BTA, Neighbor to Neighbor

Hello all,

Below is information about BTA IV Levy nominations, and also about SPS’s “Neighbor to Neighbor” outreach regarding a possible bell time switch. Assuming I locate a projector, I will be ready to show the N2N video at tomorrow night’s (Thursday, April 9) community meeting, if there is interest. We’ll meet at 6:00 p.m. at the West Seattle Branch Library.

With wishes for a great spring break to you and your family,

Marty McLaren
Board Director
Seattle Public Schools, District VI

BTA IV Levy nominations

If you want to nominate one or more project for the upcoming BTA levy proposal, please go to the following link and fill out the brief survey.

Background: The 2016 BTA (Buildings, Technology, Academics/Athletics) Levy will be a request to Seattle voters to fund a large array of small renovations, major maintenance, and improvements in school buildings. Seattle Public Schools is gearing up for a BTA IV levy vote next February, 2016. This will be the fourth BTA levy in a six year cycle that started in 1996, thus, BTA IV. BTA Levy projects are small in contrast to the BEX or Building Excellence Levy projects, which are primarily aimed towards major building and renovations – for example, the new Genesee Hill and Arbor Heights buildings.

To determine what projects to include in this levy proposal, the district will use the 2014 “Meng Analysis” of the condition of each our buildings, an analysis of buildings’ capacity needs, and information/nominations provided by staff and community members in the form of a survey.

To learn more about BTA levies, you can visit this link:

BELL TIME ANALYSIS, a chance to weigh in

Many West Seattle parents have called for the school district to switch elementary and secondary bell times. I first heard the request from elementary parents whose children start school at 9:30 a.m. or later. They were interested in earlier bell times for their elementary students; the late start times pose a considerable hardship for many elementary families. In addition, many other Seattle parents have lobbied for later middle and high school start times, based on compelling research that demonstrates that adolescents need more sleep than their current early start times allow, and that adolescents from all kinds of backgrounds are much healthier, physically and emotionally, and more successful academically, when school starts later.

Logistics of a bell time switch: To switch the bell times would be an enormous undertaking; it would require major reorganization within the district as a whole, affecting almost every school, as well as district transportation, and before- and after-school childcare and activities; it would have a big effect on families, on their outside and sibling-provided childcare and transportation arrangements, student employment, athletics, etc.; it would require a great deal of coordination with the community – child-care and before- and after-school program providers would be affected; joint-use agreements with the Seattle Parks Department for athletics would have to change, Metro transit schedules could be affected, and so on.

Task force, N2N: The school district formed a task force to study the issue, and develop a family questionnaire. Now, SPS is leading the “Neighbor to Neighbor” process to give information to, and gather feedback from, our families. N2N involves individuals – parents, community members, etc., taking on the role of facilitators (training is available) and then organizing meetings in which other parents can view a video, discuss the possible effects of a bell time switch, and fill out a survey giving their feedback. The video and survey are available in nine languages.

Underrepresented families: I am especially concerned that we in our region (as well as the entire district) find good ways to include the views of parents who have typically been underrepresented in giving feedback to the district. You may know of some families at your school who are not native English speakers, for example, or with extremely busy single parents. The kinds of changes caused by a bell time switch might have effects on such families that others wouldn’t imagine. Some of our West Seattle Schools have large percentages of students with language and other barriers to connecting with district surveys.

I have two requests:

  1. Please consider attending a Facilitators’ training, and organizing one or more gathering for showing the SPS informational video, discussing the idea of a bell time switch, and asking people to fill out a family survey. See details and a link below.
  2. Please share with me any ideas you have for extending outreach to West Seattle or other families who are not tuned in to district initiatives, and I will forward your suggestions to our lead staff person, Jesse Johnson.

