Community Post

Sorry kids. Money Comes 1st, Education 2nd

So evidently the most common argument at tonight’s school-shutting board meeting was that they just didn’t have any other options.  It was either shut down schools or lay off teachers.

But the amazing thing to me is that if the school’s budget deficit is the real problem here, why wasn’t their first option to try and raise some revenue?  I’ve lived in Seattle for 11 years now, and I don’t remember a single time that we’ve ever turned down a school levy.  Do you know how much additional tax it would be on a $400,000 house to cover the $4 million savings that will supposedly be achieved by closing all of these schools?  $12.  A year.  

We just approved a tax increase of several times that to fix Pike Place Market.

Oh I know, it’s not just the cost savings. It’s also about the shamefully underutilized facilities in some parts of the district. Evidently the key to a good education is to have a laser-like focus on maximizing the number of pupils per square foot of space. Those parents that choose private schools because they’ve got smaller classes, in smaller facilities, with fewer total kids in the school?  Totally irrelevant. Seattle Public Schools will win them back with spreadsheets that show how Leschi elementary is now efficiently packed full of students.  And the possibility that we’ll soon see more growth as density and new families move into the area? No forward-looking analysis allowed.

And of course reason #74 is that it’s also all about the poor quality of the school buildings. But I still fail to understand how we could have approved so many school capital improvement levies over the years but have none of that go towards the basic maintenance of one of our neighborhood elementary schools. So school administrators make a long series of decisions to not invest in TT Minor, and then use that as one of their reasons to shut it down.

I could probably understand if we had just turned down a school levy in November and that left the school district with no other choice than to close some schools. But they never even tried. Administrators come out with a plan to save a few million by shutting down some schools, and just months later our elected school board rubber stamps it.

Maybe some day we’ll get some school leaders who put education first and fight to fund it right, and shut down schools in other people’s neighborhoods only as a very last resort.

0 thoughts on “Sorry kids. Money Comes 1st, Education 2nd

  1. #1 I really don’t like this. I would prefer the schools stay open. Since they aren’t, how can we make the best out of this stuation?

    #2 So NOVA will shut? Now we have an entire empty BLOCK on Cherry thanks to the school district. The school disirict appears to have killed the Twilight Exit. What’s next? Will the school district just start bombing random businesses? I mean really, there are only a few left on the blighted strip of Cherry next to Garfield. Why stop when you’re ahead?

    #3 What happens to that huge campus? Is there an opportunity to raise private funds and make it into something that will benefit the community? Or will it just become another vacant crime and drug traffic attracting monstrosity? My vote, let’s see if the school district will turn it over to us and we can rent it out like the Oddfellows Hall on Broadway. It could be a dawn to dusk artist and community outreach space. There may even be the opportunity to coop with displaced Nova students–half day at wherever they end up, half day interning with graphic and fine artists, theater, dance, etc. The grounds could become a neighborhood P-Patch.

    #4 What about TT Minor? There is very little commercial space in the neighborhood. How about converting it to office space for local businesses. I’d move mine there. Especially, if we could add a dog park.

    I know the vast majority of us aren’t happy about this, but this is where we are. We need to find a way to make the best, and thrive, with what we have.

  2. First what are the implications regarding our community identity, South Capitol Hill, West Madorna, North Yesler Terrace, Northwest Leschi? With the closure of TT Minor the Central District just experienced a major detriment to building a positive community identity. And, if legal action is taken how do we support our families, education, and family friendly amenities in the area while at the same time supporting those who may take legal action on behalf of TT Minor?

    No more writing for me tonight. Good night.

  3. This process was despicable.
    This is a huge loss for our neighborhood, for the entire city. The powers that be failed us. If the CD is going to be a place for families, for anyone, we’ll have to do it ourselves. Is it time yet?
    Too sad to write.

  4. Property values. View properties. Development potential.

    Need I remind everyone of just a few other real estate giveaways by the city?

