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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Seattle school closures

The voice of a silent minority

Let me see if I have this correct. Three years ago, when Montlake Elementary School was threatened with closure, affluent parents in the neighborhood banded together in protest and were successful in keeping the school open. Fast forward three years: Montlake Elementary School again appears on the list of schools to be closed. But, parents band together and are successful once more in removing the school from the chopping block.

Credit should be given to these parents in their successful efforts to keep their school open.

Across town, we have the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC), Seattle’s port-of-entry school for immigrant and refugee students, on the current list of schools to be closed. The question might well be asked: Where are the parents of these students? Why aren’t they protesting the closure of the school and the Seattle School Board’s reneging on its 2006 promise for a stand-alone site? Why aren’t they complaining about the loss of $14 million originally slated for a new school for SBOC students that instead went to cost overruns for other schools?

Might the answer lie in the fact that the parents of SBOC students speak 60 different languages, do not understand the school system and have little time to organize (even if they did speak English)?

Many parents of refugee and immigrant students work two or three jobs to simply sustain their families, but they nonetheless have valid concerns about the education of their children.

The school board must listen to the different ethnic-community groups representing this silent minority: Horn of Africa Services, the Vietnamese Friendship Association and Campana Quetzel among others. All advocate keeping the SBOC a stand-alone school.

One does not like to think that the Seattle School Board takes advantage of its non-English-speaking parents when it makes decisions about which schools will be closed or relocated, but cynicism cannot be rejected outright.

— Jeanette Corkery, Seattle

Charter the road to educational success

I cannot think of a better education system than one in which like-minded, competent teachers get together and start their own charter school: teacher-operated, student-centered, without the disruptive and expensive administrative overhead.

Our taxpayers currently support 295 independent school districts in Washington state alone, each one with a superintendent, a school board and large number of nonteaching administrators and backup staff. If private schools thrive without a supervising bureaucracy, charter schools, if operated by dedicated educators, should do quite well. It is worth a try; we can learn from the success or failure of existing charter schools.

— James Behrend, Bainbridge Island

Comments | More in Education, Seattle School Board

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