There are 3 main ways to be involved:

1. If you are interested in facilitating one or more conversation please consider attending one of the upcoming facilitator trainings:

  • Wednesday April 22nd, from 6-7:30 p.m. – Roosevelt HS Library
  • Tuesday April 28th, from 6-7:30 p.m. – JSCEE Room 2700
  • Tuesday April 29th, from 6-7:30 p.m. – Ballard HS Library

2. If you are interested in attending a community meeting, see the schedule below.

Community Discussions

  1. Tuesday April 21st, from 6-7:30 p.m. – High Point Neighborhood House
  2. Thursday April 30th, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Hamilton Middle School Commons
  3. Tuesday May 5th, from 7-8:30 p.m. – New Holly Gathering Hall
  4. Wednesday May 6th, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Garfield HS Cafeteria
  5. Tuesday May 12th, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Chief Sealth HS Cafeteria
  6. Saturday May 16th, Family Symposium – John Stanford Center

3. You can also help distribute surveys to families

  • Paper copies of surveys will be available later in April; contact Jesse Johnson
  • An online copy of the survey that can be printed and distributed is available. Please note, the survey cannot be completed online.
  • Both surveys and the video will be available in multiple languages.

For more information, please follow this link:

Thank you for considering this important issue.

West Seattle meetings: April 9, May 4, June 1

Hello all,

Here is info on my remaining meetings for the year. Hope to see you at one of these.

Upcoming community meetings:

My April community meeting has been rescheduled – it will be on this Thursday evening, April 9th, from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m. at the West Seattle Branch Library, 2306 42nd Ave SW. (The previously scheduled meeting during Spring Break has been cancelled.) My two remaining West Seattle Community meetings for this school year are on Monday evenings:

  • Thursday, April 9
    6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
    West Seattle Branch Library
    2306 42nd Ave SW

  • Monday, May 4
    6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
    Delridge Branch Library
    5423 Delridge Way SW

  • Monday, June 1
    6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
    Southwest Branch Library
    9010 35th Ave SW

Committee Meetings:

FYI, all Seattle School Board meetings, including Committee meetings, are open to the public, in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, except in the case of Executive Sessions, which pertain to personnel and legal matters, and are posted as Executive Sessions.

I encourage you to attend committee meetings if you are interested in doing so; there are four standing committees that generally meet once a month: Executive Committee, Audit and Finance, Operations, and Teaching and Learning. These meetings are usually held in the Conference Room in the Board office. The schedules and agendas (as available) are posted on the district website under the “District” and then “School Board” menus.

If you’ve not attended committee meetings before, know that they are not always geared towards the public – sometimes pertinent documents are available to visitors, but not always. This is something we are working on. If you come, you’ll find a room that’s about 12 feet by 24 feet, with a conference table, at which Directors and lead staff sit; chairs line the walls around, and staff members often sit there and move to the table as their agenda items come up. Visitors sit around the periphery, usually along with staff members.

BTA Capital Levy, Neighbor2Neighbor (N2N) discussions:
I’ll follow up with a separate email about these.


Bell times, community meeting, contact legislators about McCleary

Hi all,

Happy Spring to you all; it’s been such a lovely winter, I can’t help hoping we’ll have a nice spring as well.

Three brief notes:

  1. Tonight (March 18) will be a “Neighbor to Neighbor” (N2N) facilitators training at West Seattle High School, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tonight’s and next week’s trainings are for people who are interested in facilitating N2N meetings later in the spring. And I do hope that includes many of you.

    Those N2N meetings will be about the benefits and challenges of changing the SPS bell time schedule to make secondary schools start later and elementary schools start earlier.

    I will not be able to attend, as we have a Board meeting tonight. If you can’t be there, here are some additional dates for N2N facilitator trainings:

    Monday, March 23
    6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
    South Shore K-8 library
    4800 S Henderson St

    Wednesday, March 25
    6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
    Bailey Gatzert Elementary library
    1301 E Yesler Way

    SPS: Bell Time Analysis
    SPS: Bell Time Analysis Task Force
    SPS: Proposed bell times plans and survey, Feb 2015
    SPS: Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) bell times discussions

  2. My next community meeting is this Saturday the 21st, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the High Point Branch Library, 3411 SW Raymond. I hope to see you there. If you will email me ahead of time with questions and concerns, I can be better prepared to answer them.

  3. A request to please contact your state legislators and urge them to immediately prioritize funding for K-12 education as mandated by the McCleary decision. So far this session, we have seen absolutely no progress on this, although it is well understood to be the major challenge that must be resolved in the 2015 legislative session.

Sending my warmest good wishes to you and your children; I am so encouraged at the knowledge that we are all working together – SPS, families, and community, to provide them with safe, caring, empowering and inspiring educational experiences.


January 5 community meeting, Math in Focus article

Hello all, and Happy New Year!