    PacMed Hospital
    City Light Building
    Dexter Horton Building
    Arctic Club
    The unloading of the ATT/Key Tower on the city
    Public Safety Building
    The stadiums
    Union Station and environs

    We can talk about racism, and that’s part of it (or rather, classism) but the land these schools sit on is coveted. Sold at artificially low prices in an already depressed market, and then subdivided, they stand to make someone millions.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY

  5. First, thanks to Mary Bass and Harium for standing up for CD families. We noticed.

    But re: your point #3—It occurs to me that the University Heights center (@ 50th on the Ave) could be a good model for turning the Mann building into a community asset.

    But… yeah. This moment is for grieving. And as usual, lots of work ahead for us in the CD.

  6. The School District tried, but did not kill The Twilight Exit. It will open on Cherry as soon as Fri. Feb. 6th.

  7. Thanks, Stephen, for the update on the Twilight. And Jefferson, I like the idea about using the TT Minor building as office space for neighborhood businesses. I, too, would move my office there in a heartbeat. But back to the matter at hand. Joanna, I appreciate the point you raise about community identity. As I watched Komo’s story on TT Minor yesterday, I winced every time they referred to Capitol Hill. I’ve noticed the same thing with colleagues who ask where I live. When I tell them, they say, ‘oh, Capitol Hill.’ Even when I correct them and explain it’s the Central District or the Squire Park neighborhood in the Central District. I continue to resist efforts to erase our community’s identity and independent existence and I applaud the efforts of others who do the same. And my heart goes out to the kids at TT Minor and their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers. It always makes me smile to see grownups walking kids to TT Minor in the morning, kids hugging the crossing guards, etc. It really adds to the community feeling and I will miss it when it’s gone.

  8. Indeed, naming is important. And people call places whatever they want to serve their interests. Real Estate folks seem to always market properties in the CD for higher values by claiming that the parcel is in Madrona, Cap Hill, or Leschi.

    When they built the Safeway at 23rd and Madison, what did they call it? The Summit at Madison Park! It is clearly not in Madison Park. Haven’t actually been there, but I heard that when white people got interested in living in parts of Harlem again, they started calling the area they were gentrifying Central Park North. Seems familiar.

    This is why I’m always wary of renaming efforts. Seems to be a way to erase history so that we – the white, more affluent, newer residents – can feel a little bit better about the far-reaching (and not always good) impact of our presence in the area. No no, it’s not the CD, it’s Squire Park, or it’s East Cap Hill, or Lower Madrona… who benefits from new names?

    As for the school board…. they are a mockery of what they should be. Imagine a school board full of people who simply wouldn’t compromise when it comes to the well being of Seattle’s kids. Particularly the well-being of our low-income kids and kids of color. Society at large seems to be all too willing to compromise when it comes to them.

  9. It’s pretty clear most folks in our neighborhood are furious about this. I’ve watched from the sidelines, but found the Board’s handling of this to be totally inept. The dribbling out of information screamed amatuer hour.

    What’s pretty clear to me is that our school system in Seattle is bankrupt. We’re graduating 63% of high schoolers in 4 years, parents are willing to scrape by to NOT send their kids to Seattle schools, and the system is being run by administrators, not educators.

    I always dreaded the thought of moving home to Chicago and finding my only choice was to move to the suburbs to properly educate my child. What I’ve found in talking to my friends back in Chicago is that there is hope; Chicago schools are finding innovative ways to improve their schools, add extra programs, meet standards without teaching to a test, and, gulp, accept revenue from parents willing to kick in a little extra for everybody.

    Dr. Goodloe-Johnson looked great on paper, but has been a terrible disappointment so far. I hope folks will not forget the service of the 5 other board members who voted for this closure when they are up for re-election. Sometimes we forget too soon (snow removal anyone?), but let’s not forget this.

