Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another open thread

The previous open thread is filled with weird goo, so here is another open thread. Discuss what you like!

37 comments :

Anonymous said...

Re-posting under new thread:

Stephanie-

I understand that teachers have personal lives, and that parents don't generally know a lot about their kids' teachers. But these are the people that we trust to teach our children everyday. They are HUGE features in our lives for a year, and it causes much turmoil when they aren't happy and the kids can often tell.

Here is how you responded to this issue yesterday: "Teachers come and go all the time, and with the smaller APP cohort of teachers at the schools, the impacts are bigger--one of the consequences of the split..."

Your above comment sounds a lot like "there's nothing to see here." As a parent of kids at Lowell, I know there is a lot to see. There are issues. What exactly those issues are and what the cause is, I don't know, but I know there is something major going on. This is not normal. I have been in Seattle Public Schools for years, not only Lowell, and have never heard this many stories about so many teachers.

Is anyone at the APP AC looking into what is going on? I have not heard an answer to that question yet.

concerned parent

another concerned parent said...

thank you concerned parent for voicing concerns that are felt by many. Please, if you can - come to the PTA meeting on Tuesday at 1:30 - please encourage as many people as you can to come to the meeting, I am hoping/expecting these issues will be brought up and discussed.

Fremont Mama said...

Is the PTA meeting open to new Lowell parents? Where will it be held?

Thanks,
Susanne

Anonymous said...

If anyone goes to the Tuesday PTA Meeting, will you post a summary? I can't go but would love to know what is discussed.

thx!

~ballard mom

Anonymous said...

It's not too late to write Board members about the proposed attendance policy - it is up for vote this Wed.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Hi Concerned parent,
if you read through the posts I've made recently, I'm not glossing over what goes on in the schools, but I feel there should be appropriate discussion about it. For one, I'd like the discussion to respect teachers' privacy.

Staff do change at schools for a variety of reasons, some personal, professional, and/or political. We parents are not usually privy to these reasons, so it is not wise to jump to conclusions about reasons. I don't want to minimize what people are feeling or what might be going on, but I think it's important to have some perspective too.

It was mentioned at the the APP AC meeting that there are some morale issues at Lowell, but consider that it is a school in a bit of a pressure cooker these days. The school and staff are under stress with overcrowding and some uncertainty about how that will be handled next year, as well as still transitioning from the program splits and the new student assignment plan. It's a lot to deal with. Parents might consider writing the district and school board about the need for additional building support (such as a school counselor, administrative staff, etc.)and to help the teachers where they can.

Putting this in some perspective, I remember last year hearing from lots of desperate parents at TM, where morale was low among parents, but this year parents seem very happy at TM. Last year, parents at Lowell were extremely happy (often expressing this in front of the frustrated TM folks who were really feeling the transition to the new school...), and now the stresses at Lowell are coming up, exacerbated by the overcrowding.

The splits have made for some difficult transitions AT ALL THE SCHOOLS...some of these growing pains will hit sooner, some later
(such as when will the middle school split impact music at Garfield? Not for a while...)

The issues should absolutely be addressed.

I see there is a ptsa meeting this week, it would be good to attend this meeting, as that would be a good venue to discuss school concerns. The APP AC will continue to discuss and work on addressing these concerns too.
Stephanie

Steve said...

Concerned Parent, I kind of wish you'd be a bit more definitive or forthcoming about the information you have. You say:

"There are issues. What exactly those issues are and what the cause is, I don't know, but I know there is something major going on. This is not normal. I have been in Seattle Public Schools for years, not only Lowell, and have never heard this many stories about so many teachers."

I can't figure out if you have actually heard something from a teacher or staff member, or are just feeling a "vibe". Either way, I personally don't find it productive to post things like this that don't provide any actual information.

Anonymous said...

Steve-

I am sorry you don't find my posts helpful. I have been told things in confidence, and I honor my word. As Stephanie has mentioned, there are issues surrounding teacher's privacy - I agree with that. Since our kids also go to this school, I think parents should be made aware that there are things going on.

You can choose to believe there's a problem or not as you like. I think if you ask around, it won't take long to find out more information. I have heard stories both first hand and second hand and the stories all fit together to create a picture. I hope the school district will take a close look at what is going on.

concerned parent

Anonymous said...

Although the PTA and APP AC can hear parent concerns, they are limited in how they can act on them. If the issues are as grave as someone insuates, then the proper channel for addressing them would be to request a meeting with the Principal or Assistant Principal.

Posting innuendo and hearsay is not productive. It is also concerning that a teacher may be sharing privileged information with parents (if this is the source of information). Volunteers sign a form agreeing to keep student information private and I would expect the same level of professionalism from teachers.

dismayed parent

Lori said...

