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November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM
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. (more…)
October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
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 handy in the classroom.
This New York Times story noted the public is less than enamored with the idea.
#Guncontrol and #schoolshooting began trending on social media minutes after CNN and other news outlets reported two people had been killed and two others were in serious condition after a shooting rampage Monday morning at a Nevada middle school.
Sparks Middle School, located just outside of Reno, was evacuated quickly. Parents picked up their kids. District authorities have gone from tweeting “Code Red” to offering Twitter updates from the crime scene. A new name joins Newtown and other schools in that macabre section of the American lexicon reserved for mass school shootings. Public discourse on social media quickly turned to gun control, a debate that illustrates better than any other policy issue, America’s stark political divide.
Tweeting under the name @globaloutrage, Jack Scharber asked:
“Another day in America. Another school shooting. When are we going to confront the awful root causes of this senselessness?”
“Another shooting in America kills more innocent kids. Their obsession with guns is destroying the country.”
Time for another run at comprehensive gun control. The kind that includes background checks and other safeguards argued for by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, most recently here. I’m not too hopeful this latest shooting will be the catalyst that moves people from their fixed positions on both sides of the debate. That is because the problem has never been a lack of political effort to better regulate guns, the problem is that these efforts never get very far. The heavy thumb of the Second Amendment lobby tamps down on anything that hints of gun safety legislation. A prime example can be found in this piece by the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm. The powerful gun lobby brags about the veto by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) of gun control legislation last June. The article calls New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “an extremist” for promoting sensible gun control through “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
The exception may be Washington state, where almost enough signatures have been secured to mount an initiative calling for universal background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594 would go first to the Legislature. But if lawmakers failed to pass the measure, it would go to voters in 2014, a Times blog reported. Among those helping secure signatures here was Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 shooting rampage at the Seattle Jewish Federation. This Washington Post story warns of the uphill battle gun control advocates face in Washington state.
If I’m correct and this latest tragedy failed to move beyond #Nevadashooting on Twitter, then it sadly is just another day in America.
October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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 health also directly impacts students, as I note in my latest column. But a combination of stigma and inattention has left mental health issues on the periphery of education policy discussions. I write in my column about the many ways that is changing.
An example: In the Seattle Public Schools, all the comprehensive high schools and middle schools, plus the Interagency Academy and the World School, have mental health professionals on staff. This is possible because of the Seattle Families and Education levy, a seven-year measure approved by voters four times, most recently in 2011 for $231 million.
A focus on student health that includes the range from emotional/social issues to diagnosed disorders is a key piece of prevention efforts. It is obviously needed. About one in five adolescents has a mental health disorder and 60 percent to 90 percent of them don’t ask for or receive treatment, according to Child Trends. Most mental health needs of adolescents are first identified in schools, although the point I make in my column is that intervention often does not come soon enough.
This conversation ought to continue next Tuesday when Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler holds a public hearing about insurance plans and coverage of mental health services. Participation is vital because testimony from the public hearing will be used to craft rules guiding mental health parity requirements in this state. Families looking for more information about mental health services can find plenty at the Early Assessment Support Alliance website.
October 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM
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 business.
But as a Times blog post reports, dozens of parents spoke up at the board meeting, not for or against Williams, but rather about the board spending more than $60,000 for trips to Europe, Australia and South Korea. The district is studying education in those countries in preparation for a global partnership program. In the age of Skype and other video-conferencing options, did the Federal Way School Board really need to travel around the world, stay in hotels and eat meals on the public dime?
I am not accusing the board of embarking upon international junkets, although parents interviewed in this KOMO 4 story did. I do think policy leaders need to get out of their silos and see up-close and personal the effects of their decisions. Moreover, Federal Way’s 37 schools are part of a global education initiative partnering them with 1,000 schools from 10 countries. The district website offers more details on the program touted as a way to bring innovation and deeper learning to Federal Way.
I get the desire to understand why South Korean schools are so darn successful. A new area of tourism has been practically carved from the large numbers of American educators making pilgrimages to South Korea, Finland and other highly educated countries. But the search for successful models must better fit the extraordinary economic times we’re living in. The state Legislature just a few months ago essentially robbed Peter to pay more for public schools. Sagging teacher compensation is the embarrassing elephant in the education policy room. And it is now considered normal, rather than dysfunctional, for music and arts education to raise their own funds to remain viable parts of education. Never mind activities like band and sports, which are almost exclusively funded by parents and the community. With so many drains on public education dollars — and with little in relief, in terms of a long-term funding plan, in sight — policymakers must be aware of the message their financial decisions send. What’s your take on this?
October 15, 2013 at 12:08 PM
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 S. Hudson Street in Seattle. This is billed as a deep-dive discussion geared toward teachers, but I suspect everyone following the teacher quality debate would be interested in following along. Changes to state education laws and local school district policies are going to be culled from conversations like this one.
Here are the panelists for tonight: Elham Kazemi, Associate Dean of Professional Learning at the University of Washington; Marisa Bier, Director, Seattle Urban Teacher Residency; Lindsay Hill, Executive Director, Teach For America for Washington state and Jeff Wilson, Project Director of Performance Management, The New Teacher Project.
Follow this discussion and future ones on teacher quality at this Teachers United website http://www.teachersunitedwa.org/prep_panel
In the YouTube video below, Prof. Kazemi talks about ways elementary school teachers can become better instructors of mathematics.
October 7, 2013 at 12:25 PM
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.” (more…)
September 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM
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? (more…)
September 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM
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.
September 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM
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.
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. (more…)
July 19, 2013 at 6:40 AM
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. (more…)