Tensions rise as groups continue occupying Horace Mann building

Tensions — and general confusion — arose at a Seattle Public Schools Operations Committee meeting on Monday night regarding the status of the Horace Mann building.

The Nova Alternative High School is set to open in the E Cherry Mann building next year, but groups operating under the More 4 Mann coalition have been using the space for various activities, including outdoor movie events, mentoring programs, vocational training, and other programs.

The groups were told to vacate by Aug. 15, then Aug. 30, and most recently by Sept. 18 so renovations could begin to stay on track for a Nova return next fall. More 4 Mann continues to operate out of the building, which has raised the hackles of some in the community.

The issue arose at the Operations Committee meeting, and though the meeting minutes

Reader submitted photo

Reader submitted photo

haven’t been published yet, we have a (admittedly one-sided) recap from the Seattle Schools Community Forum Blog. The site asserts that “the district has no idea who is in the building or what they are doing” and that “It is STILL unclear when anyone will leave the Mann building.” Meanwhile, signs and a makeshift barricade have appeared along the chain-link fence at the Horace Mann building.

Reader submitted photo

Reader submitted photo

The blog entry further explains that “[General Counsel] Ron English admitted [thecontinued building use by More 4 Mann] is costing the district in construction delays, about $1,000 a day (and [School Board Member Michael] DeBell called that low).”

The More 4 Mann folks have been mum on the topic with us, despite our best efforts to find out their side of the story. One of More 4 Mann’s leaders, Wyking Garrett of Umojafest PEACE Center, told us in an email that “Educational programs are in transition to an interim space.” This is perhaps in reference to a portable unit offered to the groups by the district, but we have no further details on this from More 4 Mann.

Recent tweets from the More 4 Mann Twitter feed read “Forces on school board trying tostop More4Mann,” and “More 4 Mann is about More than Mann bldg. It’s about justice for African American children and families being abused by Seattle Schools.”

We’ll continue following these developments closely.

35 thoughts on “Tensions rise as groups continue occupying Horace Mann building

  1. So no one from the District knows what’s going on at the Mann Building except that they know it remains occupied and construction has yet to start. Doesn’t anyone at the District have any control over their real estate at all? These folks are supposed to be professionals.

    And what’s going on with More 4 Mann? Wasn’t their departure negotiated over a month ago at the last meeting of the Mann Building Task Force? Why can’t anyone there articulate their position? Why are they so conciliatory in their talks with the press and the District and so hostile in their tweets?

  2. Omari and Wyking, if you are reading this, please stop this nonsense. We need another elementary school in the CD and your Tea Party like obstruction is hurting the Central District. I won’t go into the trickle down effects you are having on that. So, If are not here to help ALL residents of the CD then just go away. Oh, and please fix the misspelling of “repairations” on your Peace Center sign.

  3. M4M, Umojafest, and the Wyking clan are more on track than SPS. I say that even while abhoring their association with communism as evidences by the red banner on the fence. At least they are targeting the disenfranchised masses. Working on motivational methods to get people growing.

    SPS is a slug. They don’t need that old building. SPS needs a fresh start, new location. Just let the old thing go and let people who actually care about the community try something.

    SPS does more harm than good. Let’s stand with M4M even if we would choose a different direction. Let them choose thiers.

    • That building belongs to the taxpayers. Give another school building away? Um, no. And as far as helping the community, Nova served students in the community for decades, as was for many of us the only avenue to completing high school. Nova was uprooted and should be returned to its home of many decades.

      “A slew of other community development programs” says our author. Really? Just how many people in the community are the groups in the building currently serving and with what results? Just how many actual, seperate groups form this “slew” and how many are actually all just part of the same, small cohort of people still smarting over the last school taken over in the CD, and the ugly outcome of that? Please, present all sides of this issue, not biased, vague statements presented as fact.

    • “They don’t need that old building” WTF are you talking about? NOVA has been an asset to this community and the building is a historic site. The restoration is a great project. I fault the district for not protecting their (our) property rights in this case. Do you want to give birth to a different building somewhere?

      The occupiers should get a legitimate lease on some property and build their program there, not just move in and then become a political football. Sadly, Seattle politicians seem to believe the Garretts have some clout in the Central Area, and actually represent the thoughts of the CD community. In fact long-time residents of all colors would love to stop having to put up with their segregationist crap.

      • The Garrets clearly do represent the views of a large segment of the CD. Marginalizing people with a differing view is precisely the problem they speak of. We don’t all fit in the same SPS mold. There is not some uniform CD view to be represented. There are many widely differing views on how to educate, what to teach, what values are important, what is right or wrong.

