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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: k12

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November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Lesson from the Horace Mann school building


Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Invoking the name of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and kill by a neighborhood watchman in 2012, can be a powerful symbol of racial profiling and the challenges of being a young, black male in America. But on Wednesday, it was used by the remaining holdouts in the Horace Mann school building takeover in their crass attempt to gain public sympathy for an ill-conceived, and illegal, seizure of a public building.

Seattle police did their jobs. They pushed past chained doors and threats of a rooftop sniper and explosives-laden booby traps to arrest four people. The building is back in district hands and renovations on the school — delays of which had cost the district around $1,000 a day — can start.

AfricaTown Center for Education and Innovation, an umbrella organization for community groups that may or may not have been connected to those arrested yesterday, should have learned a lesson from all of this. The organization allowed its name and agenda to be co-opted by people with no interest or qualifications in building a school.  As Superintendent José Banda told the Seattle Times: “It’s hard to distinguish at this point who’s part of that group or not. The hangers-on are not necessarily part of the academic focus of that group.”

How did AfricaTown allow Omari Tahir-Garrett to speak for them? He was convicted of second-degree assault in 2002 after hitting a former Seattle mayor in the face with a megaphone, breaking several bones in the man’s face. Background checks, required in all educational settings, would seemingly have led to Tahir-Garrett’s exclusion rather than inclusion.


Comments | Topics: children, Education, k12

October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Another school shooting shifts the conversation to gun control, but for how long?

Matt Harrington/Op Art UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one…


Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, democrats

October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Catch mental health problems early

  Donna Grethen/Op-Art In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom. Mental…


Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, congress

October 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM

A tone-deaf Federal Way School Board spends $60,000 on overseas travel

Nancy Ohanian/Op Art It may not seem so at first glance, but parents in the Federal Way School District have their priorities in order. At a recent meeting, former School Board President Tony Moore voted along with a board majority to step away from his leadership post in light of a criminal investigation, in which he is charged with stealing tires for his salvage…


Comments | Topics: children, Education, Federal Way School Board

October 15, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Tonight: teachers schooling each other about teaching

I wish I could be a fly on the wall at a Seattle panel later today that promises to better frame critical debates about teacher effectiveness. Tonight teachers and those who help train them will talk about how teachers are prepared, supported, evaluated and paid. The teacher prep event, hosted by Teachers United, starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at McKinstry Innovation Center, 210…


Comments | Topics: children, Education, education reform

October 7, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Garfield High School temporarily expels 11 linked to hazing

Aerial view of Garfield High School Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

Aerial view of Garfield High School
Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

Garfield High School Principal Ted Howard continues to move aggressively against students suspected in a hazing incident that involved about 100 students. The students were discovered at the Arboretum drinking, some wearing diapers and others being pelted with eggs or hit with paddles. More on that bizarre incident here.

A letter sent to parents Friday informed them of his plan for a schoolwide dialogue around hazing and good decision-making. Howard also included an excerpt from the student handbook noting that the consequences of hazing/harassment can include: no school activities for the remainder of the school year, i.e. no senior prom, or walking at graduation as well as suspension or expulsion and/or criminal charges.

Howard followed his words with appropriate action.

From Seattle School District spokeswoman Teresa Whipple this morning:

“We emergency expelled 11 students Friday. Sophomores, juniors and seniors were involved. Emergency expulsion means that students are not allowed to come to school while an investigation is being conducted. This usually lasts no longer than 10 days.

We are continuing to investigate and the results of the investigation will dictate the discipline. We are working on an individual-by-individual basis – not as a group – so if someone is cleared, we would get them back in school right away.

Those who are emergency expelled are banned from campus. They can’t participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.

Students are encouraged to do their class work at home, and to correspond with teachers.”


Comments | Topics: children, Education, k12

September 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM

School overcrowding in Seattle and elsewhere force shifts in boundaries and politics

Paul Tong/Op Art

Paul Tong/Op Art

Population increases statewide, but especially in western Washington are causing school districts like Lake Washington, Issaquah and Seattle to build new schools quickly and take up the always painful task of redrawing boundaries.

In the Seattle Public School proposed boundaries are the topic of a meeting tonight at Meany Middle School. This Times story recaps Seattle’s proposed changes in elementary- and middle-school attendance boundaries next year.

Nearly every district is using building construction levies to modernize old schools and build new ones to manage overcrowding. Seattle voters approved the Building Excellence IV (or BEX IV) capital levy last February and projects include replacing or upgrading 17 schools.

The plan is being greeted differently in different areas of the city. I’ve heard from  Georgetown Parents for Maple School concerned about boundary changes that would lengthen the safe walking distances from their homes to school. West Seattle parents are looking to make changes to the proposal as well, according to the West Seattle blog.

