Saturday, July 11, 2015

Can We Get A Patrol Car Out Here Please?

The original Part 1 posting has been taken down in response to SPD sending three police vehicles to my neighborhood to talk with the residents who sell drugs out of their home, which until recently was frequented by a man who is now charged with attempted murder. 

Part 2 remains until drugs are no longer being sold out of this house and my neighborhood is returned to the safe place it has been for 28 years.  I will use this page to keep readers updated. 

July 12, 2015  

  • Can We Get A Patrol Car OUt Here Please Part 1 is posted
  • Communication sent to the Mayor's Office about the lack of police response to drug activity on our block.

 July 13, 2015

  • Police visit the trouble house. No arrests made.  Most likely a knock and talk as in we are watching you, a respectful action. 
  • Children and families outside enjoying the summer evening following the departure of the police.
  • Blog Entry Can We Get A Patrol Car Out Here Please Part 1 is taken down.  
August 25, 2015
The Bonnie and Clyde team that kept our neighborhood under siege for almost two years without police response appear to be out of business. I would like to say it was good police work but it was not. "Clyde" shot and seriously injured someone and will end up in prison. "Bonnie" not yet out of her 30's has had a serious heart attack. The mother who harbored them with her job of look out no longer needed is now being seen doing what she did for years of a more legal existence, walking to the bus stop.  

Even though an attempted murder, and extreme violence, and a poor health appears to have put a stop to the traffic on our quiet street, I still took down the Part 2 posting as promised. Our police have so much work to do as keepers of peace and law in this urban city. 

Proclamations and Work Still Left to Do

On Wednesday, July 8, 2015 I was honored and humbled by a dual recognition of my contribution of my life and resources to bring justice to education, economic and human equity to Seattle, King County, WA.  King County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Ed Murray brought to the Annual Dawn Mason Fish Fry Proclamations for Dawn Mason Day.

There is everything right with getting public recognition from places of high respect. But recognition for what has been done, must be the launching place for the future. At age 70, I could with out guilt just sit down and say I have done enough. Or I could honor the health and well being that has been granted and go forward with wisdom and clarity. I have chosen the latter.

Thank you to my legislative colleagues Dow and Ed for this honor of a day to call my own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainier Valley Matters. Southend Neighbors deserve shared resources and smart solutions.

Things come my way because I tend to do something with what is placed in my lap. So the irony of  shooting being in a gas station across from my daughter's residence and the police looking for him near my residence inspires this writing. 

The area near Valero Gas station on Rainier and Othello has its share of trouble. And will remain that way until the good people who now live in this area give up and it becomes Seattle's next gentrified community. When thr new residents arrive in the Brighton/Othello neighborhoods in full force the police will miraculously find "resources" to make this stretch safe from drug deals and subsequent violence associated with illegal activity. The media says it is gang related, the shooting had nothing to do with gangs it was over a woman.  It is just easier for the media to link everything that involves a Black male with being gang related. 

The house that the suspect frequents is a trouble house, they sell drugs and brings frequent visitors who stay no more than 5 minutes. The cars are sometimes lined up as if waiting for their order at a drive through. When we have called the police because of arguments, public urination, people driving fast on a street where children play, and old people live nothing or not much happens. The average adult age is about 60 years old. Most of us are retired. Except for this one house the neighborhood is extremely safe and sane. 

The police are almost totally in effective in helping us as a neighborhood that wants criminal activity stopped. We call, we have spoken to top brass to no positive end. We like any other neighborhood that has invested millions of dollars into properties want a return non our tax investment. How we different from other neighborhoods of prominent residents? Well the most obvious is that we are brown and black. 

We are not moving or selling anytime soon or fast enough so what we are experiencing is under policing. The other day one neighbor raising children sounded a bit too frustrated, using words like I need to feel my children are safe. That is the feeling before the for sale signs arrive. Frustrating owners out of Rainier Valley to make room for young whites who want and need a home less expensive than Fremont, or Queen Anne. There is not much left in Columbia City we are Hillman City the next neighborhood to the south. 

Chief O'Toole has been called by me and told that our neighbors have tried for more than two years and without results to get the illegal activity in this house shut down. By the time person's violence gets to the level of shooting someone in front of witnesses without concern, someone saw it coming. We saw it coming. We know where criminal behavior goes unstopped, there are guns and that guns get used and sometimes innocent people get hurt. 

So what happens when good neighbors in an otherwise family neighborhood in Rainier Valley calls the police for help? The standard answer from 911 the police are busy on other calls. Or if there is finally a response it could be days later, and we get told of the lack of resources to work on nuisance calls.  Could someone tell SPD that Selling drugs outside of a licensed pharmacy is a not a nuisance it is a crime. People threatening to kill during loud arguments is not a nuisance call. Drug customers urinating on private lawns is a nuisance but when they passed out on that lawn from drug use, I think a report needs to be responded to.  

