Friday Link Love: Education in Southest Seattle

Friday Link Love: Education in Southest Seattle

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This week’s Link Love is inspired by a story I heard on KUOW recently while driving. It was the story linked below, called School Closure Jockeying.

For some reason, Seattle is closing down schools. I admit I don’t know exactly why (we live in the Renton district), but I think it has to do with budget shortfalls. An elementary school in a white upper middle class neighborhood in West Seattle was on this list to be closed, which obviously alarmed parents. They rallied. They raised their voices. They made t-shirts. Parents in West Seattle saved their own school by throwing an “under resourced” school under the bus.

They so much as admitted it on the radio – that they took advantage of their socio-economic status to influence the school closure decision –

AND SHE ADMITS: SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT LED ARBOR HEIGHTS TO POINT THE FINGER AT COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT GIVE ARBOR HEIGHTS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS.

ARBOR HEIGHTS DOESN’T HAVE A MAJORITY OF FAMILIES IN POVERTY. COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH DO. POVERTY AFFECTS A SCHOOL’S POPULARITY, WHICH IS A FACTOR IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS. AND RILEY SAYS POVERTY ALSO AFFECTS HOW EASY IT IS FOR PARENTS TO ORGANIZE WHEN THEIR SCHOOL IS UNDER THE GUN.

Rainier Beach High School seems to be spared for now, but this saddened and angered me. I am saddened that children in these “under resourced” schools (which is the new code word for “at risk” schools) continue to face obstacles in achieving success. I am angered by the arrogance and conniving of the West Seattle parents, who disregarded the already fragile nature of “under resourced” children in “under resourced” neighborhoods.

I have only been involved in Renton’s public school system for four months, so I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. But I’ve seen a glimpse of this fact: children and families need neighborhood connections to succeed. This much I know.

Our school’s socio-economic demographic is very similar to that of Rainier Beach, which I suppose is why this issue concerns me so much. What follows is a timeline of stories from KUOW relating to education in Southeast Seattle. I apologize for the all caps in some places – I’m not shouting at you, but simply copied and pasted the formatted text from KUOW’s website.

Seattle’s Southeast Education Initiative and School Reform
An hour long discussion on how to draw neighborhood students back into Rainier Beach High School. The perception vs. reality of the school is discussed, as well as ways the district is working to increase class options and other programs.

This story aired September 2007. Little did they know at the time that all the effort and resources to help make this a more successful school would be potentially derailed by a group of parents and school board members from West Seattle – half a world away, in so many respects, from Rainier Beach.

“Schools are the responsibility of the entire community. If schools are going to be successful in Seattle it’s going to be because parents are at the table.”

“The extra curricular activities are not supported by the school district, they’re supported by the parents. And parents who are struggling economically do not have the time and resources to put into the classroom and to donate to the schools.”

Why parents bail on Southeast Seattle schools
GOODLOE–JOHNSON: “I’m always interested in getting perspectives about why parents make choices and how we can be stronger in systems and if there’s things we need to look at that perhaps we haven’t thought of before.”

Schools brace for closures

School Closure Jockeying
SHELLEY WILLIAMS HAS TWO KIDS AT COOPER. SHE WENT THERE WHEN SHE WAS A KID. SHE COMPARES THE CLOSURE PROCESS TO A BOARD GAME. AND SAYS A LOT OF PARENTS AT COOPER DON’T EVEN KNOW THE RULES.

WILLIAMS: “We have 6 parents I can think of right off the top of my head who have been in this country less than two years, and spent more than two years prior in a refugee camp. They don’t even know this system.”

SO SHE WONDERS, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO ORDER T–SHIRTS, SHOW UP TO SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, GIVE PUBLIC TESTIMONY, AND TALK TO THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?

High schools spared
THE CHOICE POLICY LETS PARENTS TRY TO GET THEIR CHILDREN INTO ANY HIGH SCHOOL IN SEATTLE. IT’S GIVEN SCHOOLS IN MIDDLE–CLASS NEIGHBORHOODS HUGE WAITLISTS, WHILE IT’S DRAINED SCHOOLS IN POORER NEIGHBORHOODS AND GIVEN THEM STUDENT BODIES THAT MOSTLY LIVE IN POVERTY. THOSE SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO CLOSURE.

Everyone is looking out for themselves – the parents, their children,

4 thoughts on “Friday Link Love: Education in Southest Seattle

  1. Hey, Jen, good thread. Here is my take although I am no education guru. The Seattle Schools are mainly in trouble, I believe, because they have high paid administrators (too high for what they do) for one thing, a strong teacher’s union that says they put the kids first but they in reality do not, and a failed public school system today. If the system would allow parents to control the taxes they spend on public schools, and allow them to use that money to send them to private school, charter school, homeschool, or even good public schools, that would be the ideal answer. Any of these 4 choices that taught the kids would be great. Unfortunately, I doubt that will ever happen.

  2. […If the system would allow parents to control the taxes they spend on public schools, and allow them to use that money to send them to private school, charter school, homeschool, or even good public schools, that would be the ideal answer…]

    The ideal answer to what, exactly? The individual or the community?

    The point of these stories is that the southeast seattle schools are in trouble partly because of low enrollment – schools are funded according to the number of students they have on the books. Encouraging people to abandon their neighborhood schools perpetuates the problem of “under resourced” schools for poorer kids whose families don’t have any other options.

    The Southeast Education Initiative is working to make necessary improvements to these schools in order to woo back the roughly 1200 students in that district who attend other schools.

  3. My understanding, when our new superintendent was hired, was that she was going to move the district back to the neighborhood school model, meaning choice was taken away, you go to the school in your neighborhood. I think that is the best idea – we are blessed to live in a great neighborhood with an incredible neighborhood school that everyone wants to be in…and I love the fact that my son goes to school with all the kids who live right around him, we all walk to school together, chat after school while the kids play – it feels like real community.

    I realize that it is different in other neighborhoods, BUT I do think that eventually if the whole district was reoriented to neighborhood schools we would see changes in the district…again, I don’t live in Rainier Valley and I realize that – but, I think there are a lot of caring, involved parents out there who would get involved and make a difference if they were given the opportunity to (or forced to)…I think that is the only way we’re going to see equity on the district.

  4. Jen, I have to add one more thing – here is my answer to your response, second paragraph … the individual (i.e. your kid(s) should come first. If the individual is nourished, taught, etc., then that family of said kid can someday help the community. If you put the community first, you are putting the cart before the horse (I know it is trite). The 90’s call of “it takes a village” is so idealistic but unreal in actual life. True, the one thing I did miss when my kids were young and going to Maple Valley Christian School was the neighborhood aspect; yet, the trade-off was teachers who taught the kids the basics as well as did not teach them alternative values so we would have that additional battle at home to dispute. I guess what I am saying is I did not want my kids (until they were in high school or so) to have to fight the values at school until they were strong enough to. That is my take for what it is worth.

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