Community Post

An open letter regarding neighborhood schools

An open letter to Central District parents, particularly those of area 42 & 43:

During the public testimony of Wednesday’s School Board meeting, two area 42 and 43 parents spoke in support of reopening the TT Minor school. Most of their testimony was strong, citing the unarguable damage done by the district with past growth boundary decisions.

However, one parent concluded by angrily telling the board to ask themselves why no one is going to Madrona.

Nothing else, no context, no data, just vile insinuation.

Even if the statement was not meant in that manner it was still a grossly irresponsible choice of phrasing.

It is well-known that Madrona alienated many neighborhood families during the school choice era. But that was two principles ago. Most of the teaching staff has turned over. Last year, the majority of eligible area kindergartners attended Madrona, for the first time in many years.

And the rumors and gossip persist.

If you have concerns about the school, don’t just rely on gossip. Visit the school. Talk to Madrona parents. We did that last spring, and felt good about sending out son there to kindergarten this fall, and we continue to be very happy with our decision.

Area 42 and 43 parents should additionally ask themselves how their community is represented. Do you agree with argument by innuendo and the denigration of a neighboring school? Even if TT Minor reopens, it will be a Seattle Public School, and a part of the Central District community along with Madrona. I hope the advocates of TT Minor realize that.

Matthew Cary

9 thoughts on “An open letter regarding neighborhood schools

  1. Racism is Lame. I don’t envy the board having to sit through that. I’d like to hope that this rezoning exercise presents an opportunity to give all of the local schools a little more publicity. It’s all the Central District. It’s all Garfield at the end of the line.

    It does make me worry a little bit about the Meany/Washington divide as it’s shaping up. The second draft of our middle school boundaries has shifted Baily Gatzert from Meany Middle School over to Washington. According to the Seattle Times, this was done in the interest of consolidating Social Service Programs. And Gatzert is closer to Washington Middle School- so it’s hard to argue with that choice. But it does highlight some of the demographic divides in our neighborhood.

  2. I’m unfamiliar with this issue, can you clarify what’s being insinuated? I’m not a parent, so that’s likely why I don’t know what you’re talking about. But I do like to know what’s going on in my community.

  3. This was a response and regret that was sent for any misunderstandings. We all want great neighborhood schools and some of the practices of the District at times seems to set one neighborhood against another. Our neighborhood of 500 students seems to told we must be diced and sliced to fill Lowell and Madrona and in the latest reiteration McGilvra and Madrona. . This following was not sent by me, but the testifying in 2 minutes holding a newborn can be challenging, and I believe expresses the regret that anything would set us against one another:
    I read your post in Madrona Moms and appreciate you standing up for Madrona. One of my son’s closest friends is in first grade there and her parents, whose opinion I full heartedly trust, say their daughter is “thriving” there and they are happy with the school. We sometimes meet at the playground after school and I see a lot of great kids and parents enjoying each other’s company.

    While I wasn’t at the meeting the other night I know the woman who spoke. I live in area 42/43 and am part of the group wanting to re-open TT Minor. Please don’t take it personally that folks here want their own neighborhood school. I think it’s great that Madrona has improved and is catching the local kids around there. What we have been told is that Madrona needs kids ergo our section is being added to the catchment. From our perspective, if this trend continues, those of us here slated for Madrona will once again be moved–it’s already happened multiple times. Maybe the district needs to be informed of the increased enrollment at Madrona so they won’t, again, be dealing with a capacity issue in the coming years.

    I don’t believe any offense was intended. Just that we want to fill a school near us, not be asked to fill schools outside our walk zone. And from what I’m hearing, your neighborhood is willing and able to fill a great school.

    My reason for writing this is to, hopefully, put out any divisive fires before they spread. It seems to me that we all want the same thing (good, local schools) and that maybe the district is slow on the uptake re: the spike in enrollment at Madrona. This neighborhood flooded Stevens and now they are looking to add a portable. The same could in theory happen to Madrona. While some are asking the district “why isn’t Madrona full?” maybe you could let the district know that it is in fact filling up with the area kids. You’d be surprised at how poorly informed they are with regards to data and trends. The closing of TT Minor being a glaring example of this. If you have access to the actual data on enrollment, specifically the percentage of eligible kindergardeners who chose Madrona rather than private, please send it to me as we’d be more than happy to ask the district “Why are you moving us to a school whose enrollment is increasing with local kids?”.

