Seattle alternative school to be dissolved
The six programs at John Marshall Alternative School will end or be scattered across Seattle this fall, confirming the long-troubled school's demise.
Seattle Times education reporter
The six programs at John Marshall Alternative School will end or be scattered across Seattle this fall, confirming the long-troubled school's demise nearly 18 months after the School Board voted to close it.
Seattle Public Schools' announcement Monday begins a more "deliberate" way of handling some of Seattle's most vulnerable kids: teen mothers and expelled middle- and high-schoolers. In the past, John Marshall, near Green Lake, and its South End counterpart, South Lake High School, have served as a last stop for students at risk of dropping out of school and a first stop for students returning to school from jail.
The changes come after a critical report in August by the National Dropout Prevention Center that said John Marshall was ineffective and unsafe. At the same time, the district removed the school's longtime principal, Joe Drake, but it has kept him on administrative leave for the past five months, paying him his regular $8,800 monthly salary during that time.
Drake couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
Many teachers at the school blamed Drake's leadership for the school's problems. Teachers and students complained to the district, but district leaders did not respond and, in most cases, didn't keep a record of their complaints.
New district Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson wants the district to keep better track of high-risk students, said Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno.
"What often happens is that kids, they get in trouble or whatever and they have a choice," Santorno said. "Her vision is that we're going to be more deliberate about the placement of students."
So Goodloe-Johnson will move a total of 29 students in the school's middle- and high-school "re-entry" programs — for kids who have been suspended or expelled — to a more well-defined program at the Wilson-Pacific building on North 90th Street. Students in the re-entry program will work through disciplinary problems and get caught up academically before heading back to a general-education program, Santorno said.
Currently, students often linger in re-entry or bounce back and forth between Marshall's re-entry program and its alternative school.
The alternative school has been housed at John Marshall since the 1980s. That program will be eliminated, and the 12 students currently enrolled will be given a choice (not guaranteed) of which school they attend next year.
Goodloe-Johnson also made recommendations for the other programs in John Marshall's cavernous building on Northeast Ravenna Boulevard:
• The Evening School, for students earning high-school credit, will move to Franklin High School;
• The GRADS program for teen parents will move to South Lake High School;
• Interim Alternative Education Setting, a program for students who get in trouble for doing something that is "a manifestation" of their disability, will move to Wilson-Pacific.
• A behavior-intervention program that enrolls 19 students will be absorbed into similar programs at other schools.
Enrollment at the school during the day has waned to only about 65 students, but its interim principal, Stacey McCrath-Smith, has tried to make the school feel more like a regular high school with sports, field trips, parent night and a student government.
McCrath-Smith said her staff is disappointed but not surprised. They're working to ensure students moving to other schools will be well-supported, she said. Overall, she added, the district is headed in a good direction.
"I feel like the energy that they're putting behind safety-net education is really positive, and I haven't felt that in this district for a long time," she said.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com
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