Over the weekend, someone wrote that Stephanie and I are in "a camp" that is denying that there are morale problems at Lowell. I wasn't going to continue posting on this topic, but I do want to clarify.

I'm not in any "camp," and I'm sorry if people mis-read what I've posted on other threads. All that I've said is that my family has had a great first year at Lowell and that I'm generally optimistic that we'll have good new teachers joining the school in the fall. I don't know if there are morale issues, but I do know that I am generally skeptical of non-specific, anonymous claims about anything.

I read this and the saveseattleschools blog regularly. I have found many posters who are highly credible, as well as a few with whom I usually disagree. Credibility is established when you post regularly, with a trackable name. Because this issue of morale is cloaked in secrecy and posts are coming from people with little established record on this blog, yes, I asked for them to provide more detail to help readers know what's rumor and what's real; what's a few unhappy families versus a possible systemic problem that perhaps only long-time families recognize at this point in time.

For me personally, I'm a concrete thinker; I don't do well with vague abstractions, which is probaby why I often include personal stories and anecdotes in my posts. Concerned parent says that all of the confidential information she/he has been given "creates a picture." Please tell us what that picture is! Is it not possible to paint that picture for us while maintaining confidentiality? It would really help me and perhaps others to know what sort of things you are really talking about (eg, is it greater administrative oversight over the teaching staff? is it proposed changes to programs, like the proposal earlier this year to develop subject expertise within grade levels? It has to be something!)

In addition, if people want other parents to be aware of "things that are going on," it would be most helpful to post with your name. When I go to a PTA meeting or coffee chat, I don't know who "concerned parent" is, but I can introduce myself to Stephanie and Greg and others who post openly. And they can do the same if they meet someone named Lori.

One last thought. Part of what concerns me about anonymously posted criticisms is the negative effect it might have on new families. We have a lot of folks joining our community who just made a very hard decision to move their child to Lowell. Open enrollment is over, and they read this blog and perhaps now worry that they've made a huge mistake. That's a terrible way to join a new community. That too is partly why I posted our good experience this past year. There may very well be major staff morale issues going on this year; if so, it hasn't affected my child's experience nor that of several other families I know. Perhaps that is reassuring to some readers.

Steve said...

Great post Lori. I completely agree. We've had a terrific first year at Lowell (2nd grade). Perhaps some of the morale issues Concerned Parent is talking about are happening with teachers we don't know yet, but our experience thus far has been good!

Anonymous said...

i would concur. our app experience was good at Lowell. 4th grade. and we are looking forward to having 2 there next year.

Fremont Mama said...

Thanks Lori et al.! As a new parent I was beginning to get a little concerned about what is happening at Lowell. It is nice to hear from current parents that their kids are doing great and the school experience for the whole family is positive. I am still a little nervous about the overcrowding, but hopefully that will be managed in an acceptable way.

Susanne
mama to Sadie, starting 2nd grade at Lowell in the fall

lowell for life said...

I had two students go through Lowell from first thru fifth grades. I would not change our experience for the world. I say despite the district, my kids got an amazing education, and made lifelong friends there, which was our main goal all along. Even though they scatter at MS and HS, we are still friends with the kids from 1st grade.

Anonymous said...

Lowell PTA Board Meeting
Tuesday, June 14th in the Lowell conference room
1:30-3:30 PM

Housekeeping: Board introductions, Job descriptions, Any transition
issues.
Approval of Minutes: (Jenn Martinell/Sue Wozniak)
BLT Report: (Jean Bryant)
Fundraising Report: Move-A-Thon (Jen Biely/Jennifer Brown)
Communications Report: Website (Lisa Horwich)
Lowell math program (Rina Geoghagen/Corina Linden)
Lowell building capacity (Rina Geoghagen/Jen Biely
Treasurer's Report: (Mark Koenigs/Corina Linden) Motion to transfer $
between accounts for professional development.
New Business (Jen Biely)
--New enrichment committee (Laura Hitchcock) Announcements: Date for
Next meeting and board retreat--Bring your calendars!

--PTA meeting poster

Steve said...

I wasn't able to attend the PTA board meeting, but if anyone did, it would be great to hear what happened. I'm particularly interested to hear any building capacity updates. Thanks!

suep. said...

Greg -- you may want to start a new thread about what's happening at Lowell, administration-wise.

See: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2011/06/whats-going-on-at-lowell.html

Greg Linden said...

Thanks, Sue, I saw that. I was going to start a new thread, but I thought that would be confusing, that people would then wonder where to comment on it.

