Seattle Courant

School Board Says Yes To School Closure Plan

James Bible NAACP President Seattle. Jan. 30, 2009. Photo by Keith Vance.
By Keith Vance
January 30, 2009 12:01PM

Following the 5 to 2 vote in favor of the superintendent's "capacity management" plan, several people broke down and cried, others booed, shouted or just walked out of the room.

"I think a great injustice happened today," Jesse Hagopian said.

Hagopian is a Seattle schoolteacher and co-founder of a group called Educators Students and Parents for a Better Vision of Seattle Schools. The organization was created to stop the Board from approving Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's plan.

Defending her proposal last night Goodloe-Johnson said, everyone needs to "face the fact that the district has not operated as efficiently as it should have. Closing facilities must be a part of our plan to close a $25 million budget shortfall."

But that's not how the parents, teachers and faculty impacted by her plan feel.

"It is a lot of politics," Antoinette Felder said. Felder is an administrative assistant at T. T. Minor Elementary, one of the five schools Goodloe-Johnson wants shutdown.

According to the superintendent's plan, T. T. Minor is under capacity, as are several schools in the central area of Seattle, and there are not enough desks elsewhere.

"We have overcrowding in the North," said School Board member Michael DeBell.

But according to several parents, and Felder, the only reason T. T. Minor has so many empty seats this year is because of a letter that the district sent to parents. A copy of the letter has not been made available, but according Felder, the letter informed parents that T. T. Minor was failing to make "adequate yearly progress" and that they should consider sending their children to another school.

There weren't any enrollment problems last year, Felder said. "We continue to make academic strides each year."

And so it goes.

The meeting last night was fraught with anger, outrage and accusations of racism.

At one point DeBell was shouted down by a woman in the audience who called him a "patronizing s.o.b."

Not long after the meeting began, the president of Seattle NAACP James Bible was tossed out by security.

In the hall Bible launched an impromptu rally.

"I didn't come here to speak," Bible said. But for no reason, he said, he was asked to leave the meeting.

Bible quickly directed his anger at the superintendent.

"The NAACP didn't want her here when she showed up," he said. Adding that, "This entire school district is failing black children. Fire her! Fire them all!"

Board member DeBell, eventually said that Bible could return to the meeting and that the reason for Bible's removal was because of concerns by the fire marshal that Bible was allegedly standing in an aisle, even though he wasn't.

But that's how the meeting went, one interruption after another.

"It's an emotional issue," said district spokesman David Tucker. But in the end, he said, "The school board did what they needed to do."

Even though the School Board vote is over, the fight certainly is not.

Hagopian said his organization will be filing a racial discrimination complaint with the Department of Education, and he said that the NAACP is going to sue the school district.

However, if the lawsuits fail, and Goodloe-Johnson's plan is implemented, the lights will be turned off at T. T. Minor, Old Hay, Van Asselt, Mann and Genessee Hill.

The programs set for relocations are as follows.

Half of the Accelerated Progress Program students at Lowell will go to Thurgood Marshall and half of those in Washington’s A.P.P. will be shuffled to Hamilton.

Nova High School, currently located in the Mann building, will move to Meany, as will the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center.

Pathfinder K-8 goes to Cooper, and T. T. Minor Montessori students make the trek to Leschi.

Thurgood Marshall Elementary Bilingual Orientation Center moves over to either Dunlap or Hawthorne.

And finally, Van Asselt will take over the building where the African American Academy currently resides.

The African American Academy is one of five programs the superintendent will eliminate. Cooper, Meany, Summit K-12 and T. T. Minor Elementary are also on the chopping block.

Citizens attending school closure meeting. Jan. 30, 2009. Photo by Keith Vance.
Seattle School Board. Jan. 30, 2009. Photo by Keith Vance.