        There is a huge population that is not only underserved by SPS but simply not reckognized as valid human beings. You can’t say we want to include you – just step in to the gas chamber and breath with us. That’s not being inclusive. That is applying a failed standard and acting like you are a gift to humanity.

        Please state the drop out rate for CD youth. Then segment that into ethnic and socioeconomic classes (yes they do exist). Is there or is there not a huge group that is doomed to failure unless somebody tries something new?

        I see Garretts trying something. The others I see are versions of the same old failure SPS has crapped on the CD for 50 years. How’s it working out? Look around. Not at your own class of 80K income whities – but the others.

        Yes, I too believe in personal responsibility. But it is hard to be personally responsible when society has you by the throat and is telling you that you must where a strait jacket and spend 7 hours a day locked in cell with 30 other inmates and listen to lies and generally boring uncreative garbage.

        Again – stop looking at yourself in the mirror. Have a look at the others. Think for a moment that they might need something else.

  4. I voted for the school levy with the understanding my money was going to remodel Horace Mann and put Nova back in its historic home. I think Nova is a terrific program. I don’t understand what justification there is for More 4 Mann to simply take it over regardless of whatever teaching credentials they may or may not have. The school board needs to act to move forward with what we voted for.

    • Ian, I just want to say, that some of us are trying to change the plan for the World School. This community/neighborhood was never engaged with decisions around TT Minor. And, we are trying to do it through a process and have fetl that we needed to present facts and figures. I do agree with those that find the Mann situation to be very frustrating, as the District seems to not have followed any process in protecting the property through leases and it leaves the whole place in a stir and sends the message that the CD is just up for grabs by whoever decides to take a public asset.

      • Lawless CD, anything goes! Would this be allowed in a school in the north end? How soon would the building be cleared if this was Wallingford? Another justification of the containment zone issue.

    • Well played, Eyes! Way to get your cliche in there!

      Much like Eye’s “containment zone”, the idea of these half-a@@@d “community activists” occupying a school building is tired and unoriginal. It worked exactly once in Seattle: When Roberto Maestas and his colleagues bravely took over the old Beacon Elementary for el centro de la Raza. Wyking Garrett tried to copy that with Coleman and failed, in favor of more mature and mentally stable people coming in and creating the NW African American Museum, and he should fail again here.

      If the SPS allows this to stand they are not deserving of any more school levies. This is nonsense.

      • @ calves you have given your self away as a poser and phony It was Wykings dad, Omari and others who took over Coleman. Please unless you have lived here for years do not fake it, it is too obvious for those of us who have. Going through cyberspace as a troll is dumb!

      • The take over of Colman was not a failure at all. It was righteously taken from SPS and kept. That Omari lost out in a turf dispute is irrelevant to all but Omari. In those situations somebody always has to loose the inevitable clash over the spoils of war.

        Omari lost to fight another day. That day is here. Mann will remain occupied and the subject of more burnded SPS money for decades. Let’s just concede another loss and general total failure by SPS. Spend our money and resources on building a new structure free of foolishness. And be sure that SPS only has lease rights to the new building – rights that terminate if SPS fails to acheive educational standards for CD students.

        No more blank checks to SPS. When they fail – we take their stuff. I will take a shift occupying Man 4 Mann alongside the dirty commies and Omari’s righteous band.

      • If anyone knows how to look like a fool in cyberspace, it’s you and your “containment zone” nonsense, eyes.

        But you are right, to an extent – it was Omari, but he dragged his poor kid along in the foolishness, so now he’s as goofed up as Dad.

        And pinebeetle, I’m sorry that you have to take your personal failings, and those of your friends, out on SPS. Lots of folks get good educations from our school system. But they tend to come from non messed-up families who aren’t looking for someone to blame.

        Bring the swat team in and clear out Horace Mann. The 70′s are over. Time to end this nonsense.

      • @ the body parts troll (no longer trying to rhyme with eyes now). Swat team ?? 70″s??? obviously the Seattle public school system must of failed you on history/ No, you failed the class’s.

  5. Joanna – You hit the nail on the head. You are using a process with facts and figures. I think many in Seattle can get behind that. We believe in a data driven change not intimidation.

  6. Why should this surprise anyone? This is an entitlement generation. The same people that are occupying the space are the same people that are on the government dole. They can afford to occupy the space because they don’t have to work. Just kick back and collect benefit checks. Then, if you see something you want (like the school building) you just take it. This is America in 2013… And its only going to get worse. To say they want the space for the kids is bogus – the programs currently run there only serve a handful of kids. This is a simple matter of a few adults who see an opportunity to make a grab for the property and are doing so. Shameful.