  10. Elvis, you just put another check mark in my “Move to Chicago” column. I’m returning to school next year to get a doctorate in education policy. It ain’t happening here.

  11. http://www.uhcca.org/

    Here’s a link to the University Heights Building Sara mentioned. It hosts a farmers market and has tenants ranging from independent language immersion schools, to churches, to Aikido programs.

    “The University Heights Center for the Community Association (UHCCA) is a non-profit, 501(c) 3, community center located in the former University Heights Elementary School. The University Heights Elementary school served the University District and surrounding neighborhoods for over 85 years prior to its closure by Seattle School District in 1989. Prior closure, the students, parents, teachers and the community rose up and joined hands around the school chanting “Be Cool, Save our School” in an effort to keep this school.

    After the closure, a neighborhood organization conducted a survey of the community regarding the future status of the building. A majority of 75% agreed that it should continue to serve the public as a community center. In response, the University Heights Center for the Community Association was founded in 1990. Since then, University Heights Center has been serving the greater University District through the wide variety of classes, workshops and programs available at the center.”

  12. My friends shocked me when they said they were keeping their kids in the city.

    Four years ago a group of local parents approached the school, a charter school I believe, and said, “we’d like to help fund some extra stuff for all students.” The district said great and now there is a fund that parents can contribute to. Notice that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson isn’t winning any national awards, while Arne Duncan is headed to DC to run the Dept of Ed.

  13. @eyes: No. Washington voters have consistently been opposed to charter schools, due in part to Article IX of our state constitution which reads (in part): “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” It is an unusually specific mandate for a state constitution and one that resonates deeply with our state psyche. Washington is not the go-to place for creativity or flexibility when it comes to schools.

  14. “Washington is not the go-to place for creativity or flexibility when it comes to schools.”

    even in the face of overwhelming evidence, we’ll just ram our heads into the wall over and over.

  15. The reason TT Minor was closed was because it had next to no support from the neighborhood. That is until now when it suddenly appeared on the closure list.

    We looked long and hard at sending our daughther there a couple of years ago. On the school visit, there were only 3 other parents, which according to the tour guide was more than they usually get. In contrast, tours at other schools typically had 30 or more parents.

    What we found was a school focused on kids coming from homes where basic needs (parenting, food, clothing) were not met. God bless them for it, someone has to do it, but that mission has little appeal to families in the middle and upper middle class demographic. As a result, the school is probably one of the least racially and economically diverse schools in the city. Our daughter would have stood out like a sore thumb, so like pretty much ever other family like ours in the neighborhood, we sent her to a different school.

    That said, closing the school is a stupid plan. My sense is that in another year or so, the neighborhood would start to really support the school by sending their kids there.

  16. African American Academy and some others were effectively charter schools. Now closed. The thing people object to is public resources used to allow one private group to exclude.

  17. For some 8 years or more the Sloane Foundation was a partner running TT Minor and required it to be a poverty school and left in 2006 for the New School where they dropped the poverty requirement. The neighborhood was beginning to reclaim it with some real success. TT Minor was well situated to become a transformed and diverse school. Unfortunately due to the lack of cohesiveness of the community earlier there didn’t seem to be time, but it also felt as if there were some underlying agendas. Really, there were other schools with lower building scores, lower test scores and more empty seats that were not targeted for closing. We were not well represented. Varying outside on inside interests often take advantage of and often encourage divisiveness and schisms here in order to get what they want. Call me paranoid, but a little paranoia is healthy.

    As a community we have to take an interest in ensuring that we have good schools and programs that are attractive for the families who live here. It does mean working together, organizing, and listening to each other. Our neighbors are our neighbors and I’m sure that all want a nice place to live. Schools are, of course, only one piece of neighborhood vitality.

    Central District support of levies is taken for granted by School’s First. They are always afraid that the North End won’t support if those neighborhoods don’t get something they want. We always support schools. Ouch, I would hate to find myself saying “no.”

