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. 

Lowell PTA