  7. I’m baffled. I did a quick search and landed on the NPARC site with its sample petition letter urging SPS to relocate Nova to the former Islamic School of Seattle directly across the street. Why doesn’t More 4 Mann simply relocate there? It makes no sense for SPS to move across the street from the land and building it has owned for over a century.

    • FNH do you mean break in across the street at Islamic school? It’s private property and i bet the owners would call the police.

      • I suspect you write this tongue in cheek, but of course I meant for M4M to negotiate a lease across the street, as it seems they are urging SPS to do. Not that a contract seems to mean much to this group.

  8. The Mann building belongs to SPS, which means it belongs to taxpayers. Period. M4M may take up their cause elsewhere. I am not in favor of giving away any more of our properties for private enterprises, however noble they claim to be. If M4M is in need of space, I suggest they ask FAME for space at MLK Elementary, which was the LAST publicly held school that we gave away.

    This foolishness has to stop. NOVA had been in Mann since the early 70s, is an excellent school, never wanted to leave Mann in the first place, and deserve their school back. It’s that simple.

  9. Hey everyone: This argument is pointless, at least from the position one OR the other-Nova vs More4Mann. They don’t need to operate in different spaces. Nova’s hours of operation are in school time, and More4Mann’s hours are out of school time. What could be better for Nova and the neighborhood youth than free out of school time programs??? Arts, music, technology, design…Nova and SPS should jump at this opportunity!

    • It actually is one or the other. NOVA can’t move in until the building is renovated and the Africatown coalition’s refusal to leave is stalling construction. NOVA doesn’t have the option to stay in their current building.

      Also, schools choose their own after-school activities based on the needs of their students. I don’t believe More For Mann members are planning programs for NOVA students.

  10. I support the larger goals of ending discipline disproportionality, better supporting student of color, equitable educational opportunities and more. That said, I am very wary of SPS entering any kind of agreement with the M4M/ACIC group. I feel that the group introduced themselves to the district and to neighbors with threats and misrepresentation of their programs. (Julia Ismael’s letter, claims of associations w/ groups…) I do not believe that they are providing ongoing programs for youth and I do not think there are a great number of youth who will be displaced if SPS takes back the building.

    My most recent concern is ACIC’s support and promotion of Dr. Umar Johnson who continues to promote the idea that homosexuality is a disorder. This type of ideology is not acceptable for any public school, especially Nova.

    • People are entitled to their views. There is a full spectrum of what we allow as normal activity and normal thought. Beyond what we have defined by statute as criminal behavior I see no place for condeming the position of others thoughts or speech.

      The efforts of SPS towards thought control, brain washing, and social engineering has stunned a large segment of our population leaving them apathetic, unmotivated, un-successful, etc.

      We ought to be encouraged that some have found the will to develop new ideas and fight for resources and inclusion in society.

      Continue down your milk toast path towards monoculture and the problems will fester and become more widespread until revolution is inevitable.

      The Omarites are a neccessary force to maintain the spectrum and balance our society.

  11. Pingback: Why we should all support Africatown right now – Rally and Press Conf. Sat | Creativity Not Control

  12. I’m a teacher who works with Black students in Seattle, and I wrote this statement of support for the Africatown Innovation Center and the More4Mann movement: http://creativitynotcontrol.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/why-we-should-all-support-africatown-right-now-rally-and-press-conf-sat/.

    Here is an excerpt:

    Below is a call to action from the More4Mann coalition regarding the future of the Horace Mann school building, and the future of Black youth across our city. There is a rally and press conference at 2 PM at Mann, 24th and Cherry in Seattle.

    Whether or not you agree with the tactics and rhetoric of More4Mann and the Africatown Innovation Center they are building , you have to admit they have created a situation where the severe obstacles facing Black youth can no longer be hidden behind school district smokescreens. They have refused to leave the Mann building until the District takes these issues seriously, and partners with them to actually do something about it. This is a historic opportunity to start head-on confronting the institutional racism that our passive aggressive middle class politicians want us to ignore.

    Needless to say, every powerful act of Black liberation in the US tends to create a backlash from people who are scared to do what it takes to dismantle white supremacy, and are even more scared of the new world that young black geniuses might build if they’re armed with a powerful education.