A news reporter following a five hour SWAT team stand off at the house asked me if the neighborhood was changing. "No, the police response to neighbors is changing." With police help we could have had this handled before the violent shots to the face of someone. We used to get responses to calls and those calls were not very frequent and they were the kinds of calls neighbors who want to ward off bad actors make. A car sitting too long in a neighborhood, abandoned vehicles, suspicious people. We live on a cul de sac so any who is on our block and not a visitor to anyone is suspicious. 

My family has lived on this block for 30 years and no problems to speak of for 29 of those years. Bad houses can pop up anywhere, but if the police do not work with neighbors, they get to take root. Luckily for my block,  the homes except for two are owner occupied. Both have absentee landlords. One houses good neighbors. The Cabios bought their home when we bought ours and has benefitted from the rent that Seattle Housing Authority sends them. So my taxes helps to pay for the nuisance that plagues us. 

Actually, this is a nice home gone bad. The woman now older and not well raised foster children along with her own. She went to work everyday and was a nice neighbor.  Then relatives came to "take care of her" and as she told  police she "lost control of her home." 

The fall back response when you call 911 or if you get to speak with an officer is that there are not enough resources. It seems the police were not short on resources June 9, 2015. They sent enough police vehicles and personnel to arrest the suspect they believed was in the trouble house to render the neighborhood a war zone. Selling drugs outside of a pharmacy is not a nuisance it is a crime. And crime escalates until someone gets hurt or killed. 

Once an officer finally came out and did what is called a knock and talk.  The older woman who has lived in the house for many years said she lost control of the house when relatives moved in about two years ago. She is not well, they came to "take care of her."  Why did the police not contact Adult Protection Services, our property taxes pay for all the prevention resources that seem to not flow to Rainier Valley. Is there some kind of invisible resources dam at I-90?

The cost of a more than five hour surveillance with a SWAT team had to be an expensive resource use. I think what we were asking for is much less costly.  When they finally entered the house the suspect was not there he left in another vehicle. 

That was last month and now we are back to no response to calls. A young man was knocking on doors last week claiming he had tracked his phone to this neighborhood. And hung out for almost 45 minutes and three calls later a patrol car came just after he left. A white male had murdered nine good black people just the week before the President responded, I am old and black the scary 21 year old was young and white. I was told in a follow up call with Sgt Ann Martin that an car did come after the third call but they never checked on me. 

As neighbors we fell doomed but we are not moving. We will continue to make the calls, and even complain. I already know I will be labeled a nuisance. Hell, the Mayor, the King County Executive, City Attorney and two City Council members and a Community Police Commander were guests in my backyard, I consider them colleagues and allies. My neighbor is a Municipal Judge, and another a retired SPD Commander. If we can not get a patrol car to respond to legitimate calls who in Seattle can? It would be nice to have an analysis of calls by neighborhoods. I hear sirens all the time, so does a full scale crime have to occur before the resources of which we  are told they are short are applied?  We have even been told of our calls coming during a shift change. It was 11:25 A.M. on a Saturday morning. What shift is that? 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Gov. Inslee Must Assure First Place Scholars Keeps its Charter and Funding

First Place Scholars School is the only charter that proposed to solely focus on the education of poor children. It has for 25 years been located in a Seattle community that voted overwhelmingly democratic and placed Governor Jay Inslee in this highest state office. He must assure education equity for all schools whether district or charter. 

Retaining  First Place Scholars as a Charter School

First Place Scholars School Leader, has lead the FPS Board of Directors, teachers, parents, volunteers, and a diverse community in putting WA's historic first charter school into compliance.  Education Specialists have advised and much work has been done; The special education plan and teacher are in place, safety plans and drills approved, teachers coached, and student social and emotional growth evident. A fund development plan is drafted and is being applied. We are supplementing public funds to bring best practices in educating poor children. The students have taken and are waiting the results of the required Smarter Balance measurement. This will give a baseline for next school year. Supporting Partners have brought experiential education in science, the arts, and technology. Trained Volunteers are mentoring and tutoring and the emotional and social growth of the students is being documented.

Today, WA Charter Commission told the public that they had to get clarity from OSPI to know what they should expect from First Place Scholars. And that means any charter school. Moving the goal post has kept even some of the Commissioners a bit confused. We want Governor Jay Inslee  to do his job and assure that charters are implemented with equity. Revoking a charter because funds are not in place is not equity. He and the legislature have not closed district schools because school funding is not adequate. They are in a second special session working together to figure our school finances. Why would financing be a reason to revoke our charter?

