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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Seattle Public Schools

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December 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tell us: What should top Nyland’s to-do list for Seattle schools?

Larry Nyland

Larry Nyland

If there’s one thing Larry Nyland has, it’s experience.

The new leader of Seattle Public Schools, offered the permanent job on Wednesday, started his first superintendency in 1982, in Pasco. He’s also held administrative positions in Alaska, Shoreline and Highline, before becoming Marysville superintendent in 2004.

Seattle School Board member Sharon Peaslee said Nyland’s ability to lead districts through tough times is one of the key reasons she recommended the board extend his contract through June 2017. The motion was approved with a 5-2 vote on Wednesday.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools, your voices

December 10, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Larry Nyland approved as new leader of Seattle Public Schools

Principal Aida Fraser-Hammer, left, and interim Seattle schools Superintendent Larry Nyland talk with Delfino Muno, of Proyecto Saber, a Latino education and cultural support program, at Chief Sealth International High School in West Seattle last week. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

Larry Nyland, right, speaks with administrators at Chief Sealth International High School in West Seattle last week. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

Editor’s note: Go here for an updated version of this story.

Larry Nyland became the latest schools chief to take the reins of Seattle’s school district Wednesday, following a 5-2 vote of the Seattle School Board at a special meeting.

Nyland, a Seattle native who ran school districts in Marysville and Pasco before retiring in 2013, has led the district since August as an interim replacement for former Superintendent José Banda. Banda left Seattle to take a job with the Sacramento Unified School District.

The Seattle School Board initially thought it would do a national search for a new leader, but changed course in late November. The day before Thanksgiving, Board President Sharon Peaslee placed a motion on the board’s agenda for the following week that recommended hiring Nyland permanently.

Peaslee and other board members have said they think Nyland’s background of righting districts in turmoil makes him a good fit for Seattle.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools

December 10, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Seattle’s special education leader resigns after months of leave

Seattle Public Schools’ executive director for special education, who has been on paid leave since early August, has resigned for personal reasons, district officials announced Wednesday.

Zakiyyah McWilliams was placed on administrative leave in August amid a district investigation into the hiring of a special education consultant this past spring. Though a spokeswoman at the time said the review would take a few weeks, the district granted McWilliams medical leave on Sept. 10, effectively extending her absence. Spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Wednesday the district’s investigation into the consultant process is now complete, but the district has yet to provide any details.

Wyeth Jessee, who has been heading the district’s special education division in McWilliams’ absence, will take over the department full-time, the district said in a letter to parents. He will become the ninth person to hold the district’s top special education job in 10 years.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools, special education

December 10, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Planned Queen Anne recovery school sparks support, opposition

Although Seattle Public Schools officials say their decision is final, the district will still hold a public meeting Wednesday night on placing a program for high-school students who are recovering from alcohol or drug abuse next door to a Queen Anne elementary school.

The program, called the Interagency Recovery School, is scheduled to open in February in a building that was once the gymnasium in the former Queen Anne High School, located across the street from the back side of John Hay Elementary.

That proximity has some parents worried about possible gang influences and violence in the neighborhood.

“We would support this type of program, even (in) Queen Anne, but just not 25 feet away from an elementary school,” said Christina Economou, parent of a first grader at John Hay.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Interagency Recovery School, Seattle Public Schools

December 3, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Seattle School Board to consider one-year extension for schools chief

Two Seattle School Board members today announced that they would like to extend interim Superintendent Larry Nyland’s contract by one year instead of two.

Board President Sharon Peaslee previously suggested forgoing a search to replace former Superintendent Jose Banda, and simply extend Nyland’s contract at least through June 2017. That idea has been criticized by some parents and activists who objected to the fact that Peaslee’s proposal, made public the day before Thanksgiving, didn’t give the public enough time to weigh in.

Peaslee first proposed a vote for Wednesday’s board meeting, but then delayed it for a week — until Dec. 10 — to allow more public comment.

Now the board will discuss that proposal, as well as an amendment filed Wednesday by board members Sue Peters and Betty Patu. Even with the delay, they said Peaslee’s proposal does not fulfill the intent of the board’s policies on community engagement, which call for meaningful family involvement and transparent communication. They say their amendment is a compromise that would give the district stable leadership as well as a chance for more public input.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools, Superintendent

December 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Report: How fast teacher pay rises is as important as top salary

Corrected version

When and how teachers receive raises can be just as important as how much they are paid at the start and end of their careers, according to a new report on teacher pay from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Paying teachers more, sooner, adds up to greater earnings over their lifetimes and can keep good teachers from leaving the profession for more lucrative careers, the report states.

The report used 2013-14 salary data to study more than 100 of the country’s largest school districts, including two in Washington (Seattle and Spokane) and looked at what teachers make, how long it takes for them to make it and what it buys them.

The average U.S. teacher works for 24 years before reaching a salary of $75,000, which is roughly the maximum salary a teacher earns over a 30-year career.

In Seattle, a teacher will make that much after 11 years, according to the report. In Spokane, it will take a teacher more than 30 years to reach the $75,000 mark.


Comments | More in News | Topics: National Council on Teacher Quality, Seattle Public Schools, teacher pay

December 1, 2014 at 6:57 PM

Seattle School Board delays superintendent vote

The Seattle School Board announced Monday that it will delay a vote on whether to appoint interim schools chief Larry Nyland as full superintendent, saying it wants to allow the public time to weigh in. The board’s president, Sharon Peaslee, had previously scheduled a vote for Wednesday on whether to give Nyland the job, catching…


Comments | More in News | Topics: Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools

November 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle’s Mercer Middle named School of Distinction for sixth year running

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Corrected version

For the sixth year in a row, Asa Mercer International Middle School in Seattle has earned a spot on a statewide list that applauds schools for sustaining improvements in reading and math.

The highly diverse, high-poverty school has won the School of Distinction award more times than any other school in the state. This year’s list includes 101 schools.

Mercer emerged from declining enrollment and slumping test results to surpass Seattle Public Schools’ average passing rates in math and reading in 2011. At the time, school leaders cited a strong principal, hardworking teachers and the constant use of data to tweak instruction as reasons for the stark improvement. School board leaders hailed the school and said other schools should learn from what Mercer was doing.

Today, that approach is maintaining Mercer’s legacy. Students there passed state tests at rates greater than the district average in all but one area. In sixth-grade reading, 75 percent of students passed, slightly below the district’s average of 80 percent.


Comments | More in News | Topics: School of Distinction, Seattle Public Schools

November 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

In 100 days, hopes for better communication in Seattle schools

In both of his state-of-the-district addresses last week — one hosted by the Alliance for Education and an encore speech at Seattle Public Schools headquarters — interim Superintendent Larry Nyland mostly talked in general terms about the problems and progress in the city’s public schools.

But he mentioned one new, specific initiative – a 100-day plan for improving communication between the district and parents, as well as between central office employees and the teachers, principals and others staff who work in schools.

We caught up with Nyland a few days later to ask him what the 100-day plan will include.


Comments | Topics: communication, Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools

November 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Special education is ineffective and too expensive, report says

In 2013, 76 percent of Washington’s students graduated from high school within four years, but only about 54 percent of students with disabilities got their diplomas on time.

Graduates with disabilities move on to higher education at less than half the rate of their peers.

And in several large Washington school districts, special education students are between 2 and 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers.

But the vast majority of children  in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

Those are among the findings of a report to the state Legislature released Wednesday detailing the need for a statewide “blue ribbon” commission to improve the way the state’s schools educate children with special needs.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, Seattle Public Schools, special education

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