Shifting boundaries is one aspect of the plan, the other is about what district officials call program equity or their efforts to ensure premier academic programs are spread throughout the district.  In that vein, the proposed changes include splitting the Accelerated Progress Program currently housed at Lincoln and relocating it into two other schools. Is that a fight the district should be picking? Better yet, is it one they can win?  


Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

September 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Three women and a charter schools movement

Corrected version

Kristina Bellamy-McClain, Brenda McDonald and Maggie O'Sullivan plan to open charter schools. Photo/Jen Wickens

Kristina Bellamy-McClain, Brenda McDonald and Maggie O’Sullivan plan to open charter schools.
Photo/Jen Wickens

My column this week features three longtime Washington educators preparing to launch three separate public charter schools. Brenda McDonald, Kristina Bellamy-McClain and Maggie O’Sullivan are working with the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

These women are bright, experienced and have strong ties in the communities they’re choosing to locate their schools. McDonald’s entry into the Spokane School District should be made easier by the fact that Spokane was the first district in the state to be approved as a charter school authorizer. The district is obviously open to an innovative new school emphasizing foreign languages and STEM studies. The other two women are considering schools in Tacoma and South King County.


Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

September 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM

The New Rainier Beach High School

Rainier Beach High School is proud enough of its rising standardized test scores and other improvements to create T-shirts in the school’s Crayola orange-and-blue colors with the message: “Our Future’s Trending Up.” On Saturday, we’re publishing an editorial notebook that captures some of the exciting changes at Rainier Beach, including the first year of its rigorous International Baccalaureate program.

Rainier Beach Principal Dwane Chappelle is overseeing the school's reforms, including the International Baccalaureate program. Photo: Lynne K. Varner

Rainier Beach Principal Dwane Chappelle is overseeing the school’s reforms, including the International Baccalaureate program.
Instagram Photo: Lynne K. Varner

More Rainier Beach students are doing better and passing the reading, writing and mathematics sections of the state test. Enrollment is up above 500, crucial for a school criticized for attracting too few students. Nearly all of the teachers have been trained in the IB method. All students are required to take at least one IB course.The higher level of teaching and learning is paying off. Juniors in Adam Christopulos’ IB math class are preparing for college by tackling algebra, trigonometry and calculus. When I sat in on Colin Pierce’s IB Language Arts and Literature class, students were poring over a famous photograph, “Falling Man,” to see how they’d describe the horrific image from September 11, 2001 to a blind person. Two football players relaxed on the couch and talked about a related poem by a Polish Nobel Laureate.

This is the new Beach. One would have to recall where the school once was to appreciate where it is now. Rainier Beach’s troubled leadership and scarce resources were documented in my more than decade-old Times story about a student at the Bush School pondering a transfer to Rainier Beach and in another Times story I wrote about the Cunningham family who sold their Seward Park house to avoid their daughter attending Rainier Beach.

So when a recent Times story noted Rainier Beach’s impressive jump in test scores at a time when the trend statewide was flat, I called the PTSA president Rita Green. IB has been a positive influence on the school, but so has the PTSA, an organization unapologetically lobbying lawmakers and local education groups for assistance. It has paid off. Last year, the Legislature gave Rainier Beach $1 million to help its improvement efforts. The White House called the PTSA one of the nation’s 12 “Champions for Change.” Their new motto: “Not your Mother’s PTSA” fits to a T.

Scroll down to see some photos from my visit to Rainier Beach, located at the southern edge of  Lake Washington in south Seattle. I sat in on classes, talked to teachers and students and had a great time. Enjoy.


Comments | Topics: Education, International Baccalaureate, k12

July 19, 2013 at 6:40 AM

A new leader for the College Success Foundation

CSF_CEO_Yolanda_Spiva_2013 Yolanda L. Watson Spiva is the College Success Foundation’s  new chief executive officer and president, replacing co-founder and CEO Bob Craves who is retiring.

This is a quality match.

Spiva is coming to a foundation that has worked successfully in this state and Washington, D.C. increasing the numbers of young people, especially those from low-income families, in college. The Issaquah-based nonprofit was built on solid ground, the brainchild of Craves, a co-founder of Costco, and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins. Craves was co-chair of the Washington State 2020 Commission on the Future of Post-Secondary Education.  Craves and Ramsay-Jenkins deserve a community’s lasting gratitude for their ability and willingness to tackle Washington state’s low college attendance and graduation rates.

Tapping Spiva was a smart move. She brings a strong professional and civic resume, most recently as CEO and executive director of Project GRAD Atlanta, Inc., a nonprofit working with the Atlanta Public Schools to boost the number of students graduating from high school and college. Spiva also has ties to higher education. She was assistant dean at Trinity College in Washington, D.C.

The expectation that Spiva can not just sustain but grow the well-respected and effective CSF is not misplaced.


Comments | Topics: children, Education, higher education

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