You can cut and paste this into the Governor's online comment form. 

What do we need Governor Jay Inslee to Know?
Gov Inslee, please use your highest in state office to bring equity to the implementation of charter schools. Stop the WA Charter Commission from taking the charter and thus the public funds from the education of students who represent WA's poorest children. You can and must stop this travesty of equal justice. 
  • First Place Scholars has delivered and the WA Charter Commission has accepted all of the compliance issues presented.  
  • The Superintendent of Public Instruction has instructed the Commission on how the Special Education Plan should be presented. Before now, there was no clarity. The teacher is certified.The proof they ask for is merely showing them the certification. This is a new request. 
  • The compensatory part of the plan will be implemented in summer with a contribution to help with this from Catholic Community Services.
  • The U.S. Department of Education had three evaluators on site for two days and found that First Place Scholars met compliance as a start up charter school and released a $200,000.
  • We are asking Governor Inslee to have the Commission to take First Place off of probation and allow them to restore their good name, focus on direct instruction and give the public a chance to see best practices for poor children established within a distinct community. 
We want Governor Inslee to use the power of his office to:
  • Stop any inequity of time in establishing a public charter school.  
  • Convey to the Commission it takes time to establish best practices with any students especially children with challenges, traumas, and special needs. 
  • Let the Commission know that any charter school needs at least two to three years to demonstrate the school can be governed and operated with positive outcomes. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Parents and Community Pleased with First Place Charter School

First Place Scholars Charter School, Seattle
Parents Find Stability as a Plus at First Place
Parents are the key to an excellent education for young children. This was proven at First Place Scholars a charter school in Seattle, Africatown/Central District. For 25 years its mission of a high expectation education with wrap around family services for Seattle's poorest elementary age children is not lost in its transition to a charter school.  "Parents were at first concerned but are now very pleased with the new School Leader Dr. Linda Whitehead, and the therapeutic environment for learning she has established," says Linda Battle's whose grand children attend First Place Scholars. "

Poor families are highly mobile and for many reasons. Moving can disrupt a child's education. Because First Place Scholars, a free public charter school bears the cost of city wide transportation, when a family moves their child can remain at First Place Scholars. The benefit is in the midst of family turmoil,  education for the young student remains stable.

First Place a Neighborhood School
Creating partnerships and utilizing community amenities give highly mobile students and  parents a sense of place. Community partnerships span those within in blocks of the school and across the Seattle landscape. Furthest is Islandwood Environmental Camp which First Place students have been attending since its inception more than a decade ago. Sue Byers who is with Islandwood is also a community advisor to First Place.  Antioch University brings psychology interns to the building.  Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute is a two block walk, and students have this state of the art theater for performance arts that adds to their social and emotional growth. While some of the children are at the theater, others are in Skills and Drills at the Rotary Boys and Girls Club a block away from the school, while others are at one of the two parks within sight of the school building. These partnerships are what gives First Place Students the experiences of being part of a neighborhood and makes the neighborhood the First Place Scholars campus and it is the neighborhood of Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix, their Garfield High School is visible from FPS.

Another Community Partner is Village Spirit Center, Directed by Evelyn Allen, who did not hesitate to step in as Board Vice President when asked. She has been a key to what makes First Place work as a multi faceted organization for many years.  Village Spirit Center is a spin off of the Catholic Community Services and Housing Black Family Center. Parent, Dara knows the value of a First Place Education that has supplied her family with stability throughout what was trauma filled decade of getting to stability. "My older girls are now honor students at traditional public schools and my youngest is enjoying the same excellent education I have come to expect of First Place."  What brought complaint in October from parents is now their favorite feature of the school, the Academic Extended Day has children applying what is learned in the normal part of the school day in activities such as robotics, science, scouting, conversational Spanish and Japanese, art expression are among the favorite. They all bring the social emotional training that supports a rigorous high expectation education.  Scouting is both science and social in learning about the environment and anti-bullying. The whole child must be considered and that is what makes the school a great place for my son, Demi told board members. The safety of First Place makes it the first and only place she feels safe leaving her child. "It is my only family right now and is helpful for managing my mental illness and keeping it in control." Next year her  pre-schooler will be enrolled in Kindergarten.

Correction Outcomes a Model for Parents
In completing the infamous 38 compliance issues we stepped up to fix, it was much like adopting a child with many needs. First Place Scholars Leadership has modeled for our families and even charter schools not yet opened, the positive outcomes of accepting that there is something not working, collaborating to solve the problem, and staying focused on intended outcomes. The kind of staying focused on getting to better we expect of parents through case management. The need to bring correction has helped us align with parents who must endure corrections to bring their families to functional and students to scholars.  Josephine Howell is a former parent and now school board member and knows getting to functional is not easy for everyone, "It has been surprising to see those individuals and organizations, including funders who ducked and took cover, and those who are stepping up as full partners in this work to assure that First Place will always be open and ready to educate poor children.

