Friday, November 1, 2013

Misrepresentation (or error?) about outreach to communities of color in Southeast Seattle

Dear Superintendent and School Board Members–

I’m deeply concerned about a serious misrepresentation (or error?) on p. 4 of the Nov. 1 version of the “Growth Boundaries for Student Assignment” Proposed Action Report. Paired with a list of meetings that specifically calls out Southeast Seattle, this statement implies that the administration reached out to the racial/linguistic minority communities in the Southeast: “Several community-based meetings (included above) were held after the five large community meetings. These targeted meetings provided more direct opportunities for families that might not typically respond to e-mail and/or English language based opportunities for input.”

To be clear, the district has NOT engaged in any special outreach to Southeast Seattle, home to the city's largest minority populations. Here are the meetings listed (my notes in parentheses):

--“October 2, 2013 - Meeting at High Point Community Center” (outreach from the district to a racially diverse group, but in West Seattle)
--“October 7, 2013 - Meeting with Seattle Council PTSA” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)
--“October 8, 2013 - Seattle Council PTSA Meeting with Southeast Schools Representatives” (this was not outreach from the district, but rather a meeting hastily assembled in response to the utter lack of outreach from the district)
--“October 10, 2013 - Gatzert Open House” (outreach from the district to a racially diverse group, but in the Central District)
--“October 15, 2012 - Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)
--“October 28, 2013 - Meeting with Special Education PTSA” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)

It’s ironic that the only mention of outreach to Southeast Seattle is a meeting that was assembled in response to a lack of such outreach. The district had nothing to do with the meeting; no one from the district was even in attendance. And the published outcome of the meeting ( was that, on our own, we were unable to assemble a representative group to provide feedback: “We are acutely aware that the coalition of parents giving input here were disproportionately white and middle class. We believe that the timing and outreach associated with this process have been inadequate for meaningful engagement and dialogue within our community. Any new proposals should be presented to the full SE community, with adequate outreach efforts, in multiple languages, and with enough time built into the process to allow for the fostering of true understanding and meaningful dialogue with our diverse community.”

Some of us have been trying to let minority voices be heard. At the last School Board meeting, my Mid Beacon Hill (Zone 36) neighborhood was represented by members of the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese communities (and we donated one of our speaking spots to an East African woman who hadn’t made the speakers’ list). Our neighborhood is being shut out of our walk zone for Maple, and is not being allowed into the zone for nearby Dearborn Park (which we’re also in the walk zone for), either. Instead, despite our continued protests, the administration wants to send our mostly non-English-speaking community to the EIGHTH grade school from our homes in terms of distance. (Maple, Dearborn Park, Hawthorne, Kimball, MLK, John Muir, and Orca are all closer.) No other group in Seattle is being kicked out of multiple walk zone schools to be bussed away to the EIGHTH grade school from their homes.

We are stunned by the lack of equity in this process. Please understand that despite the commentary in the latest version of the Board Action Report, there has been NO outreach to the communities of color in Southeast Seattle. The district has only done special outreach for minority communities in West Seattle and the Central District. Even though Southeast Seattle is home to the city’s largest racial minority populations, there has been no special outreach here.

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