Arbor Heights PTSA and Director Sundquist “hatch plans” to offer minority schools as “sacrifical lambs on a plate” to save Arbor Heights
Originally posted December 12 @ 3:00AM(ish)
Let it hit the fan right now.
I know that the details of school closures in the Seattle District are reaching the hazy, I-can’t-remember-what’s-what phase, but let’s try to hold it together and walk through it one step at a time. This is, to date, the most important post on the SV about school closures and you need to read the entire article and then forward the link to as many people as you can. Community blogs, please post/link this information at will.
We are going to keep this focused on West Seattle buildings and programs, including special education. Yesterday I wrote a heated piece on the behavior of Director Steve Sundquist towards the Cooper Elementary community.
Some critical data on the vulnerable population current attending Cooper from an email I received from a member of the Cooper community two days ago:
k-5th graders: 80% receive free and reduced lunch, 80% are kids of color, 33% are bilingual, 24 of our students have Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Arbor Heights (a primarily white, middle class school) was originally targeted for school closure. They waged a swift and intense media blitz with direct correspondence with school board director, Steve Sundquist. Steve subsequently suggested looking into the possibility of Cooper School (a primarily non-white, high poverty school) instead of Arbor Heights. Cooper School is now on the list for school closure.
Closing Cooper School and displacing Cooper students to other high poverty schools only exacerbates the already existing achievement disparities between poor and non-poor students.
The post was off the charts popular- the largest traffic volume since it first went up now 2 days ago. And then the comments and emails came in. And then the email came in:
“I am an Arbor Heights PTSA member who wishes to stay anonymous. I would like to know if you would provide me with a telephone number so I can discuss with you Arbor Heights PTSA’s partnership with Steve Sundquist and how the plan to close Cooper came about”.
The very first recommendations for closures/mergers was made public by the district November 25th, 2008. According to a post on the Arbor Heights PTSA Yahoo Group page (mouthful!) written the same day by Cori Roed, which states that the PTSA co-Presidents received phone calls from Patrick Johnson, district Ed. Director, informing them that Arbor Heights was on the list for closure. AHPTSA Co-President Suzette Riley also posted a message saying that Johnson “very nicely went out of his way to call Eric and I to give us the heads up”.
The messages continue from there, and they are nothing short than startling…star.tl.ing.
November 26th and 27th PTSA Co-President Eric Iwamoto posted two messages which included the following:
“….I spent the day crunching numbers, reading reports, and attending the meeting with Steve Sundquist. So far we have hatched several plans. BUT we are planning to work with Pathfinder’s PTSA and other schools to form a united front. We will present several different scenarios for the school board to choose from but all of them require pitting our school against other schools…IN talking with [Sundquist], to be effective we have to present a viable plan that will save the SD the same amount of money/space as the current plan does…The plans center around either:
“Keeping Pathfinder where it is for a year or two and then moving them to Cooper, or moving Pathfinder immediately and closing Cooper with no warning. This is where we NEED the cooperation of Pathfinder if we wish to be successful. We need to be on the same page with Pathfinder so the school board gets the message that we are serious and have thought things through…Under the above scenario even if Cooper closes, we will have excess space in the south end. We will have to make the case that Roxhill closes as well…
“…if we can get the District to close one of the [South East] high schools in this area we can save the district 2 million dollars…in 2012 they expect increases in enrollment and need to keep the high schools open. But we can offset their “projected” increase by moving Summit k-12 (again) [from Rainier Beach High School] to the newly empty Denny site in 2011 [reference made to reaching out to Summit k-12 for cooperation]…
“…If we want to keep Arbor Heights open, we need to give them a sacrificial lamb…Cooper…they [SPS] need money today and the move is on..we have to serve Roxhill on a plate to reduce the overcapacity in the south end…
Let’s go through this piece by piece:
- Arbor Heights is receiving favor from West Seattle School Board Rep. Steve Sundquist
- Sundquist and AHPTSA members have been working together since before the initial closure recommendations to find a way to get AH off the list permanently, replaced by Cooper with “no warning”, Roxhill “on a plate”, and Rainier Beach High School.