"We have had analyzing and working with us many who want First Place to work for the students we are educating, says School Leader Dr. Whitehead."  Some of who she refers to are; US Dept. of Education, WA State Auditors, WA Charter Commission, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, School Works, WA Charter Association, League of Education Voters, STAND for Children, WA Legislators, Puget Sound Education Service District, WA's Middle School Teacher of the Year, Keisha Scarlett spends evenings and weekends in collegial strategic sessions with Whitehead, and Chair of FPS Education Committee. Catholic Community Services President and CEO Michael Reichart, has extended the full support of what is one of the largest non profit service and housing agencies in WA State.

Now that we have submitted all of the correctives, we are focused assuring everyone has a chance to do something to support the education of our students and services for our families. Giving on May 5, will double your donation and include you in the growing number of individuals who see the value of the work we do.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Informing Afternoon with Women in the Nation of Islam

In a life so long ago, the Nation of Islam infused in me the courage to love myself as a Black women in America and to not be a coward when it came to protecting the right for Black children to have an excellent education. On Saturday I joined a room of women the Women of Seattle's Nation of Islam Group invited from all walks of life and got glimpse into a very different experience than that I had 40 years ago. The liberation of women was very evident and the move of the Nation away from a separatist organization was refreshing. More people need to be comfortable with men and women who are building for Blacks self determined solutions to problems that keep expanding. Today the issues that need solving are sex trafficking of young girls, brutal rapes that have men acting like a pack of wild animals without being stopped, women being equal to men in jobs and pay, and joining women across the country and around the globe; Chines, Korean, African, European who are standing up and throwing off repression.  It was noted that of all the women in the world Black women in American have been the most oppressed and for a sustained 500 years.  

Eating nutritious foods and not giving children fast food was seen as ways to diminish the poor health of Blacks and their children. The right to have tax money we pay given to Blacks to educate their own children in a nation that has created school failure was not a change from what the Nation of Islam has always promoted. And visitors seemed to agree that this is something that women could work together on. 

With his wife the First Lady of the Nation Sister Khadijah Farakhan and her daughter applauding these transformative doctrines, Farakkan said someone has to do something about human trafficking and police shootings. And if the Government is not going to do something the people will have to. He announced a 20 year anniversary of Million Man March in October. And This will be a very serious one and our women of courage will be with us.  

The Nation of Islam helped develop me as a courageous person, but the inequality for women made it impossible for me have a sustained presence. So it is refreshing to see women as Ministers, in leadership roles and being treated with equity in their homes and in the affairs of the nation. Also seeing  Seattle Women reaching out to join in the work that must be done and must be done by women of all faiths and beliefs was the message today an a refreshing one, if our children male and female are to gain education, social and economic equity.  

 Seattle's Save our Girls Event on Saturday April 18, 2015

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Parents Believed that the WA Charter Commission Had Done their Due Dilligence

Parents had no reason to question the decision of the WA Charter Commission they thought they knew what they were doing when they approved First Place Scholars Charter School for student enrollment. By December of the first year the school had 38 out of compliance issues. An unheard of number for any school district and surely for any one school. Actually, upon taking over the school as a new board and school leader, there was little we could find right with the school. Today five months later our doors are opened to daily visitors and they are pleased with what we have done. Even the light bulbs have been replaced, and the after school program finds children in a fun and energetic experiential program of technology, math, arts and science. Building robots, doing karate, and learning conversational Japanese and Spanish.

The Washington Charter Commission signed the charter contract with former board President, Daniel Seydell, II  Mr. Seydell presided over the transition board, a board that was not in compliance as to structure based on the Commissions own rules. On October 28, 2014 after the majority of the transition board resigned and he was voted off the board after refusing a request that he resign,  a new board was established.  in November. An assessment was done by School Works after a two day site visit. The new board which is now made up of 9 new board members including me as the new Board President used the outcomes as our roadmap to get FPSCS onto a better course. This was the demand of community, teachers and parents and even students spoke at a standing room only FPS Charter School Board meeting in mid October. Their school was in major conflict, out of compliance, it was not safe.

The first thing that the new board did was accept an amicable resignation from the existing School Leader she agreed we needed an education administration specialist to do what we needed to do to get the school turned onto a better course while assuring that our students and teachers daily experience was without disruption.

