Welcome back from Spring Break

Hello all,

I hope you all have enjoyed Spring Break and are ready for another busy and active finish to the school year. Thanks for your willingness to stay involved and aware of school, and school district, happenings.

District news with a West Seattle emphasis:

Superintendent Banda announced several 2014-15 principal appointments on April 12, including two in West Seattle.

Ben Ostrom, current principal at Highland Park Elementary, will take the place of Dr. Shannon McKinney at K-5 STEM. Dr. McKinney will be going on leave next year.

Replacing Mr. Ostrom at Highland Park Elementary is Chris Cronas, currently principal of Wedgwood Elementary.

Attached are the Superintendent’s announcement letters for those two positions, and a letter from Ben Ostrom to the K-5 STEM staff; I’ve also attached a copy of my recent brief email exchange with Mr. Cronas.

Supt. Banda’s letter to the K-5 STEM community, April 11
Ben Ostrom’s letter to K-5 STEM staff and families, April 11

Supt. Banda’s letter to the Highland Park community, April 11
Chris Cronas’ email to Marty McLaren, April 17

Twenty nine Seattle Public Schools have just been announced as recipients of Washington Achievement Awards. Congratulations, and deep thanks for your work, to all the staff members of our three West Seattle winners:

West Seattle High School and Chief Sealth International High School were both recognized for High Progress.

Denny International Middle School received special recognition for Math Growth.

Follow this link for more specific information about these awards:
WA Superintendent of Public Instruction: Washington Achievement Award

It’s also important to recognize the tireless commitment and enthusiasm of all of our staff members throughout the district. Congratulations and thanks to all for bringing our students so far.

Math Adoption:

You are invited to view our three possible choices for our elementary math textbooks, enVision, Go Math!, and Math in Focus, now on display in locations throughout the city, through Friday, April 25th. We encourage interested family and community members to review these books and share your observations with the Adoption Committee on the forms provided.

In West Seattle, they can be seen during the school day at West Seattle Elementary, 6760 34th Ave SW (206 252-9450).

They are also on view at the Douglass-Truth Public Library, 2300 E. Yesler Way, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Other school viewing locations:
Catharine Blaine K-8, 2550 34th Ave W (252-1920)
Bryant Elementary, 3311 NE 60th St (252-5200)
Northgate Elementary, 11725 1st Ave NE (252-4180)
Wing Luke Elementary, 3701 S Kenyon St (252-7630)

Open Mike for Special Ed, and other announcements:

Please go to the SPS website for further information on the math adoption, and also for announcements seeking members for a Family Engagement Task Force, and inviting interested people to participate in an Open Mike event regarding Special Education services in SPS.

Community Meetings:

Thanks to those who came to my community meeting on April 5th. We had a lively discussion which was largely focused on the importance of SPS continuing to improve its communications with families.

Seattleites are people whose engagement with schools is intense, and is growing; citizens are insisting on excellent schools for all of our students. I am very mindful of, and committed to, the expectation that we in the district must work unceasingly on all fronts to improve where needed, in order to bring excellent education to every child.

I’ve scheduled two more community meetings before summer:

  • Monday evening, May 5, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., at the High Point Community Center, 6920 34th Ave SW. (This is not to be confused with the High Point Center on SW Morgan St, two blocks north of the Community Center.)
  • Saturday morning, May 31, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Southwest Branch Library, 9010 35th Ave SW.

Please email me with your questions, concerns, and comments.


April and May community meetings, and more

Hello all,

I will host a community meeting tomorrow morning, Saturday, April 5, from 10:00 to 12:00 noon in the Common House of Puget Ridge Cohousing, 7020 18th Ave. SW.

Also, Monday evening, May 5, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the High Point Community Center, 6920 34th Ave SW.

As most of you know, I’ve gone through a health crisis in the last few months, and had mostly limited my School Board work to scheduled Board meetings and communicating by email. Now I’m getting back up to speed and looking forward to visiting schools and connecting more with parents and community members in person.

Below is an overview of some of the topics that have been “up” lately. You’ll see that many of them are connected with ongoing processes; others may relate to questions and concerns.

There are many more issues than those listed here, of course. I invite you to email me discuss these or other topics, at martha.mclaren@seattleschools.org.

You are also welcome to come to my community meetings and to attend any district meetings posted on the Seattle Public Schools calendar (except for Executive Sessions, related to such things as personnel issues and closed to the public; note that Executive Committee meetings, however, are open to the public).

Seattle Public Schools issues, focusing on West Seattle:

  • The challenges of the upcoming co-location of Arbor Heights with K-5 STEM at Boren
  • Transportation problems for some families of Concord students who will lose busing next year
  • Should the community advocate for Concord to become an option school?
  • The opening of Fairmount Park Elementary as a combined neighborhood school and APP option school

District-wide issues:

  • The possibility of switching bell times, so that elementary start times are earlier and secondary times later
  • Maintaining student privacy in connection with data gathered from district testing
  • The need to displace Northwest Center from its home in the Queen Anne School building
  • Universal Preschool (Preschool for All)
  • School budgets – how decisions on budgets are made

Hope to see some of you tomorrow.


