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  • charliemas

    mom2boys, your situation isn’t unique. It is, in fact, very common in certain parts of the city where the schools were over-crowded and students received mandatory assignments.

    The consequences are even worse for some families who have a younger child assigned to the neighborhood school but cannot get their older child assigned there.

    This situation is yet another example of how the former superintendent bungled the implementation of the New Student Assignment Plan and how the board allowed that bungled implementation.

    There are two root causes to your story.

    First, the failures of the old student assignment plan that did not allow space for families moving into the city to get their children enrolled in their neighborhood school. This was a common complaint about the old system. You may be pleased to know that the new student assignment now does make space at schools for families who are new to the neighborhood.

    Second, the failure of the new student assignment plan to allow space at schools for local students who had been bumped out of the school under the old plan. Some of them were accomodated, but space could not be found for many, such as your son.

    At the heart of both of these problems is the simple fact that schools have finite capacity. They can only have a limited number of classes and those classes can have only a limited number of students. Once those maximums are met, there isn’t any room for another student no matter how reasonable that student’s enrollment may be. The District, in their capacity management, made a tragic mistake by targeting 100% capacity use. That’s choosing to have problems. It would have been MUCH more reasonable for them to target 90% or 95% capacity use.

    I’m glad that everything worked out for your family and your son, who had been #1 on the waitlist, did gain access to the school.

    There actually was a weird solution to your problem. If you could claim to have moved – changed address to another address somewhere in the Alki attendance area (say to the home of a sympathetic neighbor) – the district would have re-assigned your child to Alki. In fact, in that case, your child would not have been allowed “grandfathered” status at West Seattle Elementary.

    Think of how that rule affects highly mobile low-income families. Their children are forced to change schools every time they move from one neighborhood to another – even though the stability of remaining at their school might be beneficial for those students.

    The New Student Assignment plan has been poorly implemented. The former superintendent is to blame for much of that, but the Board must shoulder their share of the blame as well.

    in reply to: Seattle Schools Levy: Follow-up #714447


    Ah. So now I see that your readers are not entitled to a thoughtful response from you.

    Good to know.

    in reply to: Arbor Heights Spectrum? #714995


    Spectrum programs require a critical mass of students to be really effective. The program at Arbor Heights is brand new this year so it wouldn’t be fair to compare to the program at Lafayette. There were two other elementary Spectrum programs started the same year as the one at Arbor Heights. Of the three, Arbor Heights enrolled the most students, 14. That’s really, really good.

    Additionally, the principal, the staff, and the community at Arbor Heights are supportive of the program. That’s also really really good.

    So, although there isn’t much of a track record yet, the two most critical elements of an effective program are in place: strong enrollment and community support.

    If you have a Spectrum-eligible child ask yourself and ask the schools: “Will my child get an appropriate academic opportunity here?” That opportunity will come from two places: the willingness of the teachers to support work beyond Standards and a peer group of students who will help to challenge and prompt your child.

    Good luck!

    in reply to: Seattle Schools Levy: Follow-up #714445


    “I shouldn’t have to remind you of this, but as a Seattle taxpayer and the parent of a child who went to Chief Sealth High School, I am entitled to a timely response to any District-related inquiry I make of you.”

    Entitled? Really? Are we all entitled to timely responses?

    You’re clearly very new to any sort of contact with the District, because it is extraordinary that you got answers back from three of them. Typically an email to the Board doesn’t get any answer at all. Sometimes one Board Director, usually Director Smith-Blum, will reply with one line thanking you for your interest.

    That’s the reality, Mr. Preston.

    But let’s get back to your sense of entitlement, because that is WAY more interesting to me than responses from the school board.

    Are you entitled to prompt and thoughtful responses from all elected officials? Are you entitled to prompt and thoughtful responses from all government employees? Would you expect a prompt and thoughtful response from your Senators?, your Congressional Representative? your President?

    Do you know that the School Board Directors are essentially volunteers? They get a small per diem (works out to a maximum of about $5,000 a year) but no salary for serving on the School Board. Do you know how many emails they get every day? Do you know that their only staff are two new employees to support the whole Board?