    There has been a media backlash this week against the More4Mann movement. I’m worried that it might be part of certain faction’s efforts to sabotage the Africatown programs and to force Supt. Banda to back down from the public comittments he has made to partnering with the More4Mann movement. Banda had said publicly, on record, that he would allow the Africatown Innovation Center to rent space in another district building during construction at Mann, and to return to the Mann building in the fall. We need to hold him to this promise, because the district has not yet committed to it in writing.

    We encourage everyone to engage in the debates and to write comments on these articles:

    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2013/11/01/is-seattle-schools-superintendent-jose-banda-too-nice/
    http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2022166547_lynnevarnercolumnhoracemann01xml.html?cmpid=2628
    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2013/10/delays-on-horace-mann-renovation-costing-estimated-1000-a-day/
    http://www.centraldistrictnews.com/2013/10/tensions-rise-as-groups-continue-occupying-horace-mann-building/
    Even more importantly, everyone in the city who cares about fighting racism in the schools, and anyone who cares about Black youth should come out to the press conference on Sat at 2 PM. This is bigger than simply a local struggle in the C.D. It is a growing, broad-based, city-wide, multi-communal movement with leadership from accomplished educators and activists of African descent.

    I went to the Black Education Summit held at the Mann building on Oct 5th, and I was totally energized and inspired to hear the presentations of educators like Dr. Joye Hardiman, Marcia Tate Arunga, and Dr. Debra Sullivan. As a teacher who works in the ‘hood, I’ve sat through hours of boring, useless, naive, and dishonest professional development trainings on race and diversity. All of them talk about race very narrowly in terms of multiculturalism and awareness of white privilege. This may be better than nothing, but they fail to recgonize the need to decolonize our entire curriculum, to change every aspect of the learning culture and institutional structure of our schools in order to meet the needs and desires of students of African descent.

    None of those trainings have really illuminated the cultural assets and intellectual strengths that students of African descent bring to the classroom. None of them have really helped me relate better to my students. None of them have affirmed my love for my students, or my efforts to be a part of their community, on their terms, in ways that can help them see their own potential, their own futures, not some teach-for-america-white-guilt-freedom-writers-I’m-gonna-save-the-poor-black-kids bullshit.

    I knew Africatown was the real deal the minute I heard highly experienced Black educators speak about things I’ve experienced in the classroom and have never head any teacher, from any racial background, talk about. Like the fact that students need to see us teachers as whole, three dimensional people, not simply as distant, flat authority figures who fill bureaucratic roles. Many Black students want to pose and answer high-level critical questions and want to co-create knowledge with their teachers. They love to play with langauge and to create rich, literary narrations of every aspect of life, including informal interactions. They are bored answering questions if they think their teachers already know the answers to these questions and are not telling them.

    I had learned some of these things from my students, my friends, my mentor teachers, and my coworkers. But I was constantly looking over my shoulder, doubting this knowledge, thinking maybe I was being “unprofessional” for teaching this way. These aspects of my teaching seem to work for my students, but I’ve been worried some district official will walk into the room and censure me. It was incredibly empowering to hear accomplished educators with years of teaching and research experience affirm that yes, this is how we should teach. It made me want to put every ounce of energy I have into teaching and learning with my students.

    Imagine if every teacher in the district could experience that? Imagine if the Africatown educators set up a thriving pilot program at Mann. Imagine if they research and analyze their own practices over time. Imagine if they offer professional development to teachers in other schools based on their findings, so that we can replicate their successes in our classrooms?

    Despite what the critics are saying, the Africatown educators are not being racist when they say that Black students learn differently. They are simply pointing out a fact you will NOT learn in a 28 day Black history month unit that spends the first two weeks on slavery. That fact is this: the Black community has not only experienced oppression and victimization but also resistance, creation, and cultural brilliance. The community has struggled hard to maintain and grow aspects of what several of the Africatown educators call an “African centered epistemology” – the belief that human beings are inter-related and we can only know ourselves and grow ourselves through each other. This is such a powerful antidote to all of the individualism, competition, standardization, and bureaucratic boredom of capitalist education that we’ve been railing against on this blog. It is a unique cultural expression of the idea of “from each according to ability, to each according to need” that many of us are fighting for in all aspects of our lives.

    In other words, I think that an African-centered learning process is not only different from what other district schools have to offer. It is better. Students of all races could benefit from learning this way. The haters should step out of the way and the district should partner with More4Mann and allow them to work with teachers across the district to make this happen.

    • I can agree with 32% of what you say. And the rest of the BS I can accept as well within your rights to say and act upon just incase you happen to be right small as the chance may be.

  13. Pingback: At a Central District school, More 4 Mann digs in on education equality | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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