I'm a little hesitant to create a duplicate article over here. That hasn't gone so well in the past (e.g. the "Stop taking MAP tests?" thread earlier that got only 2 comments because it turned out to be a dupe of a Save Seattle Schools post).

What do you think?

suep. said...

Hi Greg,
I see your point. Maybe we can just follow the topic on the SSS blog.
Sue

Greg Linden said...

Sounds good. Also, to make it easier for people to get to that post on Save Seattle Schools, here is a live version of the link:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2011/06/whats-going-on-at-lowell.html

maureen said...

But maybe there could be a thread specifically addressing the implications of the (capacity induced) remodels for the Special Ed classrooms? Several Lowell parents testified to the Board tonight about those impacts.

In particular, it sounds like the bathroom facilities and inside play area for special needs preschoolers will be dismantled. I got the impression that 3-5 year olds with special needs will have to go up one floor and share with big kids when they have to use the bathroom, also that kids who can't negotiate stairs won't be able to get to speech therapists etc.

Fremont Mama said...

Just wanted to let everyone know that MAP test results are available on the Source.

Susanne

Greg Linden said...

Maureen, that's an interesting idea. Perhaps broaden the topic slightly? For example, could it be about safety and health issues after the building modifications and with 700 students?

Anonymous said...

The PTA meeting ended with an informal vote on priorities to put forward in District level discussions of APP changes/moves for the 2012 year. There was little time to discuss various priorities, but many in attendance voted in favor of efforts to keep the Lowell APP cohort together.

There was some talk about surveying the parents, but I'm not sure when or if the survey will take place.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Greg for keeping topics separate from those at the SSS blog. I appreciate that this blog offers factual non-biased information, and doesn't indulge in rumors, speculation and personal opinions.
Clementine

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fremont Mama for posting that the spring MAP scores are available.
Clementine

Anonymous said...

As an incoming parent, the discussion here does not scare me. It is in fact encouraging to have differing perspectives and opinions. I am a natural skeptic, so even posters who claim they have the facts, I take everything said with a grain of salt. I did check on SSS blog and what is being said reflects all sides as well.

Guess what I am saying, I prefer to have engaging discussion than living in the dark.

Greg Linden said...

Well, to be honest, this blog does indulge rumors, speculation, and personal opinions. Its purpose is to provide an additional forum for open discussion among APP parents.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I didn't really express myself clearly in my previous post, I'm having some trouble with that today. I'll try again.
It is true that this blog does indulge in rumors etc., in the comments section. I don't mind at all that others post their opinions in the comments section, whether based on facts or rumors.
What I was trying to say was that Greg as the moderator doesn't put his own personal opinion and speculation in the post when he creates it. He posts questions for discussion, and that's it. It makes it easy for me to decide what I'd like to read or what not to read. That's what I like and appreciate about this blog. Plus, it is a great source of factual information about changes to APP too.
Clementine

Anonymous said...

Can we start another thread to see if anyone has creative solutions? I know that we have lot of challenges. But we also have lots of great things going on and maybe if we put our head together, we can brainstorm a creative solution to this situation. All everyone wants it a safe appropriate education for our students.

- ne parent

Anonymous said...

Daffy: I'll pick up where we left off two threads ago. You continue to say "many parents choose APP to avoid a bad neighborhood school" etc.

Again, APP is a "special needs" program with fairly tight admission requirements. These kids are outliers who do not function well in a typical classroom, because not many of them function and fit with typically developing peers. They are often outcasts, depressed, and have disciplinary issues because many teachers and staff do not understand, and do not have the experience of working with these kids. We went from a good neighborhood Spectrum program that our kid was constantly having issues in, to Lowell, where the entire class was just like my kid, and the teachers knew how to work with those kids. Thankfully, one of my daughter's teachers recommended she take the APP test, believing she'd qualify and do well in APP. And it's been night and day.

So we aren't just talking about work abilities when we talk about allowing walk overs, etc. We are talking about true special needs kids. That point is constantly lost in the debate over what APP is, should be, and isn't.

So you cannot simply "choose APP" unless your kid qualifies, in which case, for most APP kids, they go from a program that not only doesn't meet their needs, but can't, to a program that does, where they thrive.

Some use the "gifted" label regarding APP kids. Hardly! More accurate labels would be: "Why can't you be like everyone else? Why are you so complicated? Why do you talk like a 25 year old, when you're 12? Why do you have these adult-like issues at your age? Can't you just lighten up and be a regular kid? Why are you so intense? Why are you so hard on yourself? Why are you such a perfectionist? Why do you worry so much?" Any of the above would apply to many, if not most, APP kids. And it' not funny at all. I have the gray hair and wrinkles to prove it, and I don't know where we'd be today if we hadn't discovered APP.

