My story is one that isn’t often heard in the tech world. I grew up in Huayacocotla, a small Indigenous town in the mountains in Mexico. When I was 5, my mother — who was an elementary school teacher — moved me and my three sisters to La Guerrero, one of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Mexico City. Resources were scarce, and kids were easy targets for violence and many other social problems.
Thankfully, education was a force that shielded me from violence and, eventually, allowed me to flourish. Growing up, I was always interested in math, and my passion led me to multiple gold medals in Mathematical Olympiads in school.
Despite the barriers facing me, I was able to overcome challenges like racism, lack of knowledge about the opportunities available to me, and my own imposter syndrome. But I didn’t overcome these challenges alone. There are many factors that led me to where I am today — a software engineer at Google working on products like Google Meet — including mentors, access to a good education, and my love of math and problem-solving. I’m here today thanks to mi comunidad.
On Sept. 2, Maritime High School opened its doors to its first class of ninth graders. The new project-based-learning high school is located in the Highline school district and is a recent addition to the five other career-focused high schools in the district.
At Maritime High School, “Student learning will center on the environment, marine science, and maritime careers working on or near the water,” as stated in the school’s mission.
Stephanie Burns, the program director at Maritime High School, mentioned in an interview with the Emerald that the school was a long time coming, given our region’s vibrant maritime community.
“There’ve been conversations in this region for a long time about the need for a maritime high school. And a couple of years ago, one of the commissioners for the Port of Seattle, Ryan Calkins, started driving the idea of creating a maritime high school,” Burns said. “It would be committed to supporting workforce development for the maritime industry. It would be committed to equity and access to the maritime industry because historically it hasn’t been very representative. Then also really addressing some of our big challenges and problems around climate change and environment and those sort of aspects of our communities.”
Starting school in 2021 will be a different experience than 2020, when almost all the schools in the country were remote/distance learning. This week, Seattle Public School (SPS) students are returning to classrooms, some for the first time in over a year and a half.
To help families and students prepare for the new school year, I asked educators to share advice and thoughts they want parents and caregivers to know as we head back to school with COVID-19 still prevalent.
For decades, the Rainier Beach community watched as other better-resourced high schools got major building renovations, waiting for their turn. Yet as various Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) building levies passed them by, many members of the student population at Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) — which is currently 97% students of color — began to speak out.
From within a building built in 1961, students have been mounting pressure on the district for more than a decade. Finally, in 2019, the school board approved a replacement building as part of the Building Excellence (BEX) V Capital Levy. With RBHS set for a rebuild beginning next summer, the Emerald spoke to four students who were active in different waves of the push to make that happen.
In July, the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) awarded $1 million to 17 local organizations to support summer learning programs. Mostly concentrated in the South End, these funds will support programs that help students prepare for school in the fall.
Chris Alejano, the interim K–12 division director for DEEL, explained that the department had an idea of what type of organizations they wanted to partner with. They specifically looked for programs that support getting students ready for school while also prioritizing mental and physical wellness and addressing educational gaps.
“We’re looking for organizations that have a history of serving those students that are furthest away from educational justice,” Alejano said. “[Also organizations] that had some sort of experience achieving outcomes related to academic support, college and career readiness, [and] health and wellness — or at least a plan that showed that they had a strategy behind how they were going to address those topics.”
Last week, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced to parents via their newsletter that the Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP) would be limited to kindergarten through fifth grade. Sixth to 12th graders who want virtual learning options will be given a list of suggested external virtual programs. This walked back a June 17 announcement that the VOPP would be K–12 and drew immediate criticism from the Seattle Education Association (SEA).
In a recent conversation with the Emerald, Dr. Concie Pedroza, SPS associate superintendent, cited low enrollment numbers for the K–12 pilot, the complexity of middle and high school course offerings, and resulting staffing challenges as primary factors in the district’s decision.
In an SPS student survey conducted late last school year and filled out by about half of all middle and high schoolers, 6% of the high schoolers and 7% of middle schoolers indicated they would like to continue with fully remote learning in the future.
In this final article of a three-part series, Jasmine M. Pulido explores the future of programs for students designated highly capable in Seattle Public Schools.
The Future of Highly Capable Cohort: From HCC to HCS
Highly capable services are deemed part of basic education by state law, but the cohort is not.Starting in the 2022–2023 school year, the district’s Advanced Learning Department will begin a six-year plan to phase out the cohortmodel while gradually phasing in a new model. The recently amended changes to School Board Policy 2190, “Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs,” convert this accelerated curriculum cohort model (HCC) into an inclusive and accessible service model (Highly Capable Services or HCS) to meet the needs of students at their neighborhood school. In other words, SPS will no longer focus on searching for and separating “gifted students” from the general student population and will, instead, focus on having flexible services available to all students. HCS will still include an accelerated curriculum but can also include services like enriched learning opportunities, classroom pullouts for advanced content on a specific subject, and cluster groups depending on what best meets the individual student’s needs. In short, Highly Capable Cohort as a self-contained setting for advanced students will be completely dismantled and phased out.
When Drew Campbell was in middle school in the Renton Highlands, he’d often watch recess alone from inside the classroom while all his peers played outside. After they lined up and came back into the building, he was allowed out into the schoolyard for his turn, wondering, “Would I ever be able to interact with the regular kids?” In the large, mostly empty classroom where he spent the rest of the day with two other students — each with their own Individual Education Plan (IEP) — posters mostly covered the windows to shield the three of them from being made fun of. When learning, they were separated by cubicle walls — not unlike those recently used to deter COVID-19 transmission — only they weren’t transparent. The isolation that Campbell felt, and the bullying he faced daily from peers after being excluded from their midst by adults after an ADHD diagnosis, is something he will never forget.
Yet born from this traumatic three years of his life was a desire to hone in on what students with a lot of energy — especially Black boys — need to be able to learn with enthusiasm and purpose. Though the public education system may have tried to fail Campbell, he learned from his experience a critique containing answers to questions now being asked publicly: How can we end the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we stop failing to engage Black boys? How can we make public education more inclusive?
We are writing with enthusiastic support for the renewal of the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) levy and encouraging you to vote to approve the levy this August. As longtime advocates for children, youth, and families, we are so thankful to see the growing momentum and commitment to be a community that truly values young people and works to ensure that every child is happy, healthy, safe, and thriving!
Babies who were born the year BSK originally passed are just now entering school. The services they received as babies — like home visits, Play-and-Learn groups, information and support for parents and caregivers, and more — helped to prepare them and their families to enter school ready to learn and thrive.