October 9, 2013 at 7:32 AM
Coverage is one-sided
I am a student at Garfield High School. This fall in my Language Arts Honors class we learned about a “single story.” A single story is only hearing one side of an event, creating stereotypes of people and incomplete stories. Who knew we would experience a single story about Garfield students and hazing?
While I wasn’t in the Arboretum and didn’t participate, the media have only covered one side of this story. The media have spoken extensively with officials and paid little attention to the students who were there.
The media and the police say students haven’t stepped forward to talk because of fear of upperclassmen. In reality, most students are unwilling to speak up for fear of administration; no student can give a complete story without fear of being suspended.
For most students, it’s a fun tradition and freshman willingly participate in activities that look nothing like what happened in the Arboretum.
Aidan Miller, Seattle
March 25, 2013 at 3:36 PM
Lessons have power to change hearts and minds
I am writing in wholehearted support of Jon Greenberg and his Citizenship & Social Justice course at the Center School [“We shouldn’t be afraid to have Courageous Conversations,” Opinion, March 21]. My son graduated from the Center School in 2007. He was a student in Greenberg’s Poetry and Citizenship & Social Justice courses.
As a regular volunteer at the school I witnessed Greenberg’s teachings firsthand. He is a gifted educator. He challenges his students to explore their beliefs, values and perceptions. He brings an enormous amount of energy and commitment to each and every class, he is there to guide, teach and challenge our children. He does so with passion seldom seen in Seattle school classrooms.
My son and his friends from high school, black and white, regularly continued discussions begun in Greenberg’s class once they reached home. His lessons truly changed hearts and minds and always encouraged much discussion.
I am ashamed of the Seattle School Board and the superintendent. They have allowed the voice of one disgruntled student to change the course of thousands of students who may miss out on Jon Greenberg’s brilliant teaching of Courageous Conversations. Where is the justice in that decision?
–Barbara Radford, Seattle
August 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM
With merit pay, no way to determine who merits the money
Editor, The Times:
I see you’ve jumped onto the ever popular merit-pay bandwagon ["Merit pay for teachers would end fight on pay," Opinion, editorial, Aug. 24]. It sounds so good on paper.
But you argue it would take the steam out of salary negotiations? How? By paying a few teachers a little better but the majority less? The idea of rewarding the best teachers is appealing.
But no one, and I mean no one, has figured out an objective way to quantify best teaching. Many merit-pay plans have emerged. They are all deeply flawed. Principals get into most classrooms once or twice a year. Evaluations by students and parents can be manipulated and are not objective in any way.
Some of the most effective teachers are not the most popular. After all, they push students hard and don’t always hand out the grades students and parents want. Every kid and every classroom is different. There are huge problems with performance testing. Any educator can tell you what they are.
Every fall, like clockwork, your editors turn the guns on those greedy teachers who dare to disrupt the beginning of school with their unreasonable demands. It’s an easy story to sell. Fact is, it’s a lot easier to blame teachers and spout simpleminded solutions than to dig a little deeper into the problems facing education in this state and report them.
– Dan Reeder, Seattle
Education a collaborative effort that’s too hard to put price tag on
The difficulty with merit pay is that it doesn’t recognize the collaborative effort in building a student’s skills.
I am a resource teacher, and I traditionally work with students who receive special-education services. However, due to the increasing demands of No Child Left Behind and Annual Yearly Progress, any student who struggles in school — be it due to English-language acquisition, poverty or illness — will likely receive reading, math and/or writing instruction from a resource teacher.
I had a student who could not read English in January; in June, he was reading nearly 100 words per minute, yet was considered to have not met the standard as his score was below grade level. Another student more than doubled her reading rate; again, since her June score was slightly below grade level, she did not meet the set standard.
If merit pay were in place, who would get the salary increase? The student’s classroom teacher, who sees the child only for social studies and science? The resource specialist, who teaches the child reading two hours a day? The instructional assistant who works with the student in the before-school reading lab? The AmeriCorps volunteer the student receives math tutoring from? How about merit pay for the parent who makes the effort to get the child to school fed, clothed appropriately, on time and prepared to learn?
The trouble with merit pay is it assumes only one person is responsible for a student’s achievement, and it fails to recognize the collaborative efforts necessary for a student’s success.
– Martha de Carbonel Patterson, Silverdale
With multiple evaluations, merit pay will work
Effective teachers should be rewarded for the work they do to help improve students’ performance. Pay increases should be awarded based on a variety of different components, not just test scores.
Take, for example, the Denver Public Schools’ ProComp system. Teachers earn bonuses based on four components: market incentives like teaching in challenging schools or hard-to-fill positions; student growth including, but not limited to, test scores; knowledge and skills like advanced degrees, national certification and professional development; and professional evaluations like satisfactory ratings from administrators.
