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A Lone Wolf Enjoys Her Space

What's happening at MY Seattle Public School

Fresh off the teacher strike we have a new reason to be outraged at the Seattle school district: due to lower than projected enrollment numbers, the district is cutting 25 teachers. They say they are "reassigning" them, though how "reassigning" saves the school district any money, I am unclear. Also! The Superintendent helpfully blamed the strike: 

Part of the reason for the discrepancy is that more than 1,000 students left Seattle for neighboring districts, up from 350 last year, Superintendent Larry Nyland said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. District officials say they’re looking into why more students left, but did note that the delay in the start of school due to the teachers strike could have had an impact.

Schools near district boundaries “lost students during the strike as parents found spots in Highline or Shoreline or Renton,” Nyland said at Wednesday’s meeting.

You guys, I think he is for actual serious. 

We live near one of these district boundaries and as far as I know, we are not losing a teacher. Huh! But I'd like to share OUR school's reason for flabbergasted speechless outrage. Ready?

This summer my kids' school - we'll call it Cute Kid Academy - was torn down [YAY!] to be replaced, in two years, with a much prettier, shinier, fancier Cute Kid Academy. You know how bad your building has to be to finally get money for a new building, right? REALLY SUPER BAD. 

In the meantime! Allll the CKA kids were moved into a nearby building that used to be a school, but has been some sort of artist in residence community hang out space? for the last 20 years. The district spent ten million renovating this interim building - we'll call it Portable City - to get it ready for our 300 or so kids. 

However, because this chunk of Seattle is growing crazy fast and because capacity seems to be Seattle Public Schools' most pressing issue, SPS has decided to keep Portable City open, even when the new Cute Kids Academy opens. 

THEN [cue the silent movie-style Ominous Music] they REDREW THE BOUNDARIES. 

Cute Kid Academy's free and reduced lunch rate is over 70%. We have a large population of immigrant families and English Language Learners. The new boundaries slice CKA's current attendance area in such a way that a seriously significant chunk of those kids, the most marginalized and underserved kids in our district, are reassigned to Portable City in 2017 instead of the brand spanking new CKA. 

One of our school parents collected some data and made a heat map of where our FRL, ELL, and public housing families live and overlaid the new school boundaries for 2017. This visual representation makes it abundantly clear that Seattle Public Schools is, in effect, creating an estimated 90%+ FRL student population and cramming them into an old, hastily cobbled together building, in an ignored corner of our city. Our current 300 kids barely fit into Portable City and the school is slated for FOUR hundred in 2017. Meanwhile, the new CKA, which was designed with this population in mind (a health clinic open until 7pm! A large kitchen with space for community involvement! A counseling center!) will have 650+ seats. 

There must be some explanation, right? How could a district in this famously progressive city, with Race and Equity teams on staff, who supposedly have a Race and Equity TOOL to help in creating school boundaries, have made such a colossal ERROR? 

But not only do they not offer an explanation, they won't acknowledge that this new boundary is a mistake. I have asked the district via email and in person for their rationale and have yet to receive it. I've also asked absolutely everyone I know who is even remotely involved - the district hasn't explained itself to anyone. For over a year, CKA staff and concerned parents have been trying to get the district to redraw the boundary in a more equitable way, but no one at the district or school board level appears to care. I was there when the director for facilities and capacity brushed off our concerns, backed up with real numbers, as "well, we don't REALLY know what those numbers are going to be." 

Collecting and stashing poor, marginalized, under-resourced kids at a too-small, barely functioning building flies in the face of all the research about how to best serve those kids. THOSE kids need to be at the new CKA. The new CKA was designed FOR THEM. 

CKA's staff, parents, and community members are going after this decision on a few different fronts, from cost of transportation to capacity issues. There are real reasons why redrawing the boundary in a more equitable way would work for us, save money, and not adversely affect other boundaries. And yes, we should be shoving those reasons in the face of the school board. But in my opinion, the shockingly blatant equity issue should be enough. It should be enough for reasonable people who care about educating all children. 

As I continue to learn about the myriad issues Seattle parents have with Seattle Public Schools I become more and more pessimistic about our chances. But I can't not send my little emails and ask my nervous questions and go these meetings at the school where I hardly know what to do, other than just sit there and participate in Being Concerned. Hopefully, eventually, I'll fumble my way into being useful. For now, be righteously indignant with me, Internet, and think good thoughts for our CKA kids. This is not okay.


ccr in MA

Oh, that's awful! I wouldn't know what to do, either, but I applaud you for at least trying to fight it.


Maggie, what about media outreach? Are residents organized enough to approach local media? Also, are your local political leaders (city council), state rep, state senator doing nothing? They should be hearing from you all. There are conventional community organizing and political activism tactics you can try (separate from the school board meetings). I know the board probably has great autonomy, but there are things that can be tried. Doing nothing would be the only real failure.


Seattle Public Schools are garbage. It only gets worse when your kids get to middle school.

If you're willing for forgo a couple of vacations a year, you should send your kids to OLL. Vince McGovern is an award winning principal and has a decent staff.

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