    Wow, sorry for the length of this. I just wanted to be clear that we don’t want division, just some stability for our own kids. It’s common here for kids on the same block to attend different public elementary schools. Please feel free to let the district know about your neighborhood enrollment trend–maybe they’ll apply some forward thinking and ease up on all this boundary craziness.

    We all just want what’s best for our kids, right?

  4. An email I privately sent Matt that he has not responded to explaining that there, in fact, was no “vile insinuation” at all, but rather a desire to plea with the School Board to do what is right by all of our neighborhoods and all of our children:

    Hi Matt. I’m Ryan Simmons, the second parent from Area 42/43 that spoke at the school board meeting. I am very sorry I upset you and any other Madrona parents with my testimony. It was not my intention to do so and please allow me to explain.

    The red light came at a very unfortunate time in my testimony. If I had been able to complete my thought I would have stated,

    “Have you asked yourselves why the seats at Madrona are not full? It is because the district has not made the necessary investments to assist the Madrona community to help its school step out of its underperforming status. This leaves the opportunity for many members of the Madrona and Central Area communities to “opt out”, leaving those who can afford it to send their children to private school and those who can’t to attend an underperforming school and struggle to make it better. This is both an opportunity AND an achievement gap. Growth boundary revisions should not only consider numbers and empty seats, but the reasons behind them. The SPS should be working with underperforming schools to decrease inequities so that these imbalances do not continue and all children have the opportunity to go to a walkable school that will serve them well. Placing Area 42 or 43 in Madrona K-8 will not solve its achievement issues. It will merely exacerbate, as many of us are simply too far removed from the Madrona community and spread too thin between schools to really invest in its success.”

    I had a baby on Saturday. I couldn’t practice what I was going to say, or time it, and, clearly, I thought I was going to get out a lot more than I did. I have visited Madrona in the last month and went on a tour and talked with the staff. The facilities and people are great. I commend you for supporting your neighborhood school. I still think it is undeniable that there are performance issues and those can only be solved if the district shows greater support of parents like you, who reside in and are invested in Madrona, and who are stepping up to help the school improve. Area 42/43 are too far away to invest. It simply isn’t our community.

    This shouldn’t be about parents vs parents. It should be about what is best for our children. I can see how my truncated statement could have been upsetting. Please accept my apology.

    Ryan Simmons

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Ryan. After hearing so much gossip about how horrible Madrona is for so many years, I am very sensitive to those who haven’t really looked into the issue.

    I’m glad you’re not one of those people. I fully understand the difficulty of testifying in a short amount of time (I was 11th on the waitlist and couldn’t testify at all…)

    Thank you for your apology. I look forward to working with you in the future, I’m sure our paths will cross again :)

    I do not think I agree with all of your argument, but it is a reasonable one and you have many valid points. I’m glad we can discuss it on its merits.

    While the district is not perfect in its management of Madrona, so far we haven’t found a lot to argue with. For example, like Stevens, Madrona has music and gym. At Stevens, as I understand it, music and gym exists only because of the PTSA.; at Madrona it’s because of a grant. So yay for the district there, that seems to be an example of the system working.

    However, because of low enrollment, as we understand, we don’t have a vice-principal (at a K-8!), and we’re 40 students shy of having a full-time librarian. The district has limited resources, and it is hard to argue for taking those resources away from another school which is serving a greater number of children.

    While the immediate Madrona neighborhood is much more supportive than in the past, it is hard to see how it will ever fill the school. Last year (the most recent for which I could find data), 24 area kindergarteners went to Madrona (that’s the majority I mentioned in my letter). If this continued over the six K-5 classes, those 150 students would only fill the school halfway, and that is not counting any future loss from students going into APP.

    Low test scores are a very imperfect measure of the achievement of the school. We know several parents whose children perform above-average and have been challenged and motivated by their classes while at Madrona. We are not sure radical measures are necessary; the school is not a disaster that needs to be overhauled.

