Welcome back, students and families of Seattle Public Schools! Hasn’t it been a beautiful summer? I’ve enjoyed a great time staying home in Seattle; I hope you all have enjoyed the summer as well. I’m very happy to be welcoming you to a new year in Seattle Public Schools.
This note includes a few West Seattle and district updates, as well as a couple of attachments regarding issues affecting the wider district.
Welcoming our new Interim Superintendent
We Board Directors were surprised and sorry when Superintendent Banda was recruited to the Sacramento School District, which is much closer to his extended family, early this summer. Mr. Banda accomplished a lot of good work while he was here, and I wish him well as he returns to his roots in California.
Fortunately, Dr. Larry Nyland was interested in stepping in. Dr. Nyland is a Seattle native – a Roosevelt HS grad, who has served as Superintendent in Pasco and in Marysville, and Interim Superintendent in Shoreline; he has been a Washington State Superintendent of the Year. As I’ve gotten to know him, his easy, yet attentive manner gives a hint of the talent and skills that have won him great respect throughout Washington State.
On July 18, I was very pleased that the Board voted unanimously to offer a contract to Larry Nyland as Interim Superintendent, extending through next spring. We are slated to discuss the search for a permanent Superintendent on September 10.
Fairmount Park opening
There is much excitement at the slated re-opening of Fairmount Park Elementary School September 3rd. Welcome and thanks to Principal Julie Breidenbach, former principal of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in the Central region, who has assembled a very strong staff for our new/old school, and has supported parents in establishing a PTSA organization that is already busily in action.
A Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony is planned for Tuesday, September 2, at 2:45 p.m. The SPS website link to Fairmount Park Elementary School is: http://fairmountpark.www.seattleschools.org/
K-5 STEM and Arbor Heights cohoused at the Boren Building
Because the existing Arbor Heights School is being demolished and a new building constructed, Arbor Heights Elementary is moving into the Boren Building, already home to K-5 STEM, for the next two years. This entails many challenges for staff, students, and families of both schools.
Many thanks to Arbor Heights Principal Christy Collins, and to our new K-5 STEM principal, Ben Ostrom, and their respective staff members, for all of their work in coordinating a smooth transition and positive relationships. Thanks also go to the parents of both schools, who have come together to support the whole process, and especially to all staff and community members who have collaborated to design a safe, workable traffic flow plan for both schools. Warm good wishes to all in this next phase for both schools.
Welcome to two new principals
K-5 STEM: Ben Ostrom, previously principal of Highland Park Elementary, is taking the reins at K-5 STEM this year. He has been very busy, finishing out the year at Highland Park, while simultaneously stepping into leadership at K-5 STEM. Thanks, Ben, for your exemplary work in juggling management of two schools during the transition. Your leadership is greatly appreciated.
Highland Park: Welcome to Chris Cronas, who comes to Highland Park Elementary from Wedgwood Elementary in Northeast Seattle.
In the Spring, SPS designated Highland Park an Intervention School and launched a planning process for school transformation. Due to a number of challenges, student achievement at Highland Park has not been comparable to that at other SPS schools. District and school leaders have collaborated in designing a series of steps and processes to help overcome barriers and give strong support to student learning.
Intense effort is being focused at Highland Park in order to fulfill our SPS commitment to educational success for every student, in every classroom, every day. Thanks to Mr. Cronas, who was recruited and has chosen to come to Highland Park to lead this transformation initiative.
The Highland Park Action Committee hosted a meeting to discuss HPE issues on August 12; for the West Seattle Blog account of that meeting, follow this link: Highland Park Elementary’s neighbors learn of its challenges, offer help with solutions: ‘Tell us what we can do’. Thanks to WSB for their in-depth reporting.
Despite the addition of two new schools in recent years – K-5 STEM in 2011 and Fairmount Park this fall – many West Seattle Schools continue to experience enrollment growth. This fall, Schmitz Park and West Seattle Elementary will each open with one new portable.
Because of the shifting of boundaries with the opening of Fairmount Park Elementary School, and also continuing cost-cutting measures in our Transportation Department, a number of families have found themselves facing great difficulty in transporting their children to and from before- and after-school childcare. Our transportation department is charged with balancing needs, logistics, staffing, and costs as it develops and implements our transportation plan each year.
An issue that has emerged this year in the Schmitz Park attendance zone is that we do not have adequate childcare providers for before- and after-school care. Thus, some families need to place their children in child care outside of the transportation zone. However, the district is no longer providing transportation to those families.
Larger child care providers have buses and vans, but small providers do not usually offer transportation. We very much regret this hardship to families; hopefully, more neighborhood childcare providers will be opening in the future.
I am extremely grateful for the concern and also the respect for my privacy that West Seattle community members have shown over the last year, as I have gone through my bout with peritoneal cancer and chemotherapy. I’m cautiously optimistic for the future, as my “numbers” are good so far, and I’m regaining strength and stamina. Heartfelt thanks to each of you who offered prayers and good wishes.
Finally, FYI: I’ve attached two letters I’ve written this summer in response to correspondence regarding the K-5 Math Adoption, and to private school students commenting on racial and economic segregation in Seattle Schools.
Marty McLaren: Response to U. Prep students – July 11, 2014
Marty McLaren: K-5 Math Adoption – July 25, 2014
My fall community meetings are:
Thursday, September 11
6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
Southwest Branch Library
9010 35th Ave SW
Tuesday, October 7
6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
West Seattle Branch Library
2306 42nd Ave SW
Saturday, November 8
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
High Point Branch Library
3411 SW Raymond St
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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
- 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
From: Banda, Jose L
Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 11:33 AM
Subject: Our State of the District
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.
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.