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Packed house at Ballard school boundary meeting

Posted by Geeky Swedes on October 14th, 2009

Nearly 200 people packed Ballard High School’s library Wednesday night to participate in a community meeting about the controversial proposal to create Seattle school boundaries. “I thought it was going to be packed,” Ballard High Principal Phil Brockman told us as the crowd gathered. “But not this packed.”

Tracy Libros, who heads up enrollment for the school district, ran through a Powerpoint of the proposed student assignment boundaries, which were released October 6th. Libros said that the district is looking “at all the boundaries” to make possible changes. “We do believe that the initial proposal did not balance out the enrollment in the north end high schools, so we’re looking at that,” she said, explaining the new maps will be released on November 3rd. A school official told us the possible changes aren’t due to bad or incomplete data, but part of “continued refinement.”

Parents split into groups to discuss their concerns and questions, which were later read to the room. “The North Ballard community is very, very concerned about being cut off,” said one parent, referring to the dividing line at 85th St. that splits Ballard High to the south with Ingraham High (on 135th St. NW) to the north. Many other parents agreed. “I’d like to go to the defense of the families of the neighborhood of North Beach, Olympic Manor, the Blue Ridge area and Green Arbor (near Carkeek Park),” another parent said. “Any of our kids can get on a bus in those neighborhoods and be to Ballard in 15 minutes. And any kids that takes a bus from those neighborhoods in Ingraham takes an hour to an hour and a half.” One group even walked to Ballard High from 85th for the meeting, explaining that it took just 25 minutes.

While North Ballard residents felt cut off, some didn’t mince words about the fact Queen Anne and Magnolia kids will be attending Ballard High under the new boundary maps. “Obviously Queen Anne and Magnolia have a right to come to Ballard, but why aren’t they fighting the fact they sold Queen Anne High School several years ago? They should go to Ingraham,” one man said to a thundering applause. “Have them build their own (high school),” exclaimed another. Another parent brought up the new boundary that divides Whittier and West Woodland Elementary schools. “It will fragment the Whittier Heights neighborhood,” she said.

“I know that a lot of people in this room are not happy, but all I can tell you is that’s where the data lead us to,” Libros said. “When you put all the numbers together of where the students live and where the buildings are located, that is where the first proposed boundaries, which do need adjustment, landed,” she said. “There are certainly convenient buses in some cases, but not necessarily capacity at those schools for all these students.”

Another key issue that was repeated through the night is the grandfathering of siblings. “We want to keep our families together,” one man said, advocating a guaranteed grandfathering plan. “When our next son or daughter is coming up, we want to stay with that school.” While the district is proposing a 10 percent open enrollment provision, which would leave a tenth of a school’s enrollment to a lottery system, many expressed concerns that it’s too small to account for all the siblings and special circumstances. “We’re not doing it because we think it’s a good idea to be mean,” Libros said in response. “Seriously, it sounds like a no brainer, and it is in a sense, except we don’t know until the boundaries are adopted and we actually look at the students that are going to that school…. But to just stand here and say all siblings are grandfathered, I can’t do that because we don’t know if we can’t support it physically. It’s absolutely a high priority.”

A few parents raised concern over the short span of time between the release of the refined maps (November 3rd), the school board public hearing (November 9th) and the final board vote (November 18th). The district assured the crowd that they’re taking the community’s feedback seriously. “We really do welcome your input and comments,” Libros said. “We truly welcome your comments.”

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176 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 GTS // Oct 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Actually for the Catholic High School tution ranges on the low end $8000 for O'Dea (all boys) up to $12,950 for Seattle Prep. Holy Names (all girls) and Bishop Blanchet fall in the middle. Each school gives a discount for multiple siblings attending at the same time. Each school also has a good number of non-Catholic students who attend.

    Bush and Lakeside are in the $25000 range.

    That's before financial aid.

    While some may have a mandatory “donation” you can choose to make that donation be $1 if that is what you can afford. You do have to provide transportation and buy books.

