We are facing big staff cuts next year

We are facing the loss of many staff positions this year because of budget cuts, and strangely low projections of our student numbers next year. Lowell has crazy high student mobility (kids joining and leaving the school in the middle of the year) and we need these staff to help these kids transition in and out. This year 178 children have joined or left the community after the start of school. Kids transitioning in and out is stressful and time consuming for them, for staff, for the classroom teachers, and students. It disrupts a class to settle a new kid in, and the kids are unsettled when their friends unexpectedly dissapear. Lowell has been doing a really nice job lately (in my opinion) and does a great job helping settle these new kids, and help emotionally support those who remain. But it takes a lot of staff effort. According to our latest projections, next year we are looking to lose:

  • 0.5 FTE Assistant Principal (our current, very effective AP will not stay on at 0.5)
  • 1.0 FTE Counselor
  • 1.0 FTE Classroom Teacher
  • 0.5 FTE Family Social Worker
  • 0.7 FTE ELL teacher
  • 0.5 FTE Attendance Secretary
  • 0.3 FTE PE, Art, Music
  • unknown number of Instructional Assistants 

FTE = Full Time Equivalent

All this is based an a low projection for our student numbers next year, and doesn’t account for the fact that Mary’s Place is scheduled to return to our area mid-year next year, and we fully expect an influx of homeless students mid-year.

The PTA has written a letter (see below) to the district which explains the reasons why we need to retain the staff we have. We are asking you to write your own letters to the school board (schoolboard@seattleschools.org) and Superintendent Juneau (superintendent@seattleschools.org). Here is the letter, which you can feel free to use a template for your own letter:

Dear Superintendent Juneau,

The Lowell PTA is extremely concerned about the proposed staffing cuts to our school. Though we know you receive a lot of outraged emails about staffing cuts, Lowell is a Title I school with one of the highest populations of homeless students in the city. As of this writing, one-hundred-and-seventy-eight (178) students have come or gone from our community after the start of school. Last year our official student mobility rate was 48%, and it may be higher this year.  This is a shocking number, and deserves special attention from the district. If the Seattle Public School District is serious about equity it must reach beyond the typical staffing formulas, and respond to the unique challenges that Lowell faces.

Lowell serves a number of shelters in Seattle. Among them is Mary’s Place, which will return to downtown Seattle, and Lowell’s attendance area, in January of 2020. We expect an influx of homeless students at that time, and it is only reasonable and right to plan and staff for that eventuality.  If we do anything less than that, we will fail our students.

As a result of Mary’s Place returning to downtown Seattle in the 2019/20 school year, we know that we can expect between 30-50 additional students experiencing homelessness  to enroll mid-year. Because Mary’s place will be returning to our boundaries mid-year, these students are not reflected in our projected enrollment numbers.  Because of institutional and systemic racism, these are disproportionately students of color. These are also low income students who, it has been widely acknowledged, need additional support in order to thrive in school.

If SPS believes in doing something to move toward equity, rather than simply talking about it, SPS must fund our current staff, including:

Full time Family Social Worker
Full Time Counselor
Full Time Assistant Principal
Attendance Secretary
ELL Teacher
Instructional Assistants

These staff don’t just meet the “normal” needs of a high poverty, racially diverse school with large SPED, ELL, and homeless populations. These positions are essential to helping mitigate the challenges to students and staff of our extraordinarily high turnover rate, a mobility rate unlike any other elementary school we are aware of, except Northgate Elementary, which serves Mary’s Place North. Integrating this many new students, averaging more than one a day, into our community requires these dedicated staff. Think of the person-hours it takes to integrate a student, often with traumatic backgrounds, homelessness, and other challenges, into a school. This year, without Mary’s Place, our dedicated staff – the ones you propose to cut, have done that 178 times. We simply must have the staff to meet our responsibilities to these children.

Losing staff only exacerbates opportunity gaps and contributes to the segregation of our low income students and students of color. For years, Lowell has been in crisis, with huge staff turnover, and a parade of principals. Some Lowell students have experienced 4 different principals plus several long-term substitutes. Finally, just this year, we are finding some stability, and until the announced staffing cuts, we felt we were turning the corner. We only lost a handful of staff this summer, and Dr. Talbot, our new Principal, and Mr. Zillig, our new Assistant Principal, are proving to be effective at improving stability and creating a safe learning environment – they are making a real difference. The mood in the building is palpably better and if you visit a classroom you will find kids learning and working. It would be a disaster for this community to, once again, destroy this fragile progress and our newfound optimism. 

