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Topic: Seattle Public Schools

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December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Bruce Ramsey’s favorite columns, 2000-2012


On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:

1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.

2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.

3. “Eight Parking Places at a Strip Club,” August 27, 2003


Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, democrats, iraq war

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

November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Building steam under science, technology, engineering, math and the arts

The dearth of women in technology professions or girls taking STEM classes has been well-documented. But I found reason for hope recently during an afternoon with young girls studying STEAM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics education, during full-day workshops on six consecutive Saturdays.

Robotic vehicles designed by girls in the BUILDING STEAM program by the Greater Seattle Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Robotic vehicles designed by girls in the BUILDING STEAM program by the Greater Seattle Chapter of the Links, Inc.

The girls were recruited from Seattle-area middle and high schools and community organizations by the Greater
Seattle Chapter of The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization for women. At the TAF Academy, the Federal Way public school run by the Technology Access Foundation, the girls engaged in hands-on learning about robotics and gaming technology using NASA STEM education guidelines developed for the U.S. Department of Education. I met the girls on their final day when they had gathered at Rainier Beach Community Center to model their robots – including some talking ones – and debut video games they designed.

The games had stunning graphics and creative twists. I was especially wowed by those inspired by Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Who says girls are not gamers!

Also, who says STEM should not include arts. The aesthetic of the games, their design and usability, was all about artistic values. The afternoon was a celebration of the girls’ accomplishments but for me it was also a glimpse at the promise of STEAM, rather than STEM, education.

President Obama has emphasized STEM education as necessary preparation for a global and tech-driven economy. I’ve written here and here about the sizeable gap between the number of tech jobs available and the number of job seekers with the training and education to fill those jobs.  The inbalance is greater for young people of color. National efforts draw attention to the dilemma, but it is dogged work at the local level, by advocacy and commnity groups like The Links, that moves the needle.


Comments | Topics: children, Education, race

November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Social Venture Partner’s Fast Pitch is a novel approach to grantmaking

On the ABC show “Shark Tank,” entrepreneurs have mere minutes to persuade investors to line up behind their proposal. And on the FOX show “American Idol,” the audience weighs in on contestants, helping to select winners. A blend of the two television shows offers a sense of what’s in store at Social Venture Partners Seattle’s Fast Pitch, where non-profit and for-profit innovators will compete Wednesday evening for a slice of $250,000 in grants and investments.

Since 2011, SVP has put on the series of competitive rounds, winnowing the field from 90 applications to 44 quarter-finalists, 23 semifinalists and 13 finalists. Among this year’s finalists is Teachers United,  a two-year-old organization of about 250 public school teachers.

This video gives a sense of what’s in store on Wednesday evening.


Comments | Topics: Education, philanthropy, Seattle Public Schools

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 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Schools must better balance technology and privacy rights

Paul Tong/Op Art

Paul Tong/Op Art

Technology is as omnipresent in public education as pencils and paper. We’ve seen the growth in tools like interactive white boards, document cameras and those egg-shaped devices that help students respond in classrooms. But another side of the technology debate revolves around  storage of the copious amounts of data collected by schools, school districts and state education departments. So much data is floating around that districts around the country have turned to private companies to store information in the cloud. The companies protect files with high-level encryption, but still privacy rights advocates are mounting challenges to districts that rely on third parties for data storage outside of schools, reports The New York Times. Privacy advocates’ paranoia is not totally unwarranted. 


Comments | Topics: children, Education, Google

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

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