
The community supporters include Gerrit Kischner, principal of Genesee Hill Elementary across the street. He sees the site as “a natural classroom. Right now, much of the space is closed up and cut off from the community. Urban Homestead Foundation wants to do better for students and neighbors. I urge local families, individuals and businesses to consider their deep ties to this area, learn about the vision, and to step forward. It would be an incredible legacy to capture this moment in time and preserve the Homestead for future generations.” He’s one of the people you’ll hear from in this video about the site:
Donations are tax-deductible; information about how to give is here. December 31st is the deadline.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Boundary changes are being considered for those two schools to take some pressure off GHES, West Seattle’s most-populous elementary, already 10 percent above capacity just one year after opening.
The changes – if any – would take effect next fall, starting in the 2018-2019 year, and could affect some current GH students, depending on what kind of “grandfathering” – if any – the district decides to allow.
All this was discussed at GHES this morning, as principal Gerrit Kischner and district officials led an early-stage briefing for families during a “coffee with the principal” event in the lunchroom.
GH opened in fall 2016, built for a capacity of 650 students, after the program’s years with a village of portables at Schmitz Park Elementary, but it’s already stuffed with more than 710. “We’ve continued to grow and grow even though our boundaries have shrunk,” Kischner noted.
He was joined at the meeting by Lafayette principal Cindy Chaput and, from district HQ, associate superintendent Dr. Flip Herndon and enrollment planning director Ashley Davies.
“We’re already over the capacity of the building” and “there’s no additional space,” Davies began. She showed a slide with Genesee Hill’s “right-size capacity” and current over-enrollment, while Lafayette is underenrolled – “right-size” at 550, currently at 394. (The calculations for “right size” do include Lafayette’s current portables, Davies said in response to a question. Some of those portables are used only part time, principal Chaput said, adding that “we have four empty classrooms” right now and she saw no problem with adding more students – right now.)
If nothing changes, Genesee Hill would grow to 807 by 2021 while Lafayette would still have room, at 437.
So the district reviewed five “potential scenarios” as Davies described them to try to balance things. They’re looking more seriously at three of them, and those are what were shown. Read More
As you can see, they knew what to do – and got the all-clear to emerge after 60 seconds:
Genesee Hill – which, at just one year old, has plenty of upgraded seismic-safety features – was by no means the only school participating today, but Seattle Public Schools chose it as the school to host interested media, like us. It also became a teaching occasion:
Those students were showing classmates a map with a closer look at the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire” quake-fault-and-volcano zone. Some learned about emergency supplies by tasting them:
(The review: A bit sweet. Turned out it contained some coconut water.) Students were also asked to tell their neighbors one thing they would do in case of an emergency:
P.S. One important extra lesson for West Seattleites – separate from today’s official event but something you need to know – your nearest Emergency Communication Hub!
The Urban Homestead Foundation, raising money to buy the former City Light substation property on Genesee Hill, is sending out a last call for tickets to this Saturday’s pig-roast fundraising dinner. UHF’s Katie Stemp says it’s happening at the site, 50th/Dakota, 5-9 pm Saturday (September 16th): “Tickets are $75 and include a sit-down dinner, a drink, live music and dancing, and outdoor games! It’s going to be a blast and hopefully raise a lot of money to match the King Conservation Futures Fund grant we received! If there are local businesses that would like to be promoted by helping sponsor part of the event, they can contact Becca Bay at firstname.lastname@example.org.” (We reported on the grant back in June.) You can buy your ticket(s) online right now – if you can’t commit until the last minute, Katie says they expect “a limited amount” available at the event.