    It has been my experience that families from every socio-economic level have kids in private high schools. You will probably never be the richest or the poorest family at school, and every school has the ability to reduce tuition for families that need financial aid if the child qualifies academically for admission .

    There is an application and admission process including a test for each High School.

  • 2 blueberry // Oct 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Schools receive their money based on enrollment. If enrollment goes down their budget goes down. I didn't move here for the school, I moved here because I liked the neighborhood…. which includes that school. I know that the boundaries can and will move. My problem is I think they way they are moving is unacceptable.

    I don't have a problem with the northern boundary at 85th. But, from what I hear, it is likely to move south, cutting off most of Ballard from BHS.

    Also, they are not making decisions based on only “right now”. These projections are based on what they expect enrollment to be in the future (10 years I think).

  • 3 blueberry // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I think it is perfectly rational to want your child to go to the school in their neighborhood. I agree with you that Ingraham has some great programs and I don't see that much difference between it and BHS. And, if I lived at say 105th, I wouldn't have a problem going to Ingraham. But I live just north of 70th. While Ingraham is a “good school, predictable assignment” in no way or stretch of the imagination is this school “neighborhood based” for me.

    I know the cost of private schools is high. But, it is not out of reach for us. Which is why, if I'm going to have to send my kids out of the neighborhood I might as well get them into a school with smaller classes and more opportunity. Isn't this exactly what has happened in the past with Seattle schools? People are unsatisfied with their public options, go private (or move…. also something we would might consider) enrollment and funding drop, school quality goes down, schools close…. this all sounds familiar.

  • 4 ytoo // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    If enrollment goes down they change the lines again. That's how it's done.

    They project as best they can but it is a guessing game certainly. They do however work with a right now budget.

  • 5 kurtd // Oct 17, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    “Magnolia and Queen Anne have a high school, it is Franklin.”

    Not under the new plan, they don't. Attendance areas are to be contiguous and that excludes Franklin.

    Here's a statement that's every bit as sensible as yours:

    “Ballard has a high school; it is Franklin.”

    Like it or not, Ballard High School IS Magnolia and Queen Anne's neighborhood school. That Magnolia and Queen Anne have been denied equal access to it for decades does not negate the fact.

  • 6 ytoo // Oct 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    On one level, unmentioned here yet, it can actually be beneficial to have students from out of district. Involvement by parents is not always a good thing especially in a conservative bedroom community like Ballard. Sadly the involved parents are never the ones we need. As teacher I can tell you the parents we could really use are busy with lives and work. We get stuck with the stay at homes who ’just loved school’ when they were teens and are trying to live their perceived glory days over again by being too enmeshed in their kid’s lives. You know, the ‘fun’ moms. (To be fair I have to admit too many teachers teach for the same reason) They are a hindrance and their poor offspring tend to be mortified by the whole thing.

    It would behoove business to offer time to some of their employees to volunteer at schools. They might get better graduates in which to invest their training dollars.

    There are other benefits also of course. It fosters independence in teens, gives them confidence and broadens their frame of reference. I taught in the days of Seattle bussing and found that students from the more affluent neighborhoods benefited most from this aspect of the plan. While there were some flaws, I found it to be the parents, and not the students, who had the strongest objections. School is for the students correct?

  • 7 Freddie // Oct 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Can we get a refund then on the taxes we pay that go to schools?

    ….Oh that's right, Maria, you're a renter.

  • 8 Freddie // Oct 17, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    BTW Maria, we don't need vouchers. We used the Supreme Court, which drop kicked the SPS a** and forced them to give us back our neighborhood schools.

  • 9 motorrad // Oct 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Hey dumba$$- renters pay property tax.

  • 10 lizge // Oct 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    That's true. When the school district came knocking on my door, they asked, if you ever have kids in high school, do you want Ballard or Garfield? And I said, Ballard, of course.
    Um, no, that never happened.
    My neighbor's daughter (who lives in QA, and lives blocks from the Ballard bridge) goes to Garfield, by choice.

  • 11 lizge // Oct 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Not everyone in Magnolia is wealthy, not even the majority. And QA is the most liberal neighborhood in the city. If QA & Magnolia were minority neighborhoods, would there be such an uproar? I doubt it.