We know SPS is facing a budget shortfall, that you must make difficult budgeting and staffing decisions, and that many schools are facing cuts. But considering the extraordinary, and quite unique challenges our school faces, these staff must be funded. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the issue with you directly. 

Sincerely,
Lowell PTA

A Message From Principal Talbot

Hello Dragon Families,

I am so glad to have students at school! We’ve been having a great time together! I wanted to share a little bit about our school improvement plans and how they fit with our district’s strategic plan.

The Seattle Public Schools Strategic Plan asks us to improve student-focused collaboration. We know that at Lowell, we need to do great work together because none of us alone can meet the needs of all the students we serve. We are using a process called Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (or MTSS) to accomplish this goal together. MTSS is a process in which we examine every student’s progress in reading, math, and social and emotional well-being. We do this work in teams 4 times a year.

In order to know how students are doing, we have an assessment calendar that includes measures for math, reading, and SEL skills. We’ve designed a consistent agenda for MTSS processes and expectations for data collection. We have developed a model for students to receive interventions based on the information we collect, and to cycle out of interventions when they’ve grown and are successful.

We’ve also blocked 40 minutes each morning for SEL instruction for each grade level. We will ensure that every student learns emotional self-regulation and social skills in their class with their peers. When students are having reading, math, emotional or behavior problems, we will help them a little more during other times of the day. We will partner with parents to make sure we know what works best for the student and that we are working together. We might do a reading group, a small math team, a check in and check out, a scheduled break, or a social group with our counselor or a teacher. We believe that if we work systematically and collaboratively, that we can understand the story, strength, and need of every student and meet the needs of every student at Lowell!

Dragon Tales: PTA General Meeting, Tuesday 6/12

[This post is a copy of the Dragon Tales newsletter sent 6/5. Sign up on this page to receive Dragon Tales in email.]

Almost there…

It’s hard to believe school is almost over! There’s still a lot happening, though, before the last day of school on June 22. Read on for the latest….

As always, for more updates follow the PTA on Facebook and at www.lowellelementary.org. If you ever have school-related news or events to share, email lowellparents@gmail.com.

Get moving for Move-a-thon, this Friday, June 8

Move-a-thon is this Friday, June 8! Hopefully you already got the information and pledge sheets, but if not stop by the office. This is our one fundraising event of the year that gives our kids a chance to pitch in and help Lowell.

If you want to volunteer to help, it’s not too late! Just email our valiant Move-a-thon coordinator (and longtime Lowell teacher) Kelly Lusnia, kmlusnia@seattleschools.org.

Probably pretty excellent PTA General Meeting, June 12

Come to our last general PTA meeting for 2017–18, on Tuesday, June 12, 6:30–8:00 pm! Dinner is served at 6pm, and childcare is covered. It’s been a busy year (right? SRSLY!), and we should all celebrate.

If you want to be involved with Lowell next year, this is your chance to find out how you can help. There are many ways to pitch in, big and small. Our new principal, Dr. Sarah Talbot, will be there—so if you haven’t gotten to meet her, here’s your chance.

Continue reading “Dragon Tales: PTA General Meeting, Tuesday 6/12”

Hello from our new principal

In case you missed it, here’s the hello email sent by Dr. Sarah Talbot, our new principal starting next year. We’re excited to welcome her to Lowell! If you have questions and missed today’s “meet and greet” in the library, feel free to find Nick or Maria, who interviewed Sarah as parent respresentatives on the hiring committee.

Dear Lowell Community,

I am thrilled to introduce myself as the newest member of the Lowell Community. I applied to Lowell because it is a unique and special place, and I am really excited to have the privilege of being chosen to lead here.

I bring with me 22 years of experience as an educator, and a broad experience across a variety of levels and kinds of schools. I have a doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University. I’ve worked with students from pre-k to graduate level and have led in all levels of public schooling. This broad experience gives me an understanding of where elementary school is situated in the work of helping children gain the skills and knowledge they need to have the successful adulthoods they deserve.

