The Seattle Public School Board will finally decide tomorrow which schools will close and which students will be moved where. The board, which has tinkered with Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's recommendations, just released all the proposals that are up for a vote.
Some parents and teachers have focused on the racial dynamic of the closures, saying they disproportionately affect minority students. This is true, but also seems inevitable, given the demographic realities of the city. There simply are more students in the largely white north end, then the multicultural south. There are, however, proposals affecting mostly white students, namely those that would split the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) into two cohorts at both the elementary and middle school level. APP families don't like the proposals, but they remain on the table--with some interesting context that can't be found on the district Website.As I've written before, there are some challenges with this idea, mainly around creating a situation of haves and have nots. School Board member Michael DeBell insists that the superintendent "understands that very clearly" and therefore will be looking carefully at the leadership of Thurgood Marshall Elementary, where half of the APP elementary students will go. "The principal will not stay the same," he says, meaning that longtime head of school Winifred Todd would go. "The intent is to have a principal who is familiar with advanced learning." (Todd couldn't be reached immediately for comment.) The district intends to avoid mistakes of the past in other ways.
While previous schools-within-schools have created tensions--such as at Madrona Elementary, where the APP elementary program used to be housed--DeBell says Thurgood Marshall will be different because "the majority of the kids will be APP." To make this happen, the district intends to shrink the "reference area" that will shape enrollment apart from APP (students within such areas are given enrollment priority). He figures that about 220-40 kids will be APP--thereby allowing some expansion to the program-- and 150 or so will be neighborhood kids. Whether these provisions will sell APP families on the deal (or anger neighborhood families) remains to be seen. One APP parent named Meg Diaz, a former analyst of a strategic consulting firm, took the trouble of preparing a complicated series of spreadsheets on the closures and moves--ones that she says will disrupt more than help the district.
For a rant on other school news, please see here.