The Kent School District recently sent a letter to community members stating that the Kent teacher’s union had rejected its proposed pay increases. What the district failed to mention is that those pay increases would be tied directly to teachers’ yearly performance evaluations and their students’ WASL scores.
Though I support a form of merit pay, as a special-education teacher in a Title I school, I cannot support a pay increase that is based on whether or not my students pass the state test. There are far too many factors out of my control that impact my students’ test-taking abilities. Did my students eat breakfast? Did they have a safe place to sleep the night before? Will there be food on the table for dinner?
Before teacher unions can agree to merit pay or a pay increase proposal in the case of Kent School District, fair and reasonable systems need to be developed that do not penalize teachers for factors out of their control.
– Allison Wegg, Seattle
August 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Bass an advocate for students, true public education
The Seattle Times’ editorial, “Voters vet leaders for Seattle schools,” [Opinion, Aug. 20] was yet another shot in the crusade of your editorial writers to privatize public education.
Mary Bass is doing what she was asked to do, such as advocate for students and families many people in our corporate never-never land want to test and standardize out of existence. Even if the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle has given up on Bass, many black folks in Seattle and elsewhere gave up on the Urban League back before Bass was even born. E. Franklin Frazier had their leadership style pegged more than half a century ago.
So Kay Smith-Blum can raise funds? Big deal. It’s a criminal absurdity that public schools even have to fundraise in an era when the so-called private sector is busy selling us on the conviction that the public purse should be used to bail out banking thieves and military speculators.
And it is definitely a mark of the crisis in education, public or private, that such a shameless con game continues to drive the discussion connected to education reform or anything else in society.
– Michael Hureaux, Seattle
Editorial does not speak for community that knows Bass best
Your assessment of Seattle School Board member Mary Bass was flawed, not based on fact and certainly does not speak for us in District 5.
Even if the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle wrote Bass off, that is not sufficient evidence for you to give such a negative report. What does The Seattle Times know about her?
Mary Bass has an impeccable record in the community she serves, and her accessibility to those she serves is a plus in any language. Everyone in every venue would appreciate the kind of hands-on availability she offers to hear the concerns and issues of the people.
We are more than faceless voices to her. Your attempt to malign such a capable person is overshadowed by the good she does on a daily basis. Her impact and accomplishments can be viewed on her Web site, www.marybass.com.
Bass will retain her seat on the School Board because the district needs her wisdom and commitment.
– Naomi Donovan, Seattle
August 5, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Carr has record of success, deserved endorsement
As a former Seattle police officer and detective, former chair of the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission, current City Council member and chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, I’ve had many firsthand experiences with Seattle city attorneys.
Tom Carr does an outstanding job as city attorney, ethically representing citizens and working diligently to protect taxpayers while finding humane and safe alternatives to incarceration. His innovative and highly effective approach to criminal justice slashed auto-theft rates by 60 percent, reduced jail bookings by 38 percent and made our neighborhoods safer.
Yet he knows we must do even more because he understands the critical importance of public safety. Carr’s track record has earned him the highest rating from the Municipal League.
The Seattle Times overlooked Carr’s overall job performance and experience in its endorsement of his opponent ["Pete Holmes for Seattle attorney," Opinion, editorial, August 3].
Regrettably, The Times allowed one issue to cloud its judgment, failing to recognize the complex and sophisticated nature of this critical position in city government. Tom Carr is the best candidate, and that’s why the majority of my City Council colleagues have endorsed his re-election.
– Tim Burgess, Seattle City Council member, Seattle
The Times endorses a candidate with no prosecuting experience
We at the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild are concerned and disappointed to see The Times’ endorsement of Pete Holmes for city attorney. Whether the Times editorial board likes it or not, experience as a prosecutor is critical, since about half of the position’s activities have to do with criminal prosecution.
This sort of experience has a direct impact on public safety and our ability to protect the public from potentially dangerous members of society. Holmes has no experience as a prosecutor.
Only one of the candidates for city attorney has that experience, and that is who we endorse: The man who has been successfully filling this critical role in city government for the past eight years.
We endorse Tom Carr as city attorney.
– Sgt. Rich O’Neill, Seattle Police Officer’s Guild president, Seattle
Ellington’s protection of children is not a first
Your endorsement of Judge Anne Ellington ["Re-elect Ellington to state appeals court," Opinion, editorial, August 3] praising her opinion that children in initial truancy proceedings are entitled to an attorney mistakenly said, “No other state offers such a right.”
In fact, the right to counsel for children in truancy proceedings is not a novel or unique idea. For example, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Alabama and Nevada address truancy in Child in Need of Services, or CHINS, proceedings in which children are entitled to counsel.
