Back to School: the Final Six Points



Last Friday, I posted some thoughts on the direction we should take in terms of education reform on a local level. To revisit that post, let’s once more acknowledge that our School District is primarily responsible for our students’ public education and we support the District’s efforts to be accountable. A desire for improvement does not include a threat to dismantle it or take it over with a new form of government.  For us to have strong schools we must have strong and willing partners for the long term.  

Parents and teachers provide the primary daily support for individual students’ education, but all of us, community advocates, labor, students, business leaders, and, last but by no means least, the City of Seattle, must recognize the importance of our roles if the ambitious goal is to be reached.  Since our Family and Education levy is being shaped for next year’s vote, I will focus on the steps that the City can take in order to make our schools a model for our nation.

The first of my twelve points were posted here yesterday. Here are the final six points from my outline. Again, these thoughts are the product of innumerable conversations with parents, education leaders, and school board members.  I welcome your thoughts via email (sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov) or by phone (206.684.8801)

7. Schools as Libraries and Meeting Places for the Community.   School libraries and rooms — auditoriums, gyms, lunch rooms and wherever space may be available —  could be utitlized as computer centers for evening local learning centers.  Yes, this can require additional custodial or security funding, but it is also the type of funding that can be acquired through special use fees.  This is a perfect opportunity for people with computer talents to volunteer time to teach others in the neighborhood  after hours.

8. Safety Officers in the Schools.  The City of Seattle and Seattle School District should revisit the question of safety officers at local high schools and middle schools as requested by the parents, teachers, administration, students and police at the local schools.  The “office friendly” approach provides an opportunity for our students to get to know our selected police officers one on one, and gives the police insights into the students and the neighborhoods.

9. Apprenticeship Programs.  Local labor unions have created a good model for apprenticeship programs.  Working with local labor organizations and service agencies, we can expand available apprenticeship programs and make a trained apprentice pool available on local capital projects.   These programs are available right now with organizations such as the Aviation School and Opportunity Skyway.  Our local Painters, Carpenters, Welders, Electricians and many more have  programs that are highly in demand.

10. Census and GIS Data Shared.  The City and the School District should share population and trend data so the public schools can anticipate where families are growing.  This information when shared will assist in determining not only which properties must be retained and which can be sold or leased, but can assist in making better school assignment decisions.

11. Know what Employers and Colleges Want.  We must work with local businesses, unions, colleges and universities to know what they expect their employees and students to know before they are hired or admitted.  By incorporating this information into the curriculum at every school, years before the students graduate, we can prepare our students with college and job skills.

12. Take Advantage of Volunteers.  We have one of the most highly educated population anywhere in the world.  We have math scholars, scientists, and computer geniuses living next door.   We have people who would like to volunteer to teach in the classroom.  In what ways can we extend a hand to our teachers and teachers’ unions to figure out a non-threatening way to incorporate these teachers who are non-certified but highly competent in our classrooms?

Our Goal:  Creating a World Class School System.  

We all know too well that Seattle Public Schools are critical to our future. To create a world-class system, we must start with our youngest students, see that they are ready for school, and graduate students with solid skills that are ready for college or the work. There’s room for everyone to make a contribution:  parents, students, teachers, administration, businesses, neighborhoods, labor unions – everyone is included.  To focus on these priorities, I would like to move beyond the win-lose debates, focus on the best models that work here and elsewhere, and create a premier education available to all students.

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