- AHPTSA and Sundquist worked to sabatoge plans for increasing enrollment at Rainier Beach, thereby making Rainier Beach vulnerable to closure, thereby saving Arbor Heights [by saving SPS money]
Given the information provided to me in a late night swap with a person I’ve never met before, whose name I don’t even know, I felt it necessary to reach out to the Cooper community to find out what their relationship has been like with their Rep. Steve Sundquist.
“There is no relationship. [says a Cooper teacher] He won’t answer direct questions. We’ve expressed numerous concerns about our vulnerable students, specifically our 3 Autistic programs and those 24 children, and in subsequent works sessions and board meetings, he has yet to even reference that Cooper has an Autistic program, and/or where these children will go and what will happen to them. We have emailed, called, gone to his community forums, been at any event where we have an opportunity to talk with him directly about our school, and a Cooper rep has communicated with him every step of the way.
“At the latest work session when a Cooper parent expressed concern about student placement Sundquist’s suggestion was “why don’t you go to West Seattle elementary? We asked him for the rationale regarding why Cooper was chosen for Pathfinder, he responded that “the building condition at Cooper is better than Pathfinder” and that as a Board member it was “my purview” to ask staff to research any of the schools in his part of the district. He is blatantly ignoring our kids. He acts as though it is not his job to represent us. He has been quoted numerous times as saying he is not required to have meetings where schools are not slated to be closed…but he held a meeting at West Seattle elementary which is not on a closure or a merger list- yet he refused to come to Cooper. Why And why didn’t he tell us he was going to be at West Seattle Elementary, and why didn’t he invite us?”
I showed the emails to a Cooper parent. He said:
“Well, as it relates to the “we have hatched several plans”, I had no idea that the district had employed Arbor Heights PTSA as a consultant to school closures, and the solution of their money problem. I find it quite interesting that Pathfinder is of great value but in subsequent emails, Summit k-12 is the more useful alternative plan since the district has only committed to one alternative school in each area. It’s clear that AHPTSA wants to align itself publicly with Pathfinder because Sundquist’s kids went to Pathfinder, so AHPTSA wants him to think that they care about the Pathfinder program. But, if Summit goes to Denny, where does Pathfinder go? It would be far too expense and make fiscal sense to have two all city draw programs in one area. It is clear that AHPTSA is using other schools just to save themselves. I am not surprised that the PTSA was on Patrick Johnson’s [SPS employee] speed dial. No one called us to tell us Cooper was on the chopping block. I’m not even sure if Patrick knows the address to Cooper. It was hysterically ironic, in a very my-best-friend-is-black-way, to read that the AHPTSA cautioned their supporters to be “respectful” when communicating to Mr. Johnson [who is black] about saving their school. But since he called Eric twice, I guess it makes sense. Moreover, they were spot on when they said “I believe we’ll come out of this better if they think we are thoughtful, respectful community leaders, with great passion about our school”. How do you spell moron? AHPTSA. They do not care about our kids, and excuse me for saying this so bluntly, but the fact is they are an affluent, largely white school- Cooper is the exact opposite. They have purposely targeted us because they think we can’t defend ourselves.”
I asked the question, how did you find out Cooper was on the block?
“Not all of our parents know as of today that we are slated to be dissolved, particularly since the district has been mass mailing misinformation to our families, information that leaves Cooper off the list when in fact we’re on it. We have a HUGE ESL population and the critical information about Cooper’s future is not being made available to them in a way they can understand it. As of today nothing has come from the school in translated languages, of which we have at least 7, to the Cooper families.”
” It also just unnerves me that people’s who’s behavior so closely resembles Chicago’s governor could use biblical terms like “sacrificial lamb” to describe our kids. They weren’t just trying to find 300 seats and $600,000 in savings, they were trying to secure over 2 million dollars in savings to secure the future of their own school. Sundquist is exactly who we thought he was; a me-and-mine racist pig who wears the sheep’s clothing of a civil servant. He is in bed with Arbor Heights. Isn’t this kind of behavior illegal? In the least, it’s unethical. He is making sure that we are weakened so someone else can strike.”
