Monday, March 31, 2008

Seattle School Board Backing Off on Southeast Promises

Story in the Times today about how members of the Seattle School Board are already talking about reneging on their promises to Southeast Seattle schools.

Some members of the board are rethinking the Southeast Initiative, the district's much-lauded effort to improve three underperforming South End schools: Aki Kurose Middle School and Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools.

The School Board launched the initiative last year with $250,000 and a three-year plan to draw back neighborhood students to the schools. But as the district staff has continued to propose arts programs, more rigorous classes, additional class periods, teacher bonuses and other extras for Southeast Initiative schools, several board members have wondered aloud whether it's getting too expensive. And some have expressed frustration that the superintendent has not yet identified specific goals for the schools.

There's no budget yet, but district officials have estimated the Southeast Initiative could cost $3 million to $4 million each year.

At a board meeting earlier this month, member Michael DeBell called the situation "problematic."

Board member Peter Maier questioned whether the effort would be sustainable.

"Let's assume this works," he said. "Then the question arises, are we committed to many years of these kinds of resources?"

In an interview Friday, board member Harium Martin-Morris said he is open to backing off the Southeast Initiative if necessary — even reneging on commitments already publicized in the district's enrollment guide.

"I must confess, I have some reservations," he said. "I have to look at that and say, 'Gee, that's a lot of money, and can I use that money in a better way to still help those schools, but help even more [schools]?'"

OK, so the school board is totally willing to just let South Seattle schools fail without providing them with the extra help they need. Where are these people from? I'm guessing they come from north of the ship canal. Pathetic.

And how is it even legal for the district to let the north-end schools put on two plays and a musical every year, while Rainier Beach has to resort to illegal downloads if they want to try to put on a single performance? What is the official justification for all this inequality in services?


Keith said...

You're looking for justification in the wrong place. The School Board and the administration don't feel like they need to be accountable to the likes of parents or students or even the public at large. This is the great frustration in dealing with our public schools. For more detail on this topic, please see the excellent Save Seattle Schools blog.

BTW, for what it's worth, board members, Martin-Morris and DeBell do represent areas north of the ship canal. Sundquist represents the SW (West Seattle). Chow represents the impacted SE schools, but despite being the board president, it's not at all clear that she has the will/ability to force the board to keep it's promises vis-a-vis the SE Initiative.

LM said...

It is important to note the budget cycle- draft Seattle Public School budget is expected in May.

On a different note- since we got involved with the Parks department on helping save the trees in the Maple Ravine (Greenbelt) there have been two work crews, cutting down ivy, in the last 4 months. One of the reasons is that the Maple Ravine made it into the 2008 parks budget.

Erik said...

The Seattle School District is too big! Break it up into smaller, more manageable districts. The argument i've always heard against that is that the south end schools would have the least financial resources. How's that different from today?!?