    So, as I said, I’m not sure the district’s management of Madrona has been reprehensible. But I think it’s clear Madrona has been poorly served by the Seattle parent community. Every family at Madrona that we have spoken to about this issue has admitted that they have had neighbors tell them not to send their kids to Madrona, mostly based on rumor, gossip and hearsay. We certainly found that to be the case when we tried to verify the rumors we had heard about the school.

    At any rate, I think these are some of the real issues that need to be addressed for our Central District schools. I’m glad we will be able to work through them.

    — Matt Cary

  6. TT Minor and Madrona have had poor reputations for generations. Literally. Both schools were considered such bad options both when I was a kid in the 60’s/70’s and when my children were little in the 90’s, that my many siblings and I went elsewhere (spread around to 4 different schools, seperating my sibs), and my kids were able to go elsewhere only because their father taught at the school we sent them to. Why not address on a point by point basis the negative issues that drove parents away from these schools since the 60’s, and shout to the rooftops what has changed that you believe now makes the schools better. I’d have loved my kids to have been able to go to their neighborhood elementary school, but at the time, and in my time as a child, our two nearest schools were terrible (and I say this as the child of 2 teachers who taught in Seattle schools, and – later – as the wife of a Seattle teacher). Among those trying to make the school better there was the constant brand that anyone asking questions was racist for asking. My son’s best friend lived literally across the street from Madrona yet sent her son to a different school a bus ride away. They had no car. It would have been so much easier for her son to go to Madrona. But there are reasons that for five decades these schools have been shunned by people who live near them. Address THOSE issues – issues of safety and quality education and consistency and cohesion in leadership – and tell new parents what has CHANGED. All the rest is just a blame game to gloss over real problems that have existed for decades in several schools surrounded by parents who would love to be able to send their kids down the block for an education..

    • That’s right Del,

      Unfortunately the world of SPS has devolved into diminitude and passivist group think where all that people are allowed to do is agree on how wonderful SPS is doing. Meanwhile the truth about the terrible outcomes for students is pasted over with gold stars and smiley faces.

      Students attending SPS are in grave danger of violence from un managed criminal students and from false education that leads to confusion, disenfranchisement, and ruined lives. Just look at all the brainwashed results of SPS. How they think they live in one of the world’s and nation’s best cities. Not. Most of Seattle is a broken down undesirable dump. And the citizens are slipping behind.

      Success comes from the outside. From immigrants, east siders, and others. Very few SPS graduates amount to anything or get reasonable jobs.

      Meanwhile SPS spends more money that other districts to achieve less. SPS needs to be taken over and overhauled by outsiders, or, closed altogether.

      • I don’t know that I agree with all of that. However, when I was a child ( and folks, I am OLD now), and when my kids (now in college) were children, the issue of safety drove us away from neighborhood schools. The MLK Elementary principal told me (when my kids for 1 whole week after I was hospitalized shared a bus with the MLK kids) that 1 particular abuser who stabbed my child in the hand on the bus “gets banned every year, then gets a new chance every year.” This meant that my kids – until my spouse got a job teaching at a different school and we could transfer – had to be ferried to/from school by neighbors and grandma because they couldn’t ride the bus. Now fill several school busses with kids like this, including the girl doing sexual favors on the bus with 4th and 5th graders (who the principal said had to be allowed to continue in school because she had been kicked out of all her previous schools for physical violence – Lord, where is CPS?), and you get people who are willing to move, lie about their address, or take out a home equity loan to move to private schools. FIX the problems in the schools in the CD rather than blaming people who reject those schools as unsafe, and cite anectdotal evidence (“My friends have kids who go to Madrona who feel very challenged”), and dismiss test scores as irrelevant. Test scores are not irrelevant. If the school consistently scores in the horror zone, parents know their kids will not get a decent education and will look elsewhere. Instead of throwing stones, clean house. Meanwhile, end this bizarre obsession with “collaborative learning” which allows a teacher to sit at her desk and text while students, 4 to a table, are tasked with teaching eachother. Particularly in Math, if all 4 kids don’t know wth is going on, they certainly can’t “collaboratively” teach eachother. That is what the TEACHER is paid to do. God, I’m so glad I’ve finished with k-12. The combination of protecting abusive students and enabling lazy teaching is enough to crush most students, and their parents.