Town Hall on public education in Seattle
Posted by Lynne Varner
If you missed the Town Hall on Seattle Public schools, hosted by Mayor Mike McGinn and Superintendent Susan Enfield, you can watch it here on the Seattle Channel.
Four seats on the embattled School Board are up this election cycle. Voters will also weigh in on the city's $231 million Families and Education levy request.
The mayor started with an important acknowledgement of the tremendous amount Seattle families spend on education and the need to constantly work to quantify the spending's impact on students and families. Seattle's Office on Education already does a good job of parsing out what previous levies funded and the measurable impacts. That resulted in some efforts being defunded and news ones taking their place.
Questions directed at Enfield ran the gamut from principal candidates at Rainier Beach - Enfield promised a decision on a new leader for the school this week - to whether Enfield includes teachers in educatonal collaborations. The questions invoked the sense of inequity that South End residents feel, this sense that North End schools and parents, if not receiving more resources, are at the very least treated deferentially. The Rainier Beach principal question was linked with Enfield's about-face on the firing of the principal at Ingraham in a way that made it seem as though the Ingraham community is treated better. Anyone have thoughts about that?
Someone pointed out something that I don't think gets a lot of attention and that's the uneven treatment of volunteers depending on the school. The district is tough to partner with and Enfield didn't pretend otherwise. She pointed to Courtney Cameron, the district's manager of school and community partnerships as the route to improvement.
The achievement gap was discussed briefly to highly district-led efforts getting parents engaged in school beyond drop offs. Enfied mentioned that elementary school staffs will get an extra hour a week to strategize on closing the gap.
What did you get out of the Town Hall? What issues were missed? I wished there had been more discussion about the achievement gap even at the risk of an otherwise polite discussion lapsing into defensiveness or finger-pointing. And someone pointed to the large number of suspensions at some schools as a driver of high absentee rates and low achievement. Yes, bad behavior cannot be tolerated in schools but how does kicking a student out end his or her bad behavior? I heard a couple of smart thinkers on this issue last year at Columbia Univ. seminar on urban schools. I'll dig up my notes and write about it at some point.
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