Seattle school parents outraged by city pulling grant funding over principal’s departure

May 27, 2015, 6:04 PM | Updated: May 29, 2015, 1:41 pm
Seattle’s Sand Point Elementary School has grown from 75 students to 293 since re-opening fiv...
Seattle's Sand Point Elementary School has grown from 75 students to 293 since re-opening five years ago, and is expected to swell by upwards of 100 more students within the next two years. (Photo courtesy Chandra Hampson)
(Photo courtesy Chandra Hampson)

If you listen close enough on the playground at Sand Point Elementary in northeast Seattle, you never know what language you might hear.

We are an immensely diverse school,” said Dan Warren, Sand Point principal. “Forty-two percent ELL (English Language Learner), over 21 different languages that are spoken at Sand Point.”

That’s just one of the things that makes the school special; the student body includes kids from all walks of life &#8212 from the nearby public housing complexes in neighboring Magnuson Park to Laurelhurst.

But like many Seattle schools, it’s bursting at the seams and doesn’t have enough staff to service all the diverse needs.

PTA President Chandra Hampson said that’s why the school applied for a grant funded by the city’s Families and Education Levy. In February, the Department of Education and Early Learning awarded the school $318,000.

“It allows us to use those funds for our basic education needs and then frees up money out of our baseline budget so that we can do something really novel, which is to hire a school counselor, which we’ve never had and desperately need,” Hampson said.

The levy was approved in 2011 to help close the achievement gap, especially for low-income, students of color, and English Language Learners.

Awards come with a number of conditions. Among them, that the principal who requested the grant remain at the school.

When the city learned last month that Warren had decided to leave after this school year, it first notified the school it was revoking the award, then decided to sharply cut it from $318,000 to $96,000.

The notice came after the school had worked out its budget and hiring for next year based on the grant. And Hampson said the school community had no idea of the requirement when they first applied two years ago. While it was a condition for the 2015-16 school year, the school originally applied for the 2014-15 school year, which did not have that condition for awards.

“It takes us at a point where we’re trying to plan for our kid’s future in the fall, at a place where we are going to have to turn everything upside down and start from scratch,” Hampson said.

But the condition was made clear in a letter to the principal when the grant was awarded, and in a follow-up phone call, said Isabel Munoz-Colon with the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning.

A copy of the letter confirms that.

Munoz-Colon said it’s an important requirement, learned after problems cropped up at other schools after principals left.

“Different principals come in with different skill sets and different visions about the best way to support both students and the families in that community,” Munoz-Colon said. “And so we want to be able to create an environment where that principal can own that plan.”

Principal Warren disagrees, arguing the plan was agreed to by the entire community and the incoming principal is on board with it.

“The only difference is the fact that I decided to move,” Warren said. “The need of our students has not changed, everything is the same. Our staff is ready to go and I would just hope the city would look at that and give us the opportunity to be able to demonstrate that.”

Hampson and other parents are understandably angry. They accuse the city of making an arbitrary decision with no regard for the kids or community.

But Munoz-Colon said that’s far from the case.

“We really tried to be as transparent as we could from the very beginning because we had this concern about managing city investments or public dollars well, at the same time supporting the schools that really need it,” Munoz-Colon said.

That’s why they decided rather than revoke the entire grant, they would partially fund it, and then work with the new principal to do what’s necessary to qualify for full funding the following school year, she said.

But Hampson argues it’s just 30 percent of the original $318,000 &#8212 hardly enough to accomplish what they need. And she’s furious the decision was made without speaking to anyone at the school.

“Nobody has walked down to this school or driven down to this school or done anything to come see why it matters,” Hampson said.

Munoz-Colon insisted she and other city leaders do care, and will be sending a letter to Hampson soon offering to meet and work with the school.

Still, Hampson and Warren said that’s little comfort for all those kids on the playground that need support now.

Local News

KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Pedestrian hit by train in Belltown, police investigate

Seattle Police are investigating after a man was hit by a train near Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood Thursday night.
15 hours ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Lovable radio host Frasier returns, but not to Seattle

Frasier, the lovable but loveless radio host who put Seattle on the map will not be returning to the Emerald City.
15 hours ago
snohomish bus...
Bill Kaczaraba

Snohomish Community Transit proposes new connections to light rail, more frequent bus service

Community Transit is proposing changes for 2024 and beyond that would increase local bus service and include connections to light rail in Snohomish County.
15 hours ago
L.B. Gilbert

New tax bill proposed on high potency cannabis products

New legislation out of Olympia is looking to place a higher tax on cannabis products in Washington state based on how much THC is in them.
15 hours ago
Lake Stevens...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Family found to be dealing drugs from Lake Stevens restaurant

A woman found guilty of dealing drugs from her Lake Stevens restaurant, will now spend 10 years in prison.
15 hours ago
Frank Sumrall

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz optimistic about drop in violent crime

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz believes his jurisdiction — the 142 square miles that incorporate the metropolis — is becoming a safer place.
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Seattle school parents outraged by city pulling grant funding over principal’s departure