  • 12 ytoo // Oct 17, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Do you personally know this poster that you use a real name? Is that allowed by the rules here?

  • 13 pennygirl // Oct 18, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Well, that's not entirely true. The SPS lawsuit and subsequent Supreme Court ruling had nothing to do with 'neighborhood schools' as such. It was based on Kathleen Brose (a Magnolia resident) not getting her daughter into Ballard due to the racial tiebreaker that was in place.

    So, yes, the Supreme Court, via the argument of 'racial tiebreakers' was involved in giving the neighborhood schools back to the neighborhood, but the lines are blurry when you consider which neighborhood is the beneficiary.

  • 14 GTS // Oct 18, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I bet you are one of those brides who thought the wedding was for her and not your mom :).

    I agree with your take on volunteers – give me someone who has no time to volunteer on any committee; they get things done and don't wallow around in the process!

    I think a lot of people confuse “being involved in your childs education” with “being involved at the school”.

    You need to know what is going one with your childs school day “Is there a test you need to prepare for, have you recopied your notes from chemistry, do you need help with your French nouns? When is the parent teacher conference? Who do I talk to if my child needs help?” is more important when they are in High School and you are helping them to develop study and work behaviors for when they are on their own in college than cutting out snowflakes and driving to the pumpkin patch like when they are in elementary school.

    Although I do love the opportunity to mortify my child whenever possible: “Remember when you barfed down my back at Benaroya when you were 2? It's payback time: Take a look at the 'fun holiday sweater” I'll be wearing when I help out in the attendance office tomorrow. Who doesn't love sparkely jack-o-lanterns? Is it ok if I sit with you in the cafeteria and tell everyone I'm your mom?”'

  • 15 pennygirl // Oct 18, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Do many High School parents still do that?

    I was shown the proverbial door back when my kid was in Whitman! I remember tormenting him for days pretending that me and his dad would be chaperones at the School Dance. He actually said that his life had officially ended…

    I didn't realize that parents were still that eager to plonk themselves squarely in the actual school building when it came to High School!

  • 16 GTS // Oct 18, 2009 at 2:50 am

    You have no idea how many parents would be SO PYCHED to spend time in the high school building do anything.

    Seriously this time they can GET IT RIGHT!

  • 17 Structural // Oct 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Vote them out…..

  • 18 Sir Camp-a-lot // Oct 18, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Well, Magnolia an QA are certainly beneficiaries and I'm more than happy to have my kids going to a school with kids who will, for the most part, be better prepared for school and have higher goals for themselves….and if it wasn't for the Supreme Court decision, would we have ever gotten our neighborhood schools back or would the leftists and social experimenters at the SPS hq still be trying to bus our kids all over town?

  • 19 ballardemican // Oct 18, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    and again I didn't invent the fact that class behavior is learned and tends to reproduce itself, and I'm not really pleased that it works that way. Better neighbors generally make for better schools, so I'll take the better neighborhoods in the Ballard district.

    and btw social darwinism assumes biological differences in people rightfully prefigure social status and role. If you read what I wrote you'd know that's not what I said.

  • 20 LBB // Oct 20, 2009 at 2:41 am

    If the “walking zone” for high schools is 2 miles – then why not start with drawing a 2 mile circle and include everyone within it.

  • 21 EB1 // Oct 20, 2009 at 5:43 am

    I agree. I routinely ride my bike from my house in the center of Magnolia to BHS. It takes me less than 20 minutes. A favorite evening out for my wife and I is to walk down to Ray's boat house for dinner. A channel of water does not a dividing line make. I can see how a lazy person who lacked the desire to do real demographic research might want to use this as a dividing line. But, it is no where near as imposing of a barrier as a commute through downtown Seattle.

  • 22 Ken Jackson // Oct 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Can we start a new lawsuit the day the new lines are drawn. I propose that we do. In fact I'll look into this. We should make sure this is as painful as possible for everyone involved. Seattle Public Schools has been one of the most disappointing things about living in Seattle. In contrast, the Eastside has their act together.