Minnesota handles truancy as a CHINS matter, and the court must appoint a public defender before any out-of-home placement can be ordered. Wisconsin has a similar rule.
Arizona addresses truancy in its incorrigibility statute, and children have a right to counsel.
Oregon does not lock up children for truancy, although a parent may be cited if a child does not attend school.
Washington is in the unusual position of incarcerating children for not going to school, allowing prosecution of a child for truancy followed by a contempt proceeding. What the Court of Appeals did, with two other judges joining the unanimous opinion written by Ellington, was to recognize the due process right to a lawyer to protect children in hearings that affect their constitutional rights to liberty, privacy and education.
– Robert C. Boruchowitz, Seattle
Common sense needed in school closures
I am the candidate not mentioned in the endorsement article ["For Seattle School Board," Opinion, editorial, August 3] regarding the School Board race in District 5, and it is time I speak for myself.
Some dismiss me as just being against school closures, but the work of the group for reopening TT Minor Elementary School includes a vision for an International School Program supported by many in the area. The TT Minor reference area — not large or gerrymandered — has the highest birth rate of any reference area in the Central Area cluster, and the fastest-growing number of children under the age of 5 of any reference area in the entire Seattle School District.
Therefore, if we really want neighborhood schools that are embraced by parents, the community must be included in deciding what type of program in places like TT Minor would make sense.
Unless all communities are empowered to advocate for their schools and programs, wonderful neighborhood school choices will be realized for some neighborhoods and not for others. I believe all the candidates, especially the challengers, have ambitious ideas for our schools.
The difference is that I will insist on your help to hold all the elected officials responsible for ensuring the Central District and all neighborhoods are proud of their schools and programs.
I will insist that parents and communities are included in the process of designing the programs and schools that all neighborhoods deserve. School assignments must make sense. We have to come together for the sake of our children, our families and our communities.
My candidacy is about all communities being treated fairly and equitably. Common sense can be applied to data.
– Joanna Cullen, Seattle
Green candidates sure send lots of campaign mail
With the primary election in full swing, we in Seattle once more are getting bombarded with candidates’ green credentials — written on mounds of literature mailed to us and placed on our doorsteps. See any contradiction?
Yes, campaign literature is integral to our electoral process, but can’t we get a little smarter about it? Making the literature smaller — I like postcard size — and more recyclable come to mind as a start.
Or perhaps just put it all on a Kindle?
– Beverly Marcus, Seattle
April 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Eliminate position to help budget crisis
The departing chief academic officer of Seattle Public Schools, Carla Santorno, was an energetic and positive force for the school district and she will be missed ["Seattle school official going to Tacoma," NW Friday, April 10]. But as she moves to Tacoma, the moment seems ripe to re-evaluate the position itself.
I believe the position of chief academic officer was created when John Stanford was superintendent; the position was useful because Stanford had no school experience. The position remained important during the tenure of subsequent superintendents, who were also drawn from outside the school world — Joseph Olchefske and Raj Manhas.
But we have, once again, an educator-leader in Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. We also have a budget crisis. This seems an excellent time to reabsorb the salary of the position and its accompanying support staff.
– David Grosskopf, Seattle
January 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM
An unnecessary obstacle
Gayle Johnson’s good information about the successes of Seattle’s African American Academy ["Don't close African American Academy," guest column, Jan. 28] makes one wonder why Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson wants to close it, and what impact the closure will have on the academy’s students.
Working with teenage dropouts and young adults with criminal histories, I learned how a lack of stability affected their lives. School is often the only constant in the lives of young people who have experienced such destabilizing factors as poverty, family conflicts and frequent changes of living situation.
Take away their school and they suffer.
If you close a school, you shake up the lives of the students and put an unnecessary obstacle in their path. At the African American Academy, the students — they are called “scholars” — are treated with respect. They learn to treat others with respect. They experience success in the classroom.
Take away the classroom, a familiar environment, and you invite failure into their vulnerable lives.
African Americans in Seattle schools already have a very high dropout rate: more than 50 percent. These dropouts are a significant part of the school district’s financial problem because every student who drops out reduces state financial support.
The African American Academy should be retained and expanded to include high-school grades so the scholars can continue to benefit from the academy’s rigorous and nurturing curriculum.
— Charles Davis, Seattle
January 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Solve the budget problem now or be forced to cope later
It is a proven fact that children thrive in small-school settings when they are given personal attention and can form bonds with their teachers. However, nobody benefits from a lack of funding in an entire school district.
A community uproar, like the current Seattle schools commotion, kept the Northshore School Board from closing Woodin Elementary last year. Since this decision, the rest of the Northshore schools have had to compensate for the lack of funding that was supposed to be avoided by closing Woodin.
