Kay Smith-Blum’s Saturday morning community meeting was a conversation among a small group of constituents covering the Seattle University Youth Initiative, concerns about the effectiveness of current efforts of the Seattle School District to align curriculum, especially at the high school level, and budget and assessment issues.
Kent Koth, Director of the Center for Service and Community Engagement and the Seattle University Youth Initiative which will initially focus on the preschool children who live in the Bailey Gatzert Elementary School attendance area and those students currently attending the school. The idea would be to eventually expand to work with other partners to build a comprehensive support for preschool students that continues through Bailey Gatzert, and then on through Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. He has been surprised by some of the complexity of drawing up agreements between large institution, along with the opportunities and challenges of building a sense of community and collaboration within a community with so many different languages. More information may be found on the web site: http://www.seattleu.edu/suyi/
Kay reported that the new Superintendent is reviewing many of the efforts to align curriculum across the district that were threatening to end some of the important and successful high school science and language arts programs. Among the schools mentioned were science at Garfield and Ballard, language arts at Nova and Ingraham’s language arts and social studies.
During the discussion regarding additional cuts to education, community members addressed the student assessment program known as MAP, which has proven to be problematic in accuracy, difficult to support technically, and expensive, to question why the District didn’t use the classroom based assessment provided by Washington State. Kay responded that the District has a contract with the providers of MAP and, therefore, it will continue to be used in some form for sometime, although the District may look into renegotiating some aspects of the contract. Many of the strategies discussed to balance the budget focused on downsizing the central administrative staff by reducing some of the layers of various directors and supervisors and perhaps rethinking how the math, science and literacy coaches are assigned. All community members present were strong advocates of protecting the classroom from further cuts. Kay is not necessarily supportive of any cuts to the science coaches, especially in their work that supports 4th and 5th grade science kits.
Kay also noted that she is leading an effort to add more discussions of innovative ideas to the School Board work sessions. The current discussions on the reports by the staff are an important aspect of the Board’s oversight. However, she feels that adding time for exploring new ideas would enrich these discussions. She is also a strong advocate for ensuring that grammar is included in middle school language arts. The group thanked her for her time and inquired how many hours she gives the school board. She responded that generally it required at least 25 to 30 hours of her time per week and that lately it has been more. I encourage all who have questions and desire to interact with Board members to attend her community meetings, as well as those of the other School Board members and to encourage Kay to schedule another soon. Please see http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/calendar/showCale=37082&oc_id=12618&year=2011&month=03&day=01&sessionid=620744382257816fa1daf2c30b92ab32 for the Board calendar.