We hired Dr. Linda Whitehead who had been an education administrator in Camden NJ, one of America's most challenged districts, and in Redmond, WA located in one of the top school districts the educators of the children of Microsoft employees. She had been a School Superintendent in Marysville, WA and a Director at Casey Family Programs. It took one look for her to know that the school had major problems to its structures and systems. The consultants had totally dismantled what has made the former school work well. New teachers were hired, and the Special Education teacher that had been employed for 13 years was let go without a replacement. By the time the dust settled 38 out of compliance issues were discovered partly by the Commission who did not write the first letter of correction until after the new Board was seated and the assessment ordered. In other words, they did not get concerned until after we expressed our concern as to how they could have signed a charter contract with a school that needed time to put its structures and systems into place. But that is why the board hired someone who could run a school while simultaneously building one. This was more then fixing systems, most were not in place at all.

A normal parent believes when they enroll their child in a school that has been approved to enroll students and receive state funds that the school has met all assurances that it is ready to receive students. Also the predecessor school had been an award winning model for educating children with challenges associated with sustained poverty. But they were not told that the approved proposal had dismantled the James Comer Model and replaced it with one that was quite different. How would a parent know that the Commission that was appointed to usher in charter schools and sign contracts with individual schools would approve a school that had no safety plan, no special education policy, incomplete background checks, no approved application for reimbursement for free and reduced lunch program with OSPI, and 38 other public school structural and systems either not existing or flawed?

So for five months Dr. Linda Whitehead, her staff and I and our board have kept our noses to the grindstone building the school our students and parents deserve. A herculean task but one that had to be done. The WA Commission did a rush job on FPSCS in delivering it prematurely. Then they did a rush job of placing not the team that botched the delivery but the specialists who turned the school around immediately onto safe waters for our students and parents. The first thing we did was put the board into compliance as to members, got trained as a Charter School Board and WA Charter Association staff, including learning how to govern under the Open Public Meeting Act.  We worked with a community advisory team headed by Keisha Scarlett, Washington's Middle School Principal of the year to put into place a 30, 60, 90 day plan. We hired Dr. Whitehead and made assuring that our students were physically, emotionally and educationally safe and that their teachers had the support systems they needed. It baffles us that the WA Charter Commission has shown so much bravado, even suggesting that their concern for our brown, black and poor children trumps ours. They are not a different body or Executive Director from those who thought it okay to approve a school that had no curriculum or systems for academic measurements and no industry approved finance and audit practices. Now they say they are concerned about our finances. Well so were we and now that we have put into place finance and audit structures to safeguard state and donor funds, they have much to say about the damage to this ill fated delivery of a school they approved.

So when you read anything that they have to say to the public about First Place Scholars Charter School know that they either learned it from us as a report of a material finding, or that we have already begun the work of fixing it.

What we have asked for and may or may not get depending upon what measure of responsibility they take for the mistakes they not our our current board and school leader made. They signed the contract and we are living up to it and fixing what they allowed to be the first charter school in Washington State.  As of Friday we are told they are working more diligently on trying to be better team players with FPSCS leadership. That will of course mean they have to give us time to raise funds, test the new systems, stress test the structures, train our teachers to the measurement systems. They put the most negative things about the school and our ability in the press and then say "We are concerned about your ability to raise funds."  Well they approved a fund raising plan that makes sense to no one. One that we have to rewrite. The entire budget they approved has to be re-written.

This is the same team that approved the proposal and signed the contract. We are a different leadership team. We are the result of what can happen with charter schools, the community was not happy a change occurred immediately. The WA Charter Commission does not have to answer to the public, they are appointed. So we will see if the Governor will step in and help. We did elect him.

Calling In The Specialists To Save Washington's First Charter School

The words used recently by the Washington Charter Commission in the most recent article is revoke.  This of course infers closure of the school. It is very important for the public, parents, and community to know that only the First Place Board of Directors can make that decision and as Board President, I speak for a board that will not step away from doing what has been done for 25 years. Our Mission is to educate poor children. We will fight to the finish to assure that we keep the charter our children deserve to have as much as any in this state. They are the children the charter was voted to educate; brown, black, poor, those that traditional publics wring their hands over.

The WA Charter Commission erred terribly when they signed a contract with the former FPSCS Board and delivered prematurely to Washington the first charter school. It was a school that was not given the same time that others are enjoying to build their dream school. This created a take over of the school by the community it serves and a new board and School leader was hired to establish the structures and systems usual to a school, charter, traditional public or private. Since November as a volunteer and December 9, 2014 as our newly hired School Leader and Executive Director she has lead the arduous task of saving First Place Scholars Charter School. She has been a School Superintendent, a principal and a Director of a national organization focused on very poor children. She came out of retirement from a 30 year career. She has been good not only for FPSCS but for the Commission's Executive Director. As was told in one article, The Charter Commission is learning on First Place Scholars. A statement I resent. The people of Washington did not vote in charters for adults to learn on the backs and dimes of poor children. It is an arrogant statement and that is what power and privilege produces, arrogance.