So I continue to bristle at the suggestion that APP is a luxury or choice that some people use to avoid a school they don't like. If their child qualifies for APP, they probably belong there more than anywhere else. By definition, it cannot be more than a handful of people, given the admission requirements and the fact that so many APP parents are not going into APP to avoid another school, but to finally find a school or program that their child fits into and can thrive in.

Like anything, there's two sides to the coin, and both need to be considered when we talk about modifying a special needs program.

I'm just as protective of the non-performance aspects of APP as I am about the quality and rigor. Perhaps I'm not making that clear enough. PJManley

Anonymous said...

Agreed about how distinctive and challenging APP kids often are, and that APP is intended to serve these children who can't always function in a general ed setting.

Non APP people sometimes don't see that the achievement of the APP population is not necessarily without it's trade offs.

signed, agreeable

Anonymous said...

And - as I'm sure Anonymous above would agree - my desire as a parent who finally found a good fit for his child is for all parents focus more on what level their kid is truly happy and comfortable at, rather than feeling deprived or worry about falling behind. Someday they launch out on their own. Whenever that day comes, we want them to all be confident they know how to learn, regardless of what level they might have achieved in their primary school years. Whether college-bound or not, all kids have to know how to acquire and process the information they need to make important decisions in their lives. As long as every kid does that well, the only limits on them should be their own desires. I don't think it matters what program they are in as to whether they can reach that point.

Anonymous said...

WSEADAWG, again.

dj said...

Does anyone know what the deal is with transportation next year? Are we going to have "community stops" that take kids straight to Lowell or TM? Or, as I have heard rumors of (no substantiation for this, I am just asking) are the busses transporting kids to TM and Lowell going to have their "community stops" be other elementary schools, such that you would have to either put your kid on one bus to the neighborhood school and have them change to get to the APP school, or, alternatively, might have to drive them to the neighborhood school to avoid that?

My kid went to Lowell when her bus route was shared with TOPS, and involving two schools made her ten-minute ride take over an hour (we ended up driving her). I am just wondering if there is any chance I will be able to rely on bus transit next year, since I will have kids at two different elementary schools (and kidlet #2's school isn't our neighborhood school, either).

Anonymous said...

When the community stops were piloted some time ago, the stops were at nearby elementary schools.

This worked well for some, but not for others. Imagine having kids at two elementaries (not uncommon for APP families), with one stop in the neighborhood and one a mile away at the local elementary. It's hard to be two places at once...

The staggered times for elementaries make me think kids could potentially be picked up on the neighborhood bus, then transfer buses at the local elementary to get to Lowell/TOPS. But who knows.

Anonymous said...

Copied from Save Seattle Schools. As it's post 156, I feared it would be missed:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time here but I am a parent at Lowell and need to let those of you saying this is just a smear campaign of a few people know that, unfortunately, it is not true. I wish it was because the whole thing makes me so depressed and sad.

I personally am at the school almost daily and have seen firsthand the complete change in morale, etc. this year after the honeymoon period of last year. I was unwilling to believe it was Mr. King- I like him, I like his ideas and I want him to suceed in trying to make this divided, fractured school work.

So I assumed, like some of you appear to, that he was just getting resistance from people unwilling to change or get with the program. I also thought those people should move on if they were not willing to work with with new ideas. Some seemed still mad that APP was split and wanting to fight on that but I was ready to say it was really time for us to move on and get to work with where we were.

At school though, unfortunately, I saw I was wrong. Mr. King is dynamic and friendly with parents so most of them don't see how he treats staff but I did. He is often rude and demeaning and I saw him do that to two different teachers a few months before they announced to leave. I actually was so shocked and surprised that I did not want to believe what I had heard until I heard it again a few days later with a different teacher. I don't know what was going on but the language was highly unprofessional, as was the tone.

I know Howge is leaving because he bullied her and have talked with parents in her class who saw him do it in front of the kids and saw it myself in the hall. I also saw that teachers/staff who disagreed with him in "open" discussions are verbally attacked, told their ideas are "stupid," etc.

Believe me all of this has really shocked and saddened me. I really had high hopes for Mr. King and am very, very disappointed with what I have seen and heard. I'm not saying all of the stuff out there is true or that some of it is not coming from people with axes to grind or whatever. But there is a real problem here and I really hope we, as people who care, can have constructive, positive discussions about how to improve things without resorting to just name calling or dismissing this as a few crackpots trying to stir up trouble, because it is not.

Concerned Lowell Parent

6/22/11 11:54 AM