    I think we should make SPS the biggest joke on the west coast. And then maybe we'll see some real improvement. But until then I think we'll continue to just see this horrible socioeconomic jockeying.

  • 23 Ballard_Curmudgeon // Oct 20, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    If the line moves south of 85th it is going to be war. Expect a huge lawsuit to come down the pipe paid for by every parent disenfranchised out of BHS.

  • 24 pennygirl // Oct 20, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Having taken a closer look at the Proposed Attendance Area Map, I have a feeling that you may be correct about yet another Boundary change at the last minute.

    If the School District intends on accommodating every Mag/QA student, there is no way that they will be able to do that without moving the boundary line further south, and shipping a few more kids up to Ingraham.

    I'm just north of 85th, so my fight is probably already over, even though I already have one kid at Ballard.

    You should probably start preparing your arguments for the School District right now. If they do try to bring the boundary line south, it would be a good idea for you already to have an alternative boundary line drawn up. Maybe bringing the southern QA/Mag boundary north.

    If you look at the map, there's a perfect boundary line that could be drawn straight through Southern Magnolia/Queen Anne. The QA/Mag parents could argue that it would be splitting their kids up between 2 schools (Ballard/Garfield) but that could be countered with the fact that the northern boundary line would do the same thing to the Ballard kids (Ballard/Ingraham)

    I've gone up against the School District in the past, so I wish you the best of luck.

    (Oh, and pointing out their countless missteps in the past that have cost millions of dollars, is always a good thing to throw out at a packed community meeting…)

  • 25 susanmweber // Oct 22, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Here is an email I sent to Sherry Carr and newassign@seattleschools.org (where people are encouraged to send comments and suggestions about the school assignment plan.) Yes, I'm including my real name. I think it gives context and credibility (or lack thereof depending on your opinion.)

    Susan M. Weber

    I applaud the return to neighborhood schools! I realize that not everyone will be happy with the final boundary lines and the extent to which siblings are grandfathered into current school placements, but as I have expressed to many on this issue, there is no way to please everyone and satisfy each personal need and want with a district the size of Seattle's.

    I attended Sherry Carr's informal meeting last Saturday at Bethany church near Greenlake. I commend her for keeping her cool during a meeting where there was alot of criticism and anger and few positive suggestions (in my opinion.) Through Whittier's representative, Jordon Singer, I have been kept very well informed about the various other community meetings on this subject. Thank you Jordon!

    In my opinion alot of the anger and criticism stems from the feeling among parents that they haven't had a true voice and have had little time to process the changes and what it means for their families. I think the board has handled this issue far better than the closure of schools a few years ago with regard to communication about the process, but there is room for improvement. The short timeline between announcing the proposed changes, community meetings and the final vote is far too short. I also think that providing more reasoning behind the changes would have helped alleviate some of the hostility expressed at these community meetings. (i.e. such as offering the fact up front that there are plenty of seats for high school students, but not necessarily where there are the most students and the boundaries have to be drawn accordingly.)

    In considering the final boundaries, I encourage the board (as I did last spring in an email about this topic) to really consider the following:

    First, it is extremely important for families that their children can easily reach their schools by walking or biking. With increase fuel and transportation costs, concern for the environment, and concern for the safety of our children in getting to and from school; the ability to walk or bike to school is a high priority for many families. Walk and bike zones and the ability of high school students to reach school without dependence on cars or buses are critically important to Seattle school communities.

    Second, Metro bus access to a high school with limited transfers is also extremely important. There is no easy way for an student who lives just north of 85th to get to Ingraham, when that same student could hop on one bus down 15th NW and get to Ballard. Some consideration should be made with regard to the northern boundary for Ballard for those who would have to make more than one transfer on Metro to get to Ingraham. This takes time away from home and studying, lessens the likelihood of participation in before or after school activities (because of the long bus ride & transfers), and raises safety concerns. For example, a 9th grader waiting for a city bus at 6:30 a.m. in the dark, having to transfer once or twice, or more, to get to school participates in an after school sport and has to take the city bus home, again transferring once, twice or more, in the dark arriving at home at a time when many families have already eaten dinner and begun homework. This is not a scenario with which families feel the least bit comfortable and especially so for those families who do not have more than one car (or any car), who have two parents who work outside the home, or are otherwise unable to participate in carpooling rather than relying on public transportation to get their high school student to school.