There has been a well strategized communication plan from the Commission and its advisors that covers over what they did in granting prematurely the charter for a school not yet ready to be delivers. Now they speak of pulling the plug. Well that is not going to happen without some clear truth telling and giving the public a chance to hear our side of the story. To have told it too early would have caused an even more punitive correction plan and the one in place is brutal. But we hired the right person to do this work and the assembled a courageous and knowledgeable board of directors able to govern the school to where it should have been in September.

The community called in the specialists and we are doing a grand job of putting things right first for our students and then to save the charter movement from a black eye. pun intended.

Read next blog entry to see what we are doing to straighten out the mess the Commission made in granting a charter before a school was ready. 

First Place Scholars Charter School Will Never Close It's Doors to Poor Children

Marselas Owens, First Place Alum with Pres.Barack Obama
When President Barack Obama signed the Health Care Bill, standing with him was First Place Alum, Marselas Owens. He cut his teeth on lobbying decision makers when a 3rd grader. He is representative of the high expectations we have for our students. He  looks wealthy, most of our children look and perform from expectations of excellence.

So what happened that changed this when First Place became a charter school?

First it is important to know that the WA Charter Commission erred and made a drastic delivery to WA State a charter school that was not given time equal to develop as received by the other 7 authorized schools. We are a school that was first dismantled by a team of Consultants, Linda and Ronald McDonald dba Model Schools Project. They changed from the James Comer Model to a Blended model that relies heavily on computer based instruction. Education research tells us young children do not learn best from computers and it is not healthy for the development.

But that is only one egregious thing that the WA Charter Commission overlooked when approving FPSCS proposal. The finance reporting was not in keeping with accounting principles and they overlooked that the school was in financial free fall before the first student was enrolled.

A parent, even a poor parent and all of our parents live beneath the poverty line with their children. In Seattle 54% of African American children are poor, so FPSCS has always been a natural choice for this population of students who do not as a population fair well in traditional schools. Marselas who is shown here is not atypical of what we do to bring poor children to excellence.

Any parent would expect that background checks had been done for every adult on staff. The charter was approved without every adult having one. They would think that the computer systems that were said to be important to the curriculum would be up and going and the teachers trained on how to teach and measure using these newly installed surface tablets. The system did not get rolled out until after the new board and leadership team in November took over the school and turned it around. Now the Commission says they are concerned about measurement. They should have been concerned in September when they signed the contract. We tell them things that we are fixing and then they write us letters of concern, this has been a consistent practice for the five months Dr. Whitehead, our School Leader and an extraordinary education administrator has been putting things right at WA first charter school.

Any who has followed the media articles about First Place Scholars might believe that we are on a fast track for closing rather than a fast track for correcting what was so horribly wrong. What could the Commission and their Executive Director, Josh Halsey be thinking.  In a Februrary, 2015  letter to Mr. Halsey, from a former WA Charter Commissioner and also architect of the original First Place School she reminded him that she had told him the school was not ready and the contract should not be signed. That the school should be given the same time line to get set up as the other schools.

The Seattle Times article and headlines infers that the school could be closed. Well the Commission does have the right to revoke the charter but they own only the charter, not the school. And the state has not released 50% of the funds needed to run the school. Because of the rush to enroll students at a new charter school, no food reimbursement application was in place, transportation reimbursement systems were not structured and no approved special education plan was in place to reimburse for these expensive but necessary costs for any school.  What were they thinking?  I can not answer because after being retired from the original First Place Board and not being part of the start up of the charter, I only returned late October, 2014.  And returned for the sole purpose of saving a treasure of a school. An education jewel supported by thousands of generous and compassionate individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors in this region. For 25 years we brought children to excellence.

Charters are in place to improve, not diminish education for poor children. The Commission owes our students and their parents and explanation. How have they made the victim the criminal. The students show up everyday, the teachers teach everyday, the parents and volunteers are supportive, the new board keeps its nose to the strategic planning and policy grindstone and Dr. Linda is operating the school during the day and writing fixes to compliances at night and weekends. For this we get only threats and answers to corrective plans that says, this is not good enough. Okay, but really now had they had this kind of brutal oversight and scrutiny before the contract was signed would I be writing this?

Read the next blog for more about what really happened on the way to a threat to revoke the first charter given in WA State. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Way Forward for Washington's children

When I retired, I thought like most that my life would take a turn for shores filled with sun and wonder, and time to read, write, travel. That has been true, I have done all of that. But life has given me the gift of good health and longevity so the Retired One gets to stay busy, doing with I love. That is advocating for the excellent education of Black Children and any child that is said to be too hard to teach.

