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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Here is a stimulating, highly important service opportunity for a West Seattleite! Seattle Schools needs a West Seattle representative on the Bell Time Analysis Task Force.
As you may have heard, the Board has asked district staff to conduct an analysis of changing school start times in Seattle Public Schools, making elementary schools start earlier, and middle and high schools later. Most middle and high schools start at 7:50 a.m., and there is overwhelming evidence that when middle and high school students start school at 8:30 a.m. or later they are healthier, more successful in school, happier and emotionally more stable. On the other hand, elementary students generally are wakeful and energetic in the earlier hours of the day.
To make such a change would involve coming to an understanding with many different groups – first of all, parents, and in addition, the Parks Department regarding use of athletic fields, after-school activities providers, child care providers, and so on.
The district is convening a task force to study the benefits and challenges of this change, and we need representation from the South West region. Our region has unique characteristics and it’s important that a person with some knowledge about West Seattle and its schools has a voice on the Task Force. Meetings will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, generally once per month, with two meetings planned before winter break.
I hope you’ll consider volunteering to join in this vital work. For information, email email@example.com, or call or email Joan Dingfield at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at:
Seattle Public Schools to Form Bell Time Analysis Task Force
Thanks for considering,
I’ve very much enjoyed visiting at several schools this year, and look forward to visiting more, now that school is well underway. FYI, my next community meeting is on Saturday, November 8, at the High Point Branch Library, 3411 SW Raymond St, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thanks to all who have emailed me, who have attended Board meetings and/or testified, and who attended my October 7 community meeting.
Attached is my review of the recent events stemming from Gatewood Elementary School losing district funding for a teacher, due to lower-than-expected enrollment.
Happy fall to you. Thanks for being part of Seattle Schools. Working together, we can support our students, staff, and schools in providing excellent education, caring and stimulating environments, and continuing improvement of our entire system.
Marty McLaren: Gatewood overview – October 21, 2014
Here’s hoping that our students are settling in well and happily, despite some very challenging issues with overcrowding and transportation hardships. I’ve communicated with our Transportation Department about students needing to cross Delridge to reach Roxhill, also walking from Delridge to West Seattle Elementary. I’m very hopeful that the overcrowded kindergartens at Alki and Arbor Heights will soon receive some relief.
Two weeks ago, I submitted an OpEd article to the Seattle Times, describing some of the good things happening in Seattle Public Schools. The paper had encouraged me to edit and resubmit, which I did, but when it came time to publish it, they declined, and simultaneously published an editorial that was rather negative about SPS and its leadership. The Times seems to favor reducing the amount of voter control over the School Board. Needless to say, I disagree strongly. Since I think you deserve to see what’s going well in our schools, I am attaching my piece.
Thanks to all who attended my meeting last Thursday. My next Community Meeting is Tuesday, October 7, at the West Seattle Branch Library, 2306 42nd Ave SW, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. I hope to see you there.
Op ed: Seattle Public Schools are thriving – August 29, 2014