Bell time task force: West Seattle representative needed

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, or call or email Joan Dingfield at, or visit the website at:

Seattle Public Schools to Form Bell Time Analysis Task Force

Thanks for considering,

Marty McLaren

Gatewood overview, November 8 community meeting (Saturday)

Hello all,

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

Warm regards,
Marty McLaren

October 7 community meeting, Op ed

Hello all,

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

Marty McLaren

Welcome back, students and families

Hello all,

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:

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.

Transportation issues

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.

Health notes

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

Warm regards,
Marty McLaren

Fall community meetings

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

Marty McLaren

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.