Recently I have become grandmother to a wonderful, bright boy who is now 14 months and demonstrates daily a dynamic personality, and ability to learn along with a sense of humor. He will be educated well, family privilege guarantees that. So now I must work harder for children less privileged to maintain good karma for him. That is how and what I believe.

League of Education Voters  is an education focused non profit, organization in WA State. They are biggest influencers for PreK-Post 12 education policy.  In the past few years they are working more diligently at including communities of color and especially African Americans in forming their priorities. This is from as much a push from communities of colors as it from legislators who  see the importance of inclusion in the conversations and policy formation of those who have the most to benefit from new ways of providing public education to a diverse student population, in a state with a large white population.  

To have others determine what is good for any people without those people having a self determined input is not optimum.  But I believe that humans are self centered and have to be reminded to be inclusive of others. So I try to be that constant reminder and this can create the kind of tension that full inclusion where it has not been can create.

I try to stay informed through Parents for Student Success, and hold accountable those who speak for Black families, through the Black Community Impact Alliance and by the general population.  

I use this blog, email, and social media to report back across a wide spectrum of the African American population. I likewise spend time conversing with others who share our need or advocate for our right to be self determined. The thinking that created the education mess we find ourselves in in the US can not be the same thinking to solve the crisis. We need changed narratives on all fronts, not just gimmicky phrases, such as Leave No Child Behind. Well the gap grew wider and African American children are further behind in Seattle and WA state than ever before and no one lost their job.  I will speak later about what happens if African Americans in leadership positions miss the mark by minuscule dimensions.

The League of Eduction Voters  has a wealth of information important to all who care about education in the State of WA. I encourage readers to become deeply knowledgeable about how our education system can evolve to bring into being policies that bridge the gap between white privileged children at the top of public school outcomes, and African American children. Except for African American children all student groups show a rise in academic outcomes that are aligned with income. In our traditional public schools, lower income white children fare better in academics and and incidences of teacher and school disciplines than middle class Black students. This is especially so for African Americans who are descendants of former slaves. This history has followed a societal and economic determination in the US that African American students are less able and adults less capable of being equal in American society.  

This will change only with new narratives that dispel this myth, and self determined solutions on the part of those who suffer the most from race based injustices that are experienced as early as pre-K and can plague a child throughout their education which for too many children results in school drop out. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

I Took My White Female Friends With Me

In an August blog entry,  I wrote of the arrest, jailing and charges against William Wingate, a 20 year Air Force veteran and retired Seattle Metro Bus Driver. So I will not rewrite the story.

We made a significant difference for this man, by bringing into play a different strategy than is usually applied in Seattle. No demonstrations, no attorneys, no major media attention. My reason for suggesting no media, is difficult to explain in an online blog. But what I can say is that the strategy included getting white women to help me address this incident steeped in racial bias.  Because it was a white female officer creating the incident, white women needed to help correct it and they did. White women struggled to get women on the police force, and this being Seattle, the majority of women who benefitted are white. So White women need to hold their sisters accountable. Women can and must make the equality difference. It means sharing and applying their privilege to change society. Once white women decide that their children will not receive an unequal share of what America has to offer justice will appear almost instantly.

I followed my gut and knew that if just African Americans set out to have the charges against Mr. Wingate dismissed, we would not get far.  I  shared my determination with several white women. My thinking traveled to the fact that African American women "helped" white women for centuries. The issues that mount up for African American women and their families are stressful and often overwhelming. So why not ask White women to help African American women in the ways that we helped them? That means help in the ways that we say we need the help, not based on the help they think Black women need.

There are both male and female European Americans who want to help African Americans. But they do not know where and when to enter, and when they do enter, too often they lack the tolerance neede to come to a sustained positive outcome. Among the women willing to help on this and helped to strategize, we determined that two of them would accompany me to the various negotiations with:

 East Precinct meeting with Capt. Pierre Davis and Asst. Chief Nick Metz
Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell
City Attorney Pete Holmes
Chief Kathy O'Toole and Asst. Chief Carmen Best

We found that every part of the Criminal Justice System failed to be just to Mr. Wingate. Every system failed to stop this injustice.  Each woman in her own way, did something to make a difference.

Why I Think The Apology and dismissal of Charges Was a Win

The Golf Putter Returns to Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Wingate with an Apology

The Blog describing in detail my view of the  William Wingate arrest was posted in August. You can read it.  The statement that we experienced a win has been questioned by some commenting in the media reports. I will try to explain why I think we had a win.