  18. I’ve started writing twice, only to end in a loss of words. My charming 3rd try-

    1- TT Minor did NOT close because of a lack of community buy-in. I’m sorry it wasn’t a good fit for seandr’s family, but this school was making progress in the face of many challenges, including too many imposed by the district itself. The “why” for this or any of the closures and changes is convoluted. And. Where in the Central Cluster are there school tours with 30+ families? Not Madrona, Leschi, Marshall, Gatzart. I would guess Stevens, Montlake, McGilvra, Tops. Doesn’t this point to some of the concerns raised in this process in the first place? Closing schools and shuffling kids is not an educational solution, does not improve equity or address the need to build programs in every area of our city.

    2-Please consider calling or emailing to school board to ensure that district enrollment services require non-impacted schools to adapt their open house, tour, and other special requirements to accommodate displaced children. This is not just kicking a dead horse. It does impacted kids no good to have a 3rd tier “priority” registration benefit if other programs have already completed their outreach for the year.
    252-0040; schoolboard@seattleschools.org

    3-I am not ready for the funeral of NOVA at the Mann building, but wonder what it would take to model a program after The Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Delridge. http://youngstownarts.org/

  19. the Steven’s and TT Minor areas have had the highest birth rates in the Central Cluster since 1996 and TT Minor has the fastest growing number of children under the age of 5. Leadership and parental involvement in selection at a school is key. Charter Schools have no big record of success and there is space here for students. The question really is about insisting that the leadership is solid and welcoming of all students.

  20. Makes it all the more curious that Michael Tolley, SPS director of high schools, met with NOVA kids today and explained to them that district data shows they expect a decline in student population on capitol hill and in the CD, so really just couldn’t keep the schools open.

    And, Joanna, I agree entirely about leadership and parental involvement- and one can generally inspire the other. What I’d hope from the district is some support for the communities struggling with either/both aspects. It hasn’t been there.

  21. is not around TT Minor. Some areas are declining and that could be why they want move the families around TT Minor to a school north toward Capitol Hill, by the way not in a walk area. Thurgood Marshal, Leschi, Madrona, and Hawthorn all have much lower birth rates within their reference areas and would be candidates for at least one merger of sorts. I’ll try to copy it soon and post the information.

    I know that the discussions regarding population over time in the Central Cluster is has not considered the 5000 new units at Yesler Terrace. Sherry Carr always confirmed numbers for the north sectors over time, but while Mary finally asked a question, she did not talk up the information.

    I’m shocked that SPS is using the term CD, the board tended to refer to TT Minor as in Capitol Hill.

    Nora, have you looked at the map? They talk about the Central Cluster as a whole which is larger than the CD and Capitol Hill. Lowell is in the Stevens area and not in the TT Minor Reference Area. Yet, the motion last night made TT Minor’s area, Lowell’s area. As an all city draw they have not had a reference area. If they located Lowell in TT Minor’s area they would have to redraw Steven’s line. In the meantime they had time to consider a walk area for Lowell and allow those Capitol Hill addresses to waive the requirement to move to Thurgood Marshall. I wonder how many after-school care places will be located within that area. Plus, even if it weren’t manipulated it leaves a much smaller Thurgood Marshall group. I predict that Lowell will remain the main APP school unless someone really works through on how to balance this split.

    I promised myself to take a day off from thinking about these things.

  22. Look, this is not the 1970’s. If you think for a minute that TT Minor will be available for “community organizations”, you seriously need to wake up and realize what’s happening here. The land will be sold, the building demolished and the site redeveloped. They don’t let non-profits or small businesses have view property.

    As for the Mann building, it might see a new life as a Wallingford Center sort of place. Or it could be demolished and turned into townhomes or a big apartment complex. It all depends on who buys it, but at least it has a chance to be reused. Minor will surely be demolished.