“The fact that they hatched a plan to mortally wound children, families and programs at Rainier Beach high school- another minority school- and the only criteria necessary is a. south b. Black and c. poor- in that order, is almost beyond comprehension. The only reason they targeted Rainier Beach is because they thought they could get away with it. Does Rainier Beach have any idea that an elementary school in West Seattle is trying to slit their throats to save themselves? I highly doubt it. Does Steve Sundquist represent Rainier Beach? I thought that was Cheryl Chow’s turf? Does SHE know what he is up to? The SPS district and Steve Sundquist as a Board member have become AHPTSA and anyone else with money. They are like life-sized players on a chess board; it’s all about “Checkmate”. And it’s all done under bed sheets. I’m shocked we don’t have a burning cross in the Cooper parking lot. Seeing all of this on paper, AHPTSA will do anything to save their school, no matter who they crush in the process. It makes me sick. I can’t believe that AHPTSA not only knew weeks ago that we would be on the list, but that they were instrumental in getting us on it in the first place. And it pisses me off that they’ve not only gotten away with it, but they’ve had help from a Board member. Clearly they think we can’t handle this kind of a fight. Well, they would be wrong about that.”
In conclusion ladies and gents, I, Sable Verity don’t know quite what to say to this one. Two nights ago I started with a post inspired by an email from the Cooper community and wound up playing super-secret-spy-at-the-drop-location over communications within a Seattle PTSA about “hatched plans” and “sacrificial lambs”. It makes me shake my head, knowing that there are people who are ignorant enough, or wishful enough to think that this school closures process is not about what color you are and where you live, and whether or not you have the power or influence required to protect the best interests of your children.
I am almost certain that I will be hearing from folks who feel that it is unfair that I have not contacted the AHPTSA for a comment. The fact of the matter is that I have already been contacted with an AHPTSA member who had documentation of communications only AHPTSA members were privy to. That said, if ya’ll want to submit a statement, shoot me an email and I’ll post it in an update. The same goes for SPS or Representative Sundquist.
While I am willing to lend each of you that courtesy, let’s not get it twisted for one moment. I have the yahoo group posts, and apparently I’m not the only one. I have poured over each word in each line, and your intentions are spelled out clearly and with malice. It is shameless, it is arrogant and a clear obsession with self preservation by-any-means-necessary.
The gun is smokin’ and AHPTSA is holding it. And the potentially fatal shot to Cooper (Roxhill and RBHS) did not come from the grassy knoll, it came from Steve Sundquist. Hopefully when the smoke clears, the only things that will be dead are his career and his underhanded plan to gut Cooper and other minority schools of their students and families. For instructions on how to kill your own political career, see above.
How many ways can I say it? Thank you; gracias, donka, merci, M goi, Shukran, and of course, for tha Beach; Talofa! Now the fight is hedging ever closer to equal ground.
It’s been real.
UPDATE FRIDAY DEC 12 @10:33
From the West Seattle Blog:
I can’t tell if what you quote above includes anything not publicly available but the Arbor Heights PTSA messages have always been readable by anyone, not just membership. I have been checking them from time to time since the closure fight started two-plus weeks ago. Only members can post, but anyone can read:
This is great. I am guessing the AHPTSA member who felt the need meet me last night had no idea that these could be read by all; that person could have saved themselves- and me- some travel time. How arrogant of these people to be so openly cruel.
UPDATE: FRIDAY @ 11:04 A reader posted a link to this story on her Facebook page and received a message from Patrick Kelley, who ran for a seat on the Seattle School Board:
“Thanks for posting that, Amy (not her real name). As someone who ran for the board from one of the wealthier districts two years ago, I can sadly say this doesn’t surprise me. We’re often too easily pitted against each other, and forget that it’s our primary responsibility to provide the best public education to EACH student regardless of where they live or who their parents are. And it still burns my stomach to think how leadership always looks at cutting to save money, instead of talking honestly about what it will take to fully fund public education, and then advocating for it. That’s what leaders are supposed to do, but nobody’s knocked on my door yet…”
UPDATE 5:38PM FRIDAY DEC 12 AHPTSA Co-Presidents conduct interview with KUOW reporter Phyllis Fletcher, admit to targeting Cooper, RBHS for self preservation, say they made the right choice to save AH.
