by Nhi Tran, Foziya Reshid, Thao-Mi Le
Advanced learning programs first made an appearance in Seattle schools during the 1960s with the adoption of the “Policy for the Education of Able Learners.” The program was created with the intent of providing every student with an education that would “challenge [their] maximum ability and meet [their] individual needs.” However, after introducing school busing in the 1970s, the district used this program as an incentive to keep white parents who opposed racial integration from pulling their children out of Seattle schools. This program provided select white students with an education separate from their Black and Brown peers, perpetuating a segregated school system.
Throughout Washington state, schools are required to provide “highly capable programs” for students they deem “gifted.” The state defines gifted as “students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments.” The state allocates funds for each school district and, in return, school districts must abide by the state Legislature’s policies regarding basic education, which were redefined in 2011 to include programs for highly capable students. However, as you will see, these programs are built upon a foundation of white supremacy and constructed with the intent to perpetuate the segregation of schools on the basis of race and socioeconomic status.
Continue reading Why the NAACP Youth Council Is Demanding the Dismantling of HCC
by M. Anthony Davis
Brandon Hersey was appointed to the Seattle Public Schools Board to represent District 7 after Betty Patu resigned in 2019. Hersey, who was raised in a home of Black educators, currently lives in Rainier Beach and teaches second grade at Rainier View Elementary in Federal Way. Before becoming a teacher, Hersey’s experience in education policy included working for the Obama Administration as a policy analyst focusing on children and family issues.
Continue reading ‘Playtime Is Over’ — Brandon Hersey Is Serious About Educational Equity
by Ari Robin McKenna
On the day many pre K–12 students across the city were returning to in-person, hybrid learning, a petition brought by a group of three parents seeking to recall the entire Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Board was dismissed. King County Superior Court Judge Mafé Rajul’s ruling on Monday, April 19, found that that none of the 11 charges raised by three SPS parents, Emily Cherkin, Jennifer Crow, and Beverly Goodman, merited a petition to proceed.
Continue reading Judge Dismisses All Seattle Public School Board Recall Charges
by Ari Robin McKenna
As many students receiving special education services in what Seattle Public Schools (SPS) calls “intensive pathways” returned to in-person learning in early April, some local educators find themselves questioning whether their students will have improved opportunities for inclusion, or if the opposite is true. Supported by a federal law, which states that all students should learn in the “least restrictive environment,” inclusion requires that students with disabilities spend as much time as possible learning with their peers who do not receive special education services. While much attention has been focused on the myriad needs of students returning to hybrid, in-person learning, these teachers are concerned that inclusion of students with disabilities will be overlooked, and their need to be included will be unmet.
During the pandemic, one terrible example of exclusion was discovered in SPS at View Ridge Elementary School. According to a story by KUOW, the principal, assistant principal, and other staff members seem to have thought the least restrictive environment for an 8-year-old Black boy named Jaleel was to lock him in a caged play area for hours at a time where he sometimes ate while sitting on the floor. Though state law requires any instance of “restraint and isolation” to be reported, there was no paper trail, and while Jaleel’s case may or may not be an isolated event, it brought to the fore existing questions about whether there was a tendency to exclude BIPOC students — and particularly Black students — receiving special education services in SPS.
Continue reading SPS Educators Confront Issues of Race and Disability as Students Return to Schools
by Ari Robin McKenna
On March 19, Michelle Sarju announced her candidacy for the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) District 5 School Board Director seat. SPS District 5 includes most of the downtown area from the Sound to Lake Washington and, specifically, the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, the Chinatown/International District, First Hill, Leschi, Madison, and the Central District. Outgoing District 5 Board Director Zachary DeWolf has been one of those who have endorsed Sarju as her campaign launched.
In an interview with the Emerald, Sarju reflected on her professional life and how she feels it has prepared her to step into this role at this particular, historic moment. She also spoke about why she thinks it’s important the board includes a Black resident from the Central District who has had three children in SPS.
Continue reading Michelle Sarju Talks About Her Candidacy for District 5 School Board Director
by Carolyn Bick
Even as Washingtonians mark their calendars for April 15, the day everyone aged 16 and older in the state will be able to get vaccinated, the viral storm clouds on the horizon are growing darker.
In the last week, the average daily COVID case rate in King County alone has risen to 250 new cases per day, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin told listeners in an April 2 press conference. This represents a 26% increase from the week before, and an 86% overall increase from the beginning of this most recent rise, which likely represents a fourth wave beginning, Duchin said.
Continue reading New COVID Cases Outpacing Vaccinations, Highest Among 18 to 24-Year-Olds
by Ari Robin McKenna
The only person with K–12 teaching experience on the current Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors represents District 7, which covers the South End — and he is currently teaching virtually during a pandemic. Each weekday at 3 p.m., after Brandon Hersey says goodbye to the 21 members of his online second grade class at Rainier View Elementary School in Federal Way, he pivots and puts on another hat. Then, until about 10 p.m. each day, Brandon Hersey reaches out to his constituents in District 7 and does the never-ending work of a school board director. Even though that job is unpaid, Hersey does not take it lightly.
“My primary concern, even though I am a district-wide, citywide elected official,” Hersey told the Emerald in an interview, “is how am I making this system better for the kids down this way? You know what I’m saying?”
Hersey, a resident of Rainier Beach, says he’s not just passing through or on his way up a career ladder. He’s seen a lot of well-meaning people contribute to the status quo rather than achieving the change they seek by doing just that. “If you’re just on an ‘upward trajectory,’ going from being a teacher to a superintendent,” Hersey says, “every move that you make is moving you farther and farther away from the students who are actually impacted by your decisions.”
Continue reading Brandon Hersey: The South End’s Director on the Seattle Public Schools Board
by Rae Rose
In a landmark decision last month, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) became the first district in Washington state to commit to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The unanimous vote came after years of work and testimony provided by youth, SPS employees, community members, and community organizations. This will definitely spotlight SPS as a leader and role model for other districts across our state to learn from in the fight for climate solutions.
This monumental decision will (I hope) serve as a catalyst for other districts to model and follow. United in their decision, all board members voted that the time to transition from fossil fuel dependency to clean renewable energy sources is now. The resolution, dated January 2021 and voted into action on Feb. 10, 2021, is a light of hope after an extremely hard and disheartening 2020.
Continue reading OPINION: Seattle Public Schools Commit to Going Fossil Fuel Free by 2040
by Elizabeth Turnbull
As of Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) arrived at a tentative agreement which may mean K–12 special education intensive service pathways students, all kindergarten through 5th grade students, and all preschool students will be returning to school buildings at the end of this month to early next month.
Continue reading Seattle Public Schools Outlines Potential Return to In-Person Learning for Some Students
by Andrew Engelson
In an online news conference Friday morning, Governor Jay Inslee announced — almost exactly one year to the day after he issued an order closing schools statewide to confront the rise of COVID-19 — that he will sign an emergency proclamation requiring all K-12 students in the state be provided with some in-class learning by the end of April. The order requires that by April 5, all students in grades K-6 must be provided a hybrid model of instruction with at least some in-class learning, and by April 19, all students in grades K-12 must be provided some in-class instruction.
Continue reading Governor Inslee Orders All Students To Have Option of In-Class Instruction by April 19