    Third, geography is important. Student and family participation in school activities is greater when the school is geographically close to the students’ homes. Parent and student participation in a school that takes a considerable amount of time, effort and fuel to get to is going to be far less than such participation in a school that families can walk to, bike to, or get to in a short bus or car ride. Parent participation in schools, i.e. PTA, volunteering to help with before and after school activities, tutoring, sports booster clubs, evening school activities, etc. is a must for a positive well-rounded school experience for parents and students.

    It is important to realize that alot of frustration with the boundary lines for high schools as drawn leaves the Queen Anne and Magonlia neighborhoods virtually intact while the greater Ballard neighborhood is broken up. Many Ballardites feel like they are being penalized for purchasing a home in a neighborhood with a high school while those who purchased a home in neighborhoods that haven't had high schools for 20 years are getting their wishes fulfilled. Unfortunately this is pitting neighborhoods against neighborhoods and some adults are showing their worst colors at times.

    It is important to note that with the proposed boundary lines those students going to Whitman will not end up at the same high school, but will be split between Ingraham and Ballard. Some effort should be made to address this, especially considering that a student who lives across the street from Whitman (for example on NW 95th) could walk or take one bus to Ballard, but will have to transfer at least twice, if not more to get to Ingraham.

    Some effort should also be made to move the Roosevelt boundary line west at least to 1st NE at the northeast side of Greenlake as those students in that area could easily walk to Roosevelt vs. multiple bus transfers to Ballard.

    Some type of grandfathering of siblings and current school placement must be attempted, especially for younger children in elementary school. At the meeting I attended people were very hostile on this issue. Quite frankly, I felt like many of the comments that were made were far too personal and failed to take into consideration that these proposed changes are for an entire school district that is quite large and not just about the particular families at the meeting. Also, I wonder how many families are really affected by the sibling grandfathering issue. But, it is clearly a hot topic and one that needs to fully explained if grandfathering is minimal at best or non-existent at worst with the new assignment plan.

    I realize that it is impossible for Seattle School District families to have it all with the funding the way it is; neighborhood schools, choice for special academic programs, true and voluntary diversity. However, it is my sincere hope that in considering where reference area lines should be drawn, especially for high schools, that the factors outlined above will be carefully considered.

    Having voiced my opinion above, some background may give some credibility (or not) to it. First of all the boundaries as proposed do not affect my family, nor do we have sibling issues. I'm not lobbying for any particular boundary, just advocating for common sense in finalizing them. I am a parent of a sophomore at Ballard High School and a 5th grader at Whittier Elementary. I am a past PTA president at Whittier and very involved in athletics at Ballard. I am a Seattle Public Schools graduate from Ingraham and went to school starting out at my neighborhood school then being involved in the voluntary/mandatory bus program, then the closures of Lincoln and Queen Anne. I clearly remember that I could have walked to Roosevelt high school with my older brother in minutes, but was bussed down to Rainier Beach and ultimately ended up at Lincoln for my freshman year, at the end of which it closed and then I was sent to Ingraham the remaining 3 years of high school. I spent many hours on a school bus, got home incredibly late from gymnastics practice, and it was nearly impossible for my mom (a single mom with 4 kids in 4 different schools) to be involved in the schools at a level she once was when we went to our neighborhood schools. This is not the experience I wanted for my children and we've been very lucky that the schools our kids have attended have been quality schools close to our home.

    Thank you for getting through this long winded email and your work on this hot issue.

    Susan M. Weber

  • 26 North Ballard // Nov 4, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Don't think this doesn't hurt your property values north of 85th St. I would probably move to a different school district before my kid would go to Ingraham. I was going to remodel my house, but I may not now. The school district set up the schools based on programs, not boundary lines and now they have changed the rules on everyone.

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