How does a school save itself from closure? One way is to point the finger at other schools. And tell the District to close them instead. That’s what parents at Arbor Heights Elementary did in West Seattle. For now, it seems to have worked. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher has more.
http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=16518 to listen or read the text below:
IF YOU GO TO A SCHOOL BOARD MEETING, SOMETIMES YOU HEAR THIS:
IMPASSIONED APPLAUSE. USUALLY, IN SUPPORT OF A PARENT OR TEACHER WHO PLEADS WITH THE SCHOOL BOARD TO KEEP THEIR BUILDING OPEN.
BUT THIS APPLAUSE WAS FOR A PARENT WHO SAID, ‘GO AHEAD.’
IWAMOTO: “Show me and the general public that the district follows its own guidelines and logic by closing a high school.”
ERIC IWAMOTO IS CO–PRESIDENT OF THE PARENT–TEACHER–STUDENT ASSOCIATION OF ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. HIS SCHOOL HAD BEEN ON THE LIST.
SO HE AND HIS FELLOW PTSA MEMBERS TOLD THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, STEVE SUNDQUIST, TO LOOK AT CLOSING RAINIER BEACH HIGH SCHOOL AND COOPER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL INSTEAD.
THEN, BOTH SCHOOLS ENDED UP ON A CLOSURE LIST LAST WEEK. AND ARBOR HEIGHTS WAS SPARED.
SUZETTE RILEY IS CO–PTSA–PRESIDENT WITH ERIC IWAMOTO AT ARBOR HEIGHTS.
RILEY: “Uh, you know, it’s a really awkward position.”
RILEY SAYS THEY TALKED ABOUT IT.
RILEY: “Should we just try to defend our school? Or should we try to prove that other ones should be closed?”
RILEY: “Ultimately we decided that that was the safest position.”
AND SHE ADMITS: SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT LED ARBOR HEIGHTS TO POINT THE FINGER AT COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT GIVE ARBOR HEIGHTS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS.
ARBOR HEIGHTS DOESN’T HAVE A MAJORITY OF FAMILIES IN POVERTY. COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH DO. POVERTY AFFECTS A SCHOOL’S POPULARITY, WHICH IS A FACTOR IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS. AND RILEY SAYS POVERTY ALSO AFFECTS HOW EASY IT IS FOR PARENTS TO ORGANIZE WHEN THEIR SCHOOL IS UNDER THE GUN.
RILEY: “Demographically, we may have an advantage. Um, I think that may be true. But we’re all still working parents and just trying to do the best for our kids.”
RILEY’S CO–PRESIDENT SPOKE CANDIDLY ON A MESSAGE BOARD FOR OTHER ARBOR HEIGHTS PARENTS. HIS MESSAGES WERE THEN PUBLICIZED BY A SOUTH SEATTLE BLOGGER. ERIC IWAMOTO SAID TO KEEP THEIR SCHOOL OPEN, THE PTSA HAD TO OFFER UP A ‘SACRIFICIAL LAMB’–ANOTHER SCHOOL.
WILLIAMS: “That’s blasphemy.”
SHELLEY WILLIAMS HAS TWO KIDS AT COOPER. SHE WENT THERE WHEN SHE WAS A KID. SHE COMPARES THE CLOSURE PROCESS TO A BOARD GAME. AND SAYS A LOT OF PARENTS AT COOPER DON’T EVEN KNOW THE RULES.
WILLIAMS: “We have 6 parents I can think of right off the top of my head who have been in this country less than two years, and spent more than two years prior in a refugee camp. They don’t even know this system.”
SO SHE WONDERS, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO ORDER T–SHIRTS, SHOW UP TO SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, GIVE PUBLIC TESTIMONY, AND TALK TO THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?
BUT BOTH SHE AND SUZETTE RILEY SAY THAT’S WHAT PARENTS HAVE TO DO IF THEY WANT TO GET THEIR SCHOOLS OFF THE LIST BEFORE THE SCHOOL BOARD VOTES ON IT NEXT MONTH. PHYLLIS FLETCHER, KUOW NEWS.
Update Sunday December 14 10:46PM: https://sableverity.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/sundquist%e2%80%99s-alleged-corruption-taints-seattle-schools-closure-process/