Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee Survey

Members of the HCSAC are trying to continue advocacy efforts independently despite the official pause.  I'm very much in favor of parents organizing so please take some time to fill out their survey.

The members of the HCS AC seek your input about key topics that face our students and families now and in the future. Please complete this 2-minute survey to shape unified advocacy efforts for service delivery. 
Your voice matters! Thank you for taking time to offer your quick input. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

HCS AC Email

In addition to the news the committee has been suspended. The following letter on WMS was sent out last  night:

Director DeWolf and Director Burke:

I attended the Board Meeting this evening with the many other concerned Washington MS parents that stood behind Christine Shigaki while she gave her public testimony.  I want to thank you both for specifically acknowledging the concerns at Washington.  Because of the limited time available at the meeting, I wanted to put my thoughts in this email to the both of you.  I know you each have thousands of emails to process, but I was gratified to know that you actually read each of them.  

I am a lifelong Seattle resident and proud product of the public school system in Seattle (Graham Hill ES, Sharples nka Aki Kurose MS, Franklin HS, UW BSEE, UW JD).  I have three children in the school system now, each in the HCC program.  One is at Thurgood Marshall ES (Principal May), one is at Garfield HS (Principal Howard), and one is at Washington MS (Principal Butler-Ginolfi).  Our family is about as invested in the past, current, and future success of the public schools as any family in Seattle.

I have never commented on any school in the district before.  But I feel compelled to do so for the first time after seeing the destruction of a good southend school like Washington.  In short, this is the current situation: 

  • As you know, WMS houses the southend’s HCC middle school program, with over half of the students in HCC.  This year saw the arrival of a new principal.  During the first week, and without any prior warning, the principal proposed online math classes, cut out foreign languages, produced a schedule with enormous class sizes for HCC core classes.  After attending curriculum night, it was clear to me that many teachers were dismayed with the changes and that parents were in open revolt.  Science classes had 15 textbooks to be shared amongst 37 students.  The only explanation from leadership was that “equity” demanded taking away resources from HCC students.  

  • That argument is a red herring.  The parents expect (and in fact demand) that our schools can adequately handle more than a single academic program.  Plenty of other schools in the district can do so.  Thurgood Marshall and  Garfield can do it, why not WMS?  It’s a fallacy that it's a zero sum game - success of gen-ed and HCC programs are not mutually exclusive.  We are simply asking the principal at Washington to do what previous principals have done and other schools have done.  It is not asking her too much to "walk and chew gum at the same time".  Yes, it’s a hard job – no one disputes that.  But if leadership isn’t up to it, it’s time for a change.  Or alternatively, if the principal is unable to support what she perceives HCC represents, perhaps moving the program to another school with a more capable principal is appropriate?

  • The bad situation is exacerbated because of lack of communication.  I have sent 5+ emails to the Principal, to Sara Pritchett, to Mike Starosky, to Superintendent Juneau over the past month.  In each of the emails I offer to meet with them in person for as little as fifteen minutes.  Not a single email has been replied to.  If leadership is inundated with emails from parents on this issue, then that in and of itself is a sign that something is seriously wrong.  If however my emails are the only ones leadership is getting, then that is even more inexcusable that I do not receive the courtesy of a reply.  I think what is lost is that the district works for the parents, not the other way around.  It is part of the job of every employee in the district to be responsive.  Fundamentally to me, it is a lack of courage on the part of leadership to face a parent who has concerns about the education of their child. 

  • Parents deserve clarity on whether or not the district will support the southend HCC program.  As was mentioned tonight, the threat/opportunity of charter schools in Seattle opens up the possibility of competition for students.  Someone at the meeting openly mused about why students are leaving the district.  Lack of clarity and support for programs is certainly a contributing factor.  I think you will find that parents would even accept if the Board decided to no longer have an HCC program – we understand hard choices must be made.  What is not acceptable however is obfuscation and lack of transparency.  Parents need to have clear information so that we can make educational choices.  Having lived through the 70’s an 80’s in the public schools, I know what a death spiral for the public schools looks like.  And it begins with frustration on the part of parents, because once students start to leave the district, it is exceedingly hard to change the momentum.  

  • The Board has talked about equity and justice in the HCC program.  I absolutely agree with recruiting of more students from underrepresented populations.  But why recruit them if we won't support them in the southend where the majority of underrepresented students would be? 

  • Equity also means fairness between the northend HCC pathway and the southend HCC pathway.  Why is it that Hamilton, Adams, and Eagle Staff have increased curriculum options/activities?  Does the southend get a watered down HCC curriculum?  Is this the Districts policy?  If so, please let us know so that we can adjust our educational choices

I hope that my comments have been helpful.  Please take them in the spirit they are given.

With warmest regards,


Chun M. Ng