Bill Gates’ Guinea Pigs

Graduated Guinea Pig

I want to thank Bob Geballe for writing the informative and thought-provoking article “Bill Gates’ Guinea Pigs” [July 20]. As a member of the first graduating class of a Gates Foundation high school in Seattle—the Center School—I firmly believe that more attention and zeal need to be given to the issues raised in the article.

Anyone involved in the process of school transformation knows that it is an unsteady ride at best. That said, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had at a “transforming” school for anything. More AP and honors classes, snazzy football uniforms, and giant pep assemblies will never be as effective at giving all students an opportunity to succeed as close, personal relationships between students, teachers, and staff.

I agree with Tom Vander Ark that it is “more important to improve the curriculum, the school culture, the relationships in the school” than to simply chant, “Smaller is better!” Changing high schools starts with the understanding that education must be about: a curriculum that allows for all students to learn, a school culture that believes in the power of that curriculum, and close, personal relationships between teachers and students. The fact that transforming high schools takes five to seven years should not come as a surprise to anyone. The process of school transformation is akin to turning a Hummer into a Prius while it’s barreling down the highway. This is no oil change.

Mollie B. Price


Go Terrace!

Last fall, I was a student teacher in the Innovation School at Mountlake Terrace High School, and I continued substitute teaching at the school until June. I have some things to say about Bob Geballe’s article [“Bill Gates’ Guinea Pigs,” July 20].

First, the kids who are complaining don’t know what it’s like at other schools. After subbing all over Seattle, I can say that the atmosphere is incredibly more vibrant at MTHS than at any of the other schools I have observed. Second, I know at least 50 students who would heartily endorse small schools. At Terrace, at least in the Innovation School, the mutual affection between the teachers and the students is strong and constant. There are dozens of stories about kids who entered the school apathetic and failing and left it triumphantly. Third, in the opinion of this humble observer, the teachers who don’t like the new system are the ones who haven’t changed their teaching habits in far too many years. You know the type. I’ll say no more.

Of course this transition is hard! It’s worth it! Keep at it, Terrace!

Carinna Tarvin


Transformation Angst

We are experiencing the small-school conversions in the Highline School District at Tyee High School [“Bill Gates’ Guinea Pigs,” July 20]. Teachers, curriculums, and class sizes have been debated for years. There is no doubt something needs to change in our high schools—has anyone thought of discipline in the classroom? Teachers are exhausted and have to put up with disrespectful students. Many students are distracted and join the chaos when there is a lack of discipline.

Small schools have forced students into specific small schools because of some of the courses they have committed to before the conversion. There really are no choices, there are no honors courses, and there are too many unanswered questions for parents to be excited about small schools. I currently have two college students, but after reading this article, I have serious concerns as to the success of college preparation my Tyee junior will have during the conversion process. He won’t get the honors classes, but maybe he will be engaged and motivated by his small-school staff; if not, he will have been shortchanged during his most important high-school years, when he is preparing for college. I am a little frantic but hoping for the best.

Jody Venable


Andy Spoke for Me

In regards to Knute Berger’s article “Internet Martyr,” about Andy Stephenson [Mossback, July 20], I am forever grateful for all the help and support your writers and publication showed for Mr. Stephenson in his final days. However, as the unidentified eulogizer mentioned in the article, and as Andy’s former campaign manager, I need to make a correction. The statements regarding paper ballots attributed to Andy are actually from a speech I wrote and presented earlier this year at the Seattle Thunder event.

To Andy’s credit, he always presented that speech with pride as written by his former campaign manager. A brief Internet search can easily find this speech posted by Andy on the popular Web site Democratic Underground, and attributed correctly. It is obvious that Andy’s passion for the issue greatly influences my work and writing regarding the need for paper ballots. But as a current candidate for King County executive, I will be presenting that speech many times in the coming months and do not wish to be accused of plagiarizing my own work.

Gentry Lange

Green Candidate for King County Executive

Seattle’s Loss

In the July 20 issue, you erroneously reported that the Seattle Sun newspaper served Northeast Seattle [“Seattle Sun and Star Folds“]. While my husband Clayton and I published the newspaper, the Sun served North Seattle from the Ship Canal north to 145th Avenue North and featured news articles from Ballard to Lake City.

While we appreciate the article, we were disappointed that the facts were incorrectly reported. We’re puzzled by the statement that the Sun had been in a precarious position on its own. While we were running the paper, it was making a modest profit at the time of the sale and had no debts.

We are very sad to hear that the newly merged Seattle Sun and Star has folded. We hope that another newspaper will fill the void that has been created. The community is the real loser in such cases, for they have grown to depend heavily on the exclusively local coverage and marketing venue.

Susan Brehme Park


Feet to the Fire

Kudos to the Weekly for covering our community’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness [“A Goal: Homes for 9,500,” July 20]. This plan surely isn’t perfect, but it has created a moment where our community is paying attention to homelessness. Such opportunities often don’t last long. Our “leaders” need to hear loud and clear that ending homelessness is something we the people support—and that we the people are willing to dedicate resources (read money) for this effort. We need to hold our leaders’ feet to the metaphorical fire, and we can’t do that without continuing coverage of the plan and how (and if) it gets implemented.

Ken Tanzer


Rove’s Denial

Geov Parrish’s thoughtful analysis is grist for the mill, but it sidesteps the part played by two powerful human tendencies: denial and conviction of invincibility [“We’ve Got the Wrong Guy,” July 20]. Karl Rove has plenty of reason to think he and the neocons can get away with just about anything. They already have.

What is there to deter Rove from believing that he can say or do most anything he wants with impunity? What’s the worst that could happen to him? He ends up on the $40,000-per-night neocon lecture circuit, and continues to pull strings from “the outside”? Oh, please, don’t throw me in dat briar patch.

Denial and conviction of invincibility comprise the textbook definition of arrogance—and Rove has it in spades.

Connie Fanos

Sacramento, CA

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