Seattle School Closures: Excellence For Some – Same Old Story For Others
On November 25th, The Seattle School District Superintendent announced the proposal to close a number of schools in our District. TT Minor was one of those schools. For those of us who have children at TT Minor this was not a surprise, just another example of the lack of support this school has received from our District.
TT Minor is a neighborhood school. A high proportion of the students at TT Minor are African-American and low-income, which reflects the historic population of the community. Over 85% of the children at TT Minor qualify for free or subsidized lunches. Some children at TT Minor have already been shuffled around by the school district after the closure of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary three years ago. These same children are now facing another transition to a new elementary school. How sad, and yet unsurprising, that it is these children, the ones most in need of consistent structure and support, are the ones being asked, once again, to move and start over somewhere else.
The School District has shown a distinct lack of planning for how to make these transitions smooth for the families that could be affected in all of the school closure scenarios. To date there is no specific information about how TT Minor students will be moved or what accommodations will made to ensure their academic success through this transition. In fact, it is clear that the majority of the District’s “fixes” are ledger based, and give little or no thought for how our communities will be affected. A “We’ll just send ’em somewhere else and worry about it later” attitude was pervasive throughout the recommendation meeting. For example, there has been no realistic proposal about how they plan to integrate a co-ed APP program into Thurgood Marshall, a school where the classes are gender separated.
TT Minor has all of the right pieces in place to become a great local school and a regional draw. Our neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and we have been working to recruit new neighbors through a dual-track program of Montessori and traditional instruction. We are located in a popular neighborhood where birth rates indicate we have more children coming up to school age that other areas of Seattle. In moving the Montessori program, dispersing the traditional program, breaking up the current staff, volunteers, and other excellent programs such as our chess club, it will be “start all over again” again. If history is any guide, it will be a long time before the Central Area has another shot at having an excellent elementary school.
It is evident that the District has an agenda to shut down this historic, perfectly located, and very special school. Over the last six to eight years there have been multiple attempts at shutdown, and over an even greater period the building has been allowed to fall into disrepair while other facilities have received improvement. The children who attend TT Minor have had their resources cut to the point of neglect: the roof leaks, bathrooms are outdated, there is no running water in any of the classrooms, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have no access to a restroom or water fountains on their floor, staff turnover is fast and furious, there is no vice-principal position at the school and only a part-time librarian, part-time art teacher, and very few extra-curricula activities offered. And yet the school continues to improve its test scores, maintain a tournament-winning chess club and trophy-winning band, and continues to garner support from within its community. We have a charismatic, enthusiastic and dedicated new Principal, and the Montessori program at TT Minor has waiting lists to rival the most over-subscribed schools in the District.
After hearing the District’s proposal it’s apparent that the people who actually care about our schools, our communities, and our children are us, the families who live here, and the families who choose to send their children to TT Minor from other areas.
Clearly the folks from the Center for Educational Excellence, with their “Excellence for All” motto have a bureaucratic need to make bureaucratic choices. However, what this community and our children need are consistent, centrally located programs. We need to be able to trust in our public school system and believe that the District are really working for us and driven by the needs of our children and the future of our communities. As a community we need to work with the Seattle School District to develop TT Minor into the school we all know it has the potential to be. Budgets do need to be managed, but it’s time to stop doing more of what hasn’t worked so far, and to start looking at new solutions and sources of support.
TT Minor MUST stay open. We MUST stay engaged. The alternative will be more fleeing from our central area public schools to schools in the north and to private schools for those who can. Basically, it means more of the same. Change is in the air. Let’s make it happen.
There will be a community meeting at TT Minor School on the evening of December 15th with representatives from the Seattle School District. We would like to encourage our neighbors and fellow community members to attend this meeting and help us in the fight to keep TT Minor open.
– Parents of TT Minor Elementary School