    The thing to do right now is to try to stop the closures. If they go through, the community needs to bird-dog the school district as to disposal of the land, or we’re just going to see more cookie cutter development going in – development that is not geared towards working families.

  23. Hi Joanna,
    The question was put to Tolley in those terms, and he answered. He was speaking to middle school capacity specifically. The central cluster is left with 1 middle school and one k-8.
    Yes, I know the map and wonder what will come of the reassignment plan. Given that Stevens’ continually has a lengthy wait list, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the district redraw the lines, assigning the TT Minor reference area to Madrona.

    I needed a day off from this too. Thank for all your work on behalf of TT and our community.

  24. I think you may be right on TT. Mann, who can tell. The district does not sell many of its “surplus” properties as there are all sorts of legal constraints. I agree that the community does need to be vigilant on directing the district’s plan for these properties. SPS facilities master plan is here.
    http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/FMP/FMP2.xml

    The PI has a decent article on the issue of school district properties yesterday.
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/398240_closedschools31.h

  25. Nora, thank you for making me focus on Middle School, The Central Cluster will possibly only have enough Middle School space if at least half of APP is moved to Hamilton. I believe the north end is hoping to move the entire APP Middle School there when actually the Central Cluster is one of the best program placement areas for several cluster draws or all-city draws. For instance the International School would be a good program in our area. We actually needed the Middle School seats at Meany until the proposed move of half of APP. While the case was made that the north end needed more capacity, the fact is that the demographics did not exist to justify the recently added seats at Hamilton and they needed some of APP to fill them. It is not just demographics, it is also program placement, and strong advocates for the area.

    I believe that there are some Federal and local funding formulas that probably need to be better understood and changed.
    As whole we need to get good representatives who will advocate for the area. That also entails building a common sense of community identity, solid enough that varying interests cannot continue to manipulate divisiveness while we lose schools and other normal amenities.

    Please note that they were also able to save AS-1, a special all-district draw. There is no shame to advocating for your area.

  26. http://www.law.umn.edu/news/charter-schools-report-11-26-200

    This article currently circulating is one among many that conclude that charter schools perform no better than other public schools and on average perform less well and are less accountable. I’m not saying never but again not a magic solution.

    If money is spent well providing basics and sustainable continuous enhancements and activities, along with a good career paths and stable lives for teachers and employees public education can be great. For instance a music program will provide a much richer experience if students experience movement from one level to another. Even for the less musically inclined it offers reinforcement of what is involved in pursuing goals or to simply realize that with practice they can learn to perform something they thought they could not. For all, including the musically inclined it will help them discover and develop their talents. Sports and many other activities that are sustained and continuous can provide this, which the reason that a number of different sustainable and continuous activities should be provided in all schools. Children like traditions. For instance, first graders often look forward to an activity that the third graders are doing. This is why it is sad when a school’s program is constantly changed by the District or is closed and students move.

    http://www.law.umn.edu/news/charter-schools-report-11-26-200

  27. The Mann Building will be Landmarked and therefore would be a candidate for a similar program, but the ideas would have to be coordinated with plans for MLK building.

  28. Anyone interested in learning more about the politics and process that informed this round of closures is welcome to join us tomorrow. ESP Vision is looking at the “next steps” and discussing the state of public education in our district and beyond.

    Meeting at Garfield Community Center
    Tuesday, Feb. 3, 6:30pm
    all welcome

  29. If anyone is still reading-
    No. I no longer think this is about property values. Our superintendent and district leadership are connected to the Broad Foundation, key movers and shakers in helping close failing public schools, then creating the “need” for charters. In WA, we’ve said no, but that was before the budget crisis. Learn more at
    http://broadeducation.org/investments/current_investments/co
    and watch the national trend at
    http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/
    or check out Chicago where the Foundation has set up 5 public Military charter schools http://www.substancenews.net/

    Point is, it’s way bigger than Seattle and some of us are still working on this. Let me know if you’re interested.