African Americans have come to this juncture as human beings, following 400 years of slavery and race based injustice and the same number of years of resistance to this oppression. If we do not count and speak to each win no matter how minute, we would by now have perished from the millions of traumas we collective suffer each day living as Black Americans.

I do not believe we will one day have some huge ultimate win and it will be over. If that was true having Barack Obama win and re-win his Presidency, the most powerful position in the world, would have been that ultimate, it is pretty huge. No, we are traveling a path to human, civil and equal paved with small and sustaining wins. I say sustaining because though we seem to take a few steps forward in America and then some steps back. But we will never return to the ultimate horror of human bondage and slavery. Our schools are not allowed to teach the reality of slavery and the ongoing resistance movement that is the history of African Americans.  Most of this part and many parts of American History is learned in front of televisions and in movie theaters.

I am the same age as Mr. Wingate and like most African Americans and others who struggle for justice, sustain hope and yes, sanity by counting small wins as wins.  A Police Chief making an apology to a Black man, born and raised in the Jim Crow south is a win and none can take that from him or from me or the several white women and one Black man who stepped up to this challenge.

So was the apology, the dismissal of charges the ultimate win African Americans have sought in Police relations? Of course not.  However, this photo of Mr. Wingate receiving his golf putter (it was not a club) is filled with many wins, that an unseeing eye and those who do not know Mr. Wingate personally would miss.

The other man in the photo is his best friend who gave him the putter. They are both retired Metro Drivers. This friend is my neighbor and when he told me of the incident, he had a very deep concern about his friend William who I had never met. So the putter was returned to the place of origin and by a young African American woman who had traveled up the ranks to Assistant Chief. The conversation among us was a good one. The apology sincere and as much an affectionate delivery as it was an official one. Chief Carmen Best saw in Mr. Wingate her grandfather. Unlike Officer Cynthia Whitlatch she did not see an aggressive, harassing black man.  Mr. Wingate, could not believe that this young Black woman had that many stars on her uniform.   He is a military veteran and stars have a value thus her personally bringing that beloved putter to him had a value greater than the act.

Yes, this counts as a win. Again, let me re-iterate it is not the ultimate win. The additional wins that others want will come when another will stand up and give of their privilege to Mr. Wingate. That is all that it took, this Black former State Representative who has public respect, and a posse of White Women Willing to do the Work (not just being nice and trying to understand the issues associated with being Black in America.) This got to where it got to by Black and White women taking a stand and lending to Mr Wingate our privilege. He never even participated in any of the negotiations that led to the putter being returned.

There are other wins to attain for Mr. Wingate and society in all of this.  Writing the article was a win.  There are other wins to be had in this that others will stand up and assure. Those who had a chance to be a bit more courageous and not go along with Officer Whitlach's delusions of fear of this man might learn from this. If everyone watching this video knew instantly that this officer was a bully and had race bias written across her uniform, the entire precinct needs training. What kind of bully is applied in the precincts around the nation, that disallows a  person to use their own good conscious? What kind of systems are in place that disallows any to say no, I am not going along with this charade. Cynthia, you were not in harms way with this man, not me, not today. We have had enough of you. She did not begin to look through a race biased lens on that street corner on July, 9, 2014.

None will know why the Mayor had the courage to make a stand on this one I know why, because he likewise believes that African Americans in Seattle will gain equity based on several wins, some small, some huge. Mayor Murray has not made secret that he will use the privilege of his being Mayor to turn around the stagnation of economics, education and equality for African Americans. Since there are still those who did not hear him or believe him he has turned up the volume.

What constitutes a win?

We applauded every game that the Seahawks won on the way to the Super Bowl, the ultimate win. I did not hear any say, they did not win the Superbowl yet, so this one game is not a win.  We even stand and cheer each field goal and remark on it even if the game was lost.

So it is arrogant for any to say that I, as an African American can not count wins where I see them without being questioned by those who did not walk to this juncture with me or with Mr. Wingate, or the women and one man who helped?  Do I have to explain to others why I count the apology, that I have never before heard of in my experience and Mr. Wingate had never heard of in his experience coming from a Police Chief to a Black man wronged by the police? Not really, but I thought that I would. Maybe those who do not walk in the path of African Americans might learn to listen, and not always wanting to make determinations based on their experience.

Those who did not grow up Black in America and especially in the Jim Crow south, may not understand any of how I experience life.  I walked to this point with Mr. Wingate and Mr. Wingate allowed it because we believed that it would help not just him but others. And yes, it will.

So, if I say we had a win, it will have to be accepted as my truth, because there is none who lives my life, or sees through my realities. Also, only those very close to me and how we got to this point in the aftermath of the arrest, knows what we were intent on winning. Actually, it was not the apology we did not ask for that, it was freely given. There are more wins to come. Stay posted.