Lowell is the perfect place for students to learn to lead in ways that are good for them and good for the people around them. Our schools are funded by our taxes so that our democracy can have a productive, educated electorate who lead our community and our nation. With a mix of families that is close to representing our nation as a whole, students at Lowell get a perfect chance to practice communicating across cultures and different life experiences. They have the opportunity to learn to build thriving relationships with the people in their community. This is a special place for students and the adults lucky enough to work with them; I can’t wait to get started.

I am finishing up the school year before I officially start at Lowell, but I will be announcing a few events for families and staff to get to know me and for me to get to know you. I want to have a deep knowledge of what our strengths are as a community and what our next steps might be. One of my goals will be to revisit our mission and vision; I want to include those qualities we truly want our students to leave our school with – I know I want them to have a sense of wonder, a joy for learning, strong relationships, and the academic skills to put those to good use. I can’t wait to hear what you and they want for their futures and to begin the joyous work of getting there.

Gratefully,

Sarah Talbot

 

THANK YOU, Montlake PTA!

We want to give huge thanks to the Montlake PTA, whose membership recently voted to donate 5% of their projected revenue in 2018–19 ($10,300!) to Lowell Elementary.

Montlake is just over the hill from Lowell, and the Montlake PTA wanted to help Lowell as a Title I (high poverty) school within the same Meany Middle School cluster—i.e., many of our kids are and will be classmates together at Meany.

With our many challenges and high turnover rate (in addition to 65% of Lowell students qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch, upwards of 30% are homeless and 40% leave within the school year), Lowell doesn’t have the ability to fund-raise within our school community at the level of Montlake and other schools, so this gift really makes a big difference.

Let’s all keep working towards the day that all of our schools are funded adequately—but in the meantime, thank you to the Montlake PTA for showing solidarity and helping us work toward equitable funding!

 

Dragon Tales: Dine Out (TOMORROW!) at Southpaw, 5/3

[This post is a copy of the Dragon Tales newsletter sent 5/2. Sign up on this page to receive Dragon Tales in email.]

Hello, sunshine!

It’s hard to believe there are less than eight weeks left of school! But we’ve still got a lot of stuff coming up.

As always, for the latest updates, follow us on Facebook and at www.lowellelementary.org. If you ever have school-related news or events to share, email lowellparents@gmail.com.

This Thursday (TOMORROW!): Dine Out at Southpaw for Lowell

We’re very excited to get Lowell love this Thursday from Southpaw, the cozy pizza place near Seattle U created by chef (and James Beard award winner!) John Sundstrom.

Enjoy some delicious wood-fired pizza and soft-serve ice cream on Thursday, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Lowell! Southpaw is right on 12th Avenue, between Spring and Marion (926 12th Ave).

As one reviewer says: “It’s the very first pizza I’ve had in Seattle that comes even close to the pizza I grew up with in NJ.  Wow!  I’m blown away.”

Appreciate your teachers (always, but especially) next week!

Our teachers are the heroes of our school. They give so much, all the time, to make sure that our kids have what they need. So we want to thank them!

If you’re looking for ideas, here are some traditional ones and some not-so-traditional ones. (A nice note from your kiddo, or you, is always great.)

Continue reading “Dragon Tales: Dine Out (TOMORROW!) at Southpaw, 5/3”

Monday Night Square Dance, 4/23: A benefit for our music program!

Thanks to Ms. Shelby working together with the music teacher at Stevens, the Tractor Tavern will be hosting a Monday Night Square Dance fund-raiser for the Lowell music program!

It’s a Traditional Square Dance and Two Stepping night with an instructor who teaches you how to swing your partner to and fro.  All skill levels welcome!

Here are the details:

Mon Apr 23 2018, 8:00 PM (Doors 7:30 PM)

Tractor, 5213 Ballard Avenue NW Seattle, WA 98107

$7.00, Ages 21+

Heritage Night tonight, 5–7pm!

The cafeteria is newly festooned with flags, and teachers and students have put a lot of work into tonight’s cultural celebration.

Everyone is welcome, hope to see you there! Tours start at 5pm, potluck dinner and pizza 5:30 to 6:30, performances at 6:30pm.