Dragon Tales: New Board and More

Note: We are going to try to engage our members with more frequent, more casual communications so that everyone knows what the PTA is up to. In the past we’ve gotten bogged down by feeling our communications had to be overly polished and detailed, then never getting around to it. 

Here is what your PTA has been up to lately:

At the general meeting, we elected next year’s board and officers.
President: Sara Ross-Viles
Vice-President: Jen Anderson
Treasurer: Ali McKay
Secretary: Kate Alesandrini
Events Chair: Lacie Charles
Volunteer coordinator: Charlie Ellis
Communications Chair: Cedar McKay
Communications/Events: Courtney Zier

Ali McKay served on the selection committee to bring Boys and Girls club to Lowell to provide childcare starting next year! Yay!

Ali McKay is collecting last minute Mov-a-thon donations. Last day to be counted is tomorrow, so get them in!

The board has been advocating with the district to take into account the return of Mary’s Place to our school next year. This would have a big impact on the number of teachers and staff Lowell gets. 

Lacie Charles is busy organizing the Luau dance this Saturday.

The board approved two $395 opportunity grants for Special Education teacher Karen Giroux and speech-language pathologist Eileen Donahue to go to Washington State School for the Blind for Professional Development this summer.

As usual, on Friday Jen Anderson led a group of Lowell Food Pantry volunteers who sent home 125 bags of food with children experiencing food insecurity. 

At the general meeting we voted to fund $2000 for Writers in the Schools (WITS) next year.

The board approved a $1,175 opportunity grant to fund the Lowell Girl’s Running Club.

As always, we welcome the involvement and input of all families, regardless of race, sexual orientation, housing status, language, or religion.

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

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!

Help get ready for the year!

Hello Lowell community! We are seeking volunteers for three events before school even starts!

On Sunday the 20th there is a work party to clean up the playground and field.

On Wednesday the 30th earlier in the day there is a work party to clean the area rugs that are in many classrooms.

On Wednesday the 30th later in the day there is the Back to School Picnic, and we need volunteers to help setup, cleanup, and if you are able, contribute food and drinks. If you might be able to organize this event, we are particularly eager to hear from you.

Continue reading “Help get ready for the year!”

School Supply Drive

Lowell Elementary serves a student population that is 30% homeless, and more than 60% of students are low income. They could really use your help.

Stacey Krynsky and the folks at the Capitol Hill location of 1st Security Bank have been great friends to Lowell Elementary. They are at it again, helping with a School Supplies Drive called Stuff the Bus. They have already sweetened the pot with  a $100 donation, and will match cash donations up to $500. Let’s take advantage of their generosity!

Drop off donations of cash, backpacks, notebooks, art supplies, etc, at their Capitol Hill location:

614 Broadway East
Seattle, WA 98102

Continue reading “School Supply Drive”

Kindergarten Jump Start (free!)

Jump Start is a FREE week-long experience Aug 21-25 for Kindergartners to learn about school. Children will become familiar with their new school building, staff, typical school day activities and practices. Their parents/guardians will be able to meet with the school principal and ask questions about school. Teachers start to build relationships with students and observe their skills and strengths.

Find out more, and how to enroll on the District Jump Start Info Page