Kindergarten fees

Hello all,

Several parents have emailed me to ask about the decision making process for selecting the schools to receive additional state monies for full day kindergarten. I am copying below the explanation given to me by our Interim Director of Finance. Hopefully, this will clarify the reasoning behind the identification of schools receiving full subsidies for all day kindergarten.

We can look forward to a gradual expansion of schools receiving full day K funding, and by 2018, state Learning Assistance Funds (known as LAP) should extend all day K to every elementary school in the district. Unfortunately, this probably will come too late to help some families. However, in the near future we will be able to reduce the charge at schools without full subsidies, and return a small rebate to parents as well.

Marty McLaren

“How to distribute these funds was actually a significant part of the discussion. LAP funds are required to be focused on students and communities where deficiencies exist rather than being used across all students in the district. The team’s decision was that the funds should be focused on the schools most at risk, to comply with these requirements and to satisfy ‘equity’ rather than ‘equality.’

“The state has funded full day K at schools based on the percentage of FRL students at the schools starting with the highest FRL schools in the state. Our team continued this process by taking the next 16 schools on the list as published by the state.

“By 2018 the State is required to fund full day K at all schools. As the State funds additional programs this would free up the LAP funds and we could shift them to the next schools on the State’s list.

“It is still the case that at all of our schools any students who qualify for FRL status may attend full day K at no charge. For those students who are still paying, the rate will be dropping by $280 a year from $3,110 to $2,830 after the LAP funds are applied.

“Please let me know if you have any additional questions.”

Joe Paperman

Our State of the District

Hello all,

Forwarding Superintendent Banda’s State of the District presentation. I’m greatly encouraged by the evidence of the good work that is ongoing, and more committed than ever in my determination that we must do much more to eliminate the Opportunity Gap.

Marty McLaren

From: Banda, Jose L
Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 11:33 AM
Subject: Our State of the District

Good morning,

As many of you know, the 2012-13 school year marked our final year of Excellence for All, the five-year strategic plan that was launched in 2008.

I am writing to give you a preview of our State of the District, which I am presenting to the community later today, and again at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at the John Stanford Center auditorium.

While we did not meet many of our targets in Excellence for All, our academic performance is improving. We have much to be proud of, and I am pleased to be working alongside you to ensure each student receives a high quality education.

Highlights of the State of the District include:

  • More Seattle students are graduating: The District improved from 62 percent in 2007-08 (baseline year) to 72 percent in 2012-13.

  • More students are taking college-level courses: Only 51 percent of graduates completed advanced college-level courses in 2007-08 compared to 72 percent in 2012-13.

  • Seattle students are outperforming the state average on state math and science tests.

    • In 4th grade mathematics, 56 percent passed the state test in 2007-08, compared to 70 percent in 2012-13 (the state average increased from 54 percent to 63 percent during that same timeframe).

  • Overall, schools are improving. In 2008, 41 percent of schools were a Level 1 or 2. In 2013, only 16 percent of schools are a Level 1 or 2.

    • West Seattle Elementary and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary improved from a Level 1 to Level 3.

    • Three Southeast elementary schools rose to Level 5: Beacon Hill International, Maple and Wing Luke Elementary.

    • Garfield High School and Ingraham High School achieved Level 5 for the first time.

Achievement gaps still remain. For example, the proportion of white students passing state math exams in grades 3 to 8 was 83 percent, compared to 81 percent of Asian students, 54 percent of Hispanic/Latino students, 46 percent of Pacific Islanders, 42 percent of Native Americans, and 41 percent of African American students.

Although we are making some progress in closing the gaps, we simply must do better to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate prepared for college, career, and life.

This year we are kicking off our new strategic plan, “Every Student. Every Classroom. Every Day.” These goals, and the supporting strategies, will guide our work for the next five years, helping us improve student achievement, close the achievement gap and increase family and community engagement at the school level. This work builds on the work we saw happen under Excellence for All, which included working with our labor partners to create a ground-breaking teacher evaluation system, building an academic data warehouse and creating a new neighborhood-based student assignment plan.

We will renew our commitment to project management and monitoring of our performance to ensure that at the end of the next five years we do a better job meeting the targets we set.

Both the District Scorecard and individual School Reports can be found online at

School Reports, Climate Survey & District Scorecards

Finally, I want to thank all of you for the work you do every day on behalf of our 51,000 students. Our state of the district is strong because we have committed principals, teachers, educators and staff working to ensure the success of every student, in every classroom, every day.

José Banda

Community meeting Monday, October 7

Hello all,

Reminder: My regular community meeting will be tomorrow evening, October 7, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Delridge Branch Library.

Hope to see you there.

Marty McLaren

Checking in, September 16

I am writing to let you know that, due to a health issue, I will be less available than usual for the next several weeks. I will be monitoring email periodically. Please bear with me if I do not respond in a timely fashion.

