There’s plenty of outrage about the way the Seattle School District has handled dropping the lease for a school for special needs kids, but KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw says no one should be surprised by the way things have gone down.
KIRO Radio’s Colleen O’Brien has been following the story of Queen Anne’s Northwest Center school for several weeks.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced that it would not renew the lease it has held with the non-profit school for disabled children for 28 years. The district only gave them six months to find and retrofit a new building to meet their needs.
SPS said it made the decision to drop the lease in order to use the North Queen Anne building for its own, growing student population. But Colleen has now learned the district-run program Cascade Parent Partnership, which also serves special-needs youth, was supposed to move into the building. And a trail of email evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows SPS officials were dishonest with Northwest Center and in public statements, and told a district employee not to disclose the truth.
“I guess I believe when interacting with someone like a school board or someone like a county government that they do not have your best interest at heart,” says Ron. “They don’t have any vested interest in doing the right thing.”
When Colleen’s first story aired, Ron was sympathetic towards the school district and its stated challenge of accommodating as many kids as possible. But after hearing what really went down, he’s done an about-face.
“Clearly everyone is on the right side of the argument,” Ron says. And he hopes the Northwest Center sues, if that’s what it takes to buy them more time. But he says he’s still not surprised the district acted so poorly towards the school and the families it serves.
“In a perfect world people in these government offices would care and they just don’t. And I’m sure I’m going to get emails about this,” Ron says. “I think that given the opportunity to be self serving, given the opportunity to not care about people, that’s what bureaucracies are good it.”
Ron acknowledges he’s painting with a pretty broad brush, and there are plenty of good people working in government and other institutions. But his experiences with everyone from school boards to the IRS have left a pretty sour taste in his mouth.
“I never have an expectation that when given the chance to do the right thing, they will,” Ron says. “Whenever there’s a clear cut error in their logic, I expect them to give a rat’s ass.”