I hope each of you and your families have had a lovely time over this winter break, and that the new year will unfold in fulfilling ways. Welcome back, whatever your role, as school life resumes on Monday.

Two notes: My first community meeting of the year is Monday evening, tomorrow, January 5th. Time is 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., at the Delridge Branch Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW. I look forward to seeing you there.

Also, here is a link to a Seattle Times Education Lab article by an admired friend and former SPS math teacher, Ted Nutting:

New math textbooks are the right choice for Seattle schools.

It describes an important part of the broader context that informed my June vote for the Math in Focus Singapore K-5 mathematics texts.

Marty McLaren

Superintendent Nyland

Hello all,

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your Thanksgiving Day.

On Friday, the district posted the December 3rd Board meeting agenda, including President Sharon Peaslee’s motion, on behalf of the Board, to offer a permanent three-year contract to Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland. Below is my overview of this motion.

Marty McLaren

On December 3rd, the Board will vote on offering a permanent contract to Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland.

Seattle Public Schools is at a crossroads: We now have an extraordinarily able Superintendent on deck; in his 16 weeks in his job, he has demonstrated strong leadership, integrity, vast competence in his role, and deep awareness of the importance of relationships, among other vital skills. In my extensive district experience, through seven superintendents since the mid-nineties, Dr. Larry Nyland stands out clearly as a leader with the capacity to meet the challenges facing Seattle Schools.

I know firsthand how destructive uncertainty is at SPS. In my brief Board tenure, I’ve twice witnessed the extreme disquiet that gripped our district leaders during a Superintendent search: first in 2012, and again last June and July, upon José Banda’s resignation. Ultimately, our history of extensive turnover at many levels stems from this kind of disquiet and churn. For at least the last 5 years, staff turnover has steadily eroded district coherence – that is, the clarity and alignment between SPS’s central leadership and the schools, as well as clear alignment among our schools. At this point in SPS’s history, the option to avoid a Superintendent transition and maintain stability with a proven, strong leader in place is an unparalleled piece of luck.

It is also important to recall that recent superintendent searches in Seattle have deteriorated into media circuses which have driven away qualified candidates.

In addition, to initiate a search now would mean the loss of powerful momentum, and time. After only 16 weeks at the helm, Dr. Nyland is already poised to address one of the fundamental issues in the district – a culture of anxiety; fear of rocking the boat with truth-telling, or of addressing issues straightforwardly. This project will go beyond next June, and there is much at stake. We have a leader who will move us forward on this and many fronts, and who can carry through: We should seize the opportunity. The uncertainty of a search would create disarray at the top, with no guarantee of finding a leader who can quickly help us align ourselves again to move forward.

Choosing a Superintendent is, indeed, one of the Board’s most critical responsibilities: Along with other experienced Board Directors, many principals, staff and community members, I believe that extending Dr. Nyland’s contract at this time will reap great benefits for our students and our school communities.


If SPS is to conduct a search, we would need to vote by December 3rd to specify a search firm. This is widely understood to be the latest realistic date to initiate a search and still attract strong candidates for the following July. We delayed recommending a firm for a vote until after the Superintendent evaluation on Monday, November 24th. In Executive Session on Tuesday, the Board agreed to propose a vote on a permanent contract to Dr. Nyland, and to not proceed with a search. We are proceeding quickly with this vote because we believe it is in the best interests of the District to be transparent with the recommendation and to move ahead expeditiously.

Regarding the holiday announcement: Please note that policy requires agendas to be posted 3 days prior to meetings. Seattle Schools typically posts Board meeting agendas five days prior, on Fridays, to give ample time for review. Due to the holiday closure, this agenda was posted 7 days prior; this timing has thus allowed two extra days for review.

Gates grant:

Some constituents have expressed concerns about Board approval November 19th of a $750,000 grant from the Gates Foundation. The issue of Dr. Nyland’s mistake in signing has been resolved to my complete satisfaction. My overview of the grant itself can be seen on the November 19th Board meeting video, near the end of the discussion. Please let me know if you’d like me to send a written copy of that summary.