    Your entitlement makes me curious about what we, your readers, are entitled to. Should we expect you to be informed about your chosen topic? Is that an entitlement? Should we expect you to critically consider the merit of what you’re told – regardless of the source? Is that an entitlement? Should we expect you to respond to us civilly – if not courteously? Is that an entitlement? Where is your responsibility in all of this entitlement?

    Here’s a news flash for you: you aren’t entitled to anything from the school board. You can complain and fuss and stamp your little feet, but they are under no obligation – legal, moral, or otherwise – to respond to your meandering and misinformed email. Get over yourself.

    in reply to: Seattle Schools Levy: Follow-up #714440


    DP, I don’t know how much more focus you think levy opponents should have had:

    We oppose the levy because the District’s budget priorities have put Strategic Plan initiatives ahead of basic services to students in the classroom.

    Is that focused enough for you?

    As for questioning the contention that the 85 jobs were not cut, it makes no more sense to blindly believe Director Sundquist than it makes to blindly dis-believe someone who is telling you otherwise. Director Sundquist has actually done LESS work to research the truth of the statement than the activists have done.

    If you knew more about Seattle Public Schools then you would know that the Board Directors are actually fairly poorly informed about the inner workings of the District and the activists are much better informed.

    The most of the Board Directors have served for three years or less and none of them were active at the District level prior to their election. The activists have been closely following the District – at the District level – for ten years or more. There’s a learning curve, and most Board directors don’t start to get a handle on things until they have been in the role for three or four years.

    As for discerning the truth, a number of Board Directors are on the record saying that they refuse to question the truth of statements made by staff – even when those statements have been proven false. So go ahead and rely on them if you like, but do it knowing that they refuse to verify statements by staff and refuse to acknowlege the clear fact that some of the statements are false.

    in reply to: Seattle Schools Levy: Follow-up #714423


    Oh, and Director Sundquist is right, “Central staff cut: this particular question seems to have become an urban legend for some. The district did in fact cut approximately 85 positions from central office as it promised.” There were not 85 positions cut from the central office. Most of those positions were just re-classified so they no longer appeared as central office expenses but as school expenses. The people are still there, they are still doing the same work for the same pay, the District just assigned the expense of their salaries and benefits to a school.

    in reply to: Seattle Schools Levy: Follow-up #714422


    DP, I’m not sure that you were listening closely to the concerns of those who opposed the levy. It wasn’t about retirement parties or travel nearly as much as it was about the District’s budget priorities that put new, expensive Strategic Plan initiatives ahead of basic education.

    While the District was cutting teachers and counselors, increasing class sizes and reducing services to Special Education students, they were spending $700,000 on upgrading their web site, $750,000 on consultants to help select novels for high school students to read, $800,000 on software to support Project-Based Instruction at STEM, $1,000,000 for brand new Dell laptop computers for every student at STEM, hundreds of thousands on a computer-based formative assessment that took away three weeks of instruction time a year and yielded a result that teachers could neither use nor understand, and more. Cuts were made in classrooms while spending on new pet projects for the central office continued without any apparent limits or budgetary constraints. On top of this the District spent about $50 million to close seven schools then spent another $50 million re-open five schools – including three that they had just closed. The District claimed all kinds of their spending outside of classrooms saved money, but they never were able to produce any reports that showed that money was saved. A big change in Transportation was supposed to save $2 million but the spending on buses went UP by $140,000 the following year.

    And, yes, there was and is a maintenance backlog of about $500 million.

    You will notice that few, if any, of the Board Directors actually responded to the real concern – the District’s budget priorities that put central projects ahead of classrooms.

    The District said that the money from the levy would be used to pay for a few textbooks (they discussed deferring this spending at their last budget workshop), to pay for the new teacher contract, and the rest, they said, would be used to offset cuts in state support.

    The district leadership have certainly done a good job of convincing people that the school district budget has been cut and cut, but, in fact, the school district budget has grown and grown. The 2008-2009 general fund budget was for $556 million. The 2009-2010 general fund budget was for $558 million. The 2010-2011 general fund budget was for $566.8 million. During these three years the District was spending millions on new projects while laying off teachers and closing schools.

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