Growth Boundaries:

I want to remind you that our work on growth boundaries intensifies over the next two months. I will be staying current with this work, and contributing to shaping the proposal. The complete timeline is available on the Growth Boundaries website, along with an array of other data and information:

Enrollment Planning – Growth Boundaries

A board work session is scheduled for September 17, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. I regret that I won’t be in attendance. However, I will be following the work closely. Presentations and draft maps will be posted on the website following the work session. Community meetings on growth boundaries begin on September 23. You are invited to attend any of the meetings. The West Seattle meeting is scheduled for September 25, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at West Seattle High School Commons. Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese interpreters will be available. The other meetings are listed below.

Other opportunities to be involved in this process include the “Walk the Boundaries” project that will be held September 18 – October 1. Information and instructions will be posted by September 17.

I welcome your feedback and suggestions. I also encourage you to send emails to GrowthBoundaries@seattleschools.org. (Please put your school or topic in the subject line.) Each of these comments will be tracked and summarized for all board members. As Dr. Libros has said, a high volume of repeated emails expressing a particular point of view slows the process of reviewing comments; our goal is to be sure that all viewpoints are considered, rather than to tally opinions. So, if you know that your views are in agreement with others already expressed, refraining from commenting will speed up our process of assessing your viewpoints.

I look forward to returning to full speed, listening, and participating fully in this dialogue as quickly as possible!

Thank you as always for your devotion to, and support for, our students and schools!

Marty McLaren

Growth Boundaries community meetings:
Monday, September 23, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Mercer Middle School Lunchroom
1600 South Columbian Way
(Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, and Tagalog interpreters)

Tuesday, September 24, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Nathan Hale High School Commons
10750 30th Avenue NE
(Spanish and Somali interpreters)

Wednesday, September 25, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
West Seattle High School Commons
3000 California Ave SW
(Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese interpreters)

Monday, September 30, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Meany Building Lunchroom
300 20th Ave E
(Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese interpreters)

Tuesday, October 1, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Ballard High School Commons
1418 NW 65th Street
(Spanish interpreter)

McLaren community meeting:
Monday, October 7, 6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
Delridge Branch Library
5423 Delridge Way SW

A tentative agreement with the teachers’ union

Hello all,

I’m thrilled to tell you that, at about 2:30 a.m., SPS reached agreement with the teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association.

The details will first be presented to the teachers, who are set to vote on it Tuesday. With the recommendation of union leaders to accept the agreement, I am optimistic that it will be ratified, and that your children can go back to school on Wednesday and our teachers will be eagerly awaiting them!

I’m incredibly grateful to, and proud of, all the people who participated in leading us to this agreement. More details will be coming, after the information is shared with our teachers.

With relief and joy,

P.S. And, to top off the good stuff, below is a link to a great column in this morning’s Seattle Times.  Striking news: Seattle schools now booming

August 14 meeting notes

Hello all,

Below are notes from my August 14 community meeting at the West Seattle Library. As soon as possible, I will forward a summary of information and answers from staff to the questions raised at this meeting and the August 3 meeting.

My next community meeting will be on Monday, October 7, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW. I hope you all enjoy the end of summer.

Warm regards,
Marty McLaren

August 14, 2013 McLaren community meeting notes:

Growth Boundaries discussion, continued

There were 22 attendees. The large majority were from K-5 STEM; also West Seattle High School, the Genesee Hill School Design Advisory Team, a potential Lafayette parent, Pathfinder K-8, Madison Middle School, and Washington Middle School. A summary of comments and questions is below.

K-5 STEM at Boren

  • Please: give K-5 STEM a central location, and DON’T cap it – all children deserve it as an option.
  • E. C. Hughes would be too small for K-5 STEM.
  • Prefer that K-5 STEM become a K-8. However, if it stays a K-5, Fairmount Park is ideal.
  • Can the Fairmount Park neighbors be surveyed? Maybe they prefer the school to be a K-5 STEM program.
  • Project based learning is a really important aspect of K-5 STEM.

Schmitz Park location for K-5 STEM

At least two individuals expressed tremendous concerns about traffic congestion in the area around Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill and K-5 STEM at Schmitz Park if the latter placement occurs. Someone pointed out that the Boren location makes K-5 STEM accessible for families outside of West Seattle, for example, from Mt. Baker.

Note: One family sent its child to K-5 STEM because Schmitz Park was overcrowded.

Note: One attendee stated that a survey was given several years ago, and that West Seattle respondents’ second option program choice after STEM was Montessori. (I have not seen that survey.)

Projected continuing overcrowding at Schmitz Park

How about reopening Schmitz Park for K-2 only, after the move to Genesee Hill?

High school boundaries

When does the high school boundary assignment component come into effect in West Seattle?

Enrollment wait list

Many parents are extremely stressed and frustrated about the current SPS wait list delay. (This was brought about by unforeseen complications in the changeover to the PowerSchool software system.)

Program issues:

Advanced Learning Opportunities

Parents want APP as well as Spectrum in West Seattle; how about APP at K-5 STEM? West Seattle is underserved in terms of Advanced Learning Opportunities (ALO).

Special Education

Families would appreciate the assurance of a Special Ed cohort being able to move from Madison Middle School to Chief Sealth International High School.