Marty McLaren
Board Director
Seattle Public Schools District VI
November 29, 2014

Seattle Channel: Seattle School Board meeting, Nov 19 2014 – Part 1
Seattle Channel: Seattle School Board meeting, Nov 19 2014 – Part 2

Growth boundaries in West Seattle

Hello all,

Below is an overview of the West Seattle boundary changes that are expected to be phased in next year. The Board has had a chance to review this year’s phase-in, and will vote on Wednesday, December 3. I intend to support the proposal to proceed with the next stage of the plan that was agreed upon a year ago.

Marty McLaren

Fall 2015 changes

At two recent Growth Boundaries review meetings in West Seattle, some parents brought serious questions about the planned phase-in of the new boundaries that are planned for fall, 2015. As it turns out, most people were looking at maps that showed the projected enrollment for the year 2017; projected enrollment changes for next fall, 2015, are actually much smaller.

To summarize West Seattle changes:

Change Area  From               To	            Total number
-----------  ---------------    ---------------     ------------
    4        Alki               Gatewood             1
    6        Alki               Lafayette            7
    7        Alki               Schmitz Park         1
    8        Alki               Schmitz Park        36
   37        Gatewood           West Seattle Elem    2
   56        West Seattle Elem  Sanislo             34
   59        Lafayette          Alki                 4
   97        Roxhill            Highland Park       44
   99        Roxhill            Sanislo              1
  107        Schmitz Park       Lafayette           28
  110        Sanislo            Concord              9
  111        Sanislo            Fairmount Park       5
  112        Sanislo            Lafayette           10

To sum up:
– Alki will have a net loss of 41
– Gatewood will have a net loss of 1
– Highland Park will have a net gain of 17
– West Seattle Elementary will have a net loss of 32
– Lafayette will have a net gain of 41
– Roxhill will have a net loss of 45
– Schmitz Park will have a net gain of 9
– Sanislo will have a net gain of 11
– Concord will have a net gain of 36
– Fairmount Park will have a net gain of 5

Other factors

Because of varying situations within schools, some of our overcrowded schools may still have to add classrooms, despite gaining relatively few students with the boundary change. For example, Schmitz Park’s 5th grade cohort is much smaller than the earlier grades, so the school will need two more portables next year, although only a net change of 9 students from outside the present boundary are projected to attend there.


All students whose neighborhood assignment school is changing will be entitled to continue to attend their present school. However, transportation will not be available to them after 2015.


The boundaries are being changed to relieve overcrowding. Overcrowding throughout West Seattle schools led voters to approve adding more schools, by approving the Building Excellence IV Levy in 2013. This year, Fairmount Park has been re-opened, with a new wing added. Schmitz Park is expected to move to a much larger, new, building at Genesee Hill in 2016.

Thus, school assignment areas have been redrawn to accommodate the new schools. In addition, the boundaries have been changed to shift student enrollment from overcrowded schools to those with more capacity. The process for determining the boundaries was carried out over the course of 2012 and 2013, with an intense amount of community engagement with school district staff members.

Why phase in the change in 2015?

Since the new Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill opening has been delayed till 2016, some people have suggested delaying the boundary changes until then. However, Alki Elementary has very little capacity to absorb more students – far less than Schmitz Park. This is because of the limitations of Alki’s site. Alki has experienced unprecedented growth; implementing the change in 2015 will shrink Alki’s boundaries and will prevent an untenable situation with more students than the school can house.

Two factors affect the changes in southern West Seattle. First, elementary schools in West Seattle need to be “right sized” in order for the schools to have space for projected high enrollment growth in the coming years. This is why West Seattle Elementary and Roxhill will have a net loss of enrollment, while Sanislo and Concord will have a net gain. Second, the Denny/Sealth zone is much more densely populated than the Madison/West Seattle HS zone, so with the 2015 elementary boundary changes, the number of elementary schools that feed into Denny/Sealth will decrease by one, Sanislo, and the number feeding into Madison/WSHS increases by two, as Fairmount Park will feed into Madison/WSHS.

I am working with principals of the affected south end schools to make sure that all parents and guardians have an opportunity to ask questions about the changes by February, so they will have plenty of time to consider the impact of the changes and choices.

Other concerns

Parents have also pointed out that some students will end up attending three different schools: Alki, Schmitz Park, and Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill. That may, indeed, be a hardship; however, those who move from Schmitz Park to the new Genesee Hill site in 2016 will do so as part of a whole cohort. No student or groups of students will be individually uprooted, rather all will move together.