As an Inglemoor High School student, I have seen price increases in our sports fees and parking permits; we now have fewer transportation options for special-program students and have been forced to cope with fewer campus supervisors and school nurses.
Seattle schools face a massive $24 million budget shortfall next year. Closing the five schools and programs in question will save the district from only two-thirds of the budget problem. In other words, it will only mostly solve the problem.
To the people who are doing their best to keep these schools open, find out how this budget problem will be solved if you get what you want. Someone has to make up for the lack of funding.
— Samantha Valtierra Bush, Kenmore
Under-enrollment is no accident
While it would be difficult to find any members of the Seattle community content with the impending school closures facing our city, I view the situation with a bit less negativity than the hundreds of protesters who marched and picketed this past weekend ["Rally against school closures," Local News, Jan. 26]. I am not happy to see the schools go, but I consider such acts necessary to the evolution of our school district and the future of our children.
Seattle is different from most public-school systems, wherein students are assigned a school and their only alternatives are private school or home school. As I am sure readers are aware, Seattle has an open-enrollment policy, allowing parents and students the option to enroll in any school in the district. This creates a model where schools “compete” for students by offering differentiated bundles of services such as course offerings, educators, athletic programs, extracurricular options and any other qualities that make one school different from another.
The upcoming closures are the result of under-enrollment, which occurs when families take students out of the schools at hand such that the district can no longer financially justify keeping them open.
Perhaps more students are enrolling in private school. Perhaps some are enrolling at Seattle Public Schools elsewhere in the city that better meet their preferences. Or perhaps the size of the school-age population in Seattle is decreasing. Regardless of the underlying causes of such enrollment shifts, they are the result of a group of families acting voluntarily, according to their own preferences. This is not so different from a group of families no longer choosing to patronize a certain store or business. If enough families make the same choice, the business fails and ceases to exist. New, vibrant, and innovative businesses spring up to take its place.
While I certainly agree that the government should delegate more money to schools, I cannot agree with those who believe that the district should keep open those schools that the people of Seattle have chosen to leave behind.
— Samuel Francis Fisher, Seattle
January 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM
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
January 25, 2009 at 6:00 AM
Cancel the charter movement
Bigger than the current closure crisis, charter schools represent a clear threat to Washington’s education system.
Here’s why I think charter schools in Washington are a bad idea:
– Even more politics in an area where we are already dealing with our fair share of politics surrounding education.
– A resource-intensive, and therefore costly, process for authorizing districts, which are burdened with the responsibility of oversight and enforcement of standards.
– The use of the market system to match the supply of education with demand when demand in some areas will inevitably not keep up with supply and charters will be forced to close.
– The potential to reverse past trends of integration when minority groups and at-risk children are extracted from mainstream schools.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 enabled districts to close or revamp failing schools in a number of ways, including the reopening of charter schools. More districts nationwide are turning to charters to pick up the slack.
Washington’s schools need to understand the reasons they are failing before enacting charter schools as an easy out.
— Jeff Ball, Seattle
More family values, not jails
Lisa Fitzhugh’s piece in the Jan. 19 Seattle Times ["More jails, fewer schools: We've got it backward," guest columnist] is itself backward. It is backward because more money for schools will not appreciably lower the crime rate.
The crime rate will only be lowered when children learn to distinguish right from wrong and this can only be effectively learned at home with family. Responsible parenting must somehow be restored in a culture where people have become oblivious to this root cause of crime.
We need to wake up to the fact that it is not OK to purposely bring children into the world into single-parent families. The odds against these children’s ability to achieve success in life are too great. Around two-thirds of our prison population come from single-parent families. A minority of single parents can instill proper values in a child; most cannot.
— Ed Wittmann, Seattle
Throwing scholars into an abyss of uncertainty
The Seattle Times editorial ["Academy's demise offers opportunity," Jan. 12] supporting closure of the African American Academy (AAA) offers a false premise and a false conclusion.
The false premise is that AAA has not lived up to its promise. The fact is, for Seattle schools with African-American students receiving free and reduced lunch (90 of AAA’s population), in eight out of 12 cases, the AAA ranks within the top 15 for having at least 50 percent proficiency on the 2008 Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) reading and math tests.
At AAA, 84 percent of the scholars live in single-parent homes and 23 percent live with relatives or foster parents. The recommendation to remove these vulnerable students at AAA, along with the absence of credible data on closure savings and the failure to provide a transition plan to ensure these students’ academic success, is reason enough for the board to suspend all consideration of school closures. It is reason enough to direct Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to provide the board with alternative solutions.
The Times editorial speaks of black children needing “to be in an all-black school …” as a sad statement. It would be a much sadder statement if these scholars were snatched from an environment where they have achieved some success and cast into an abyss of uncertain and, most likely, inequitable outcomes.
— Dwayne Evans, Seattle
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