KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Angela Poe Russell: Some free answers for Seattle Schools’ $100,000 question

Apr 24, 2024, 8:24 AM | Updated: May 13, 2024, 11:31 am

seattle schools...

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Why is enrollment declining at Seattle Public Schools (SPS)? It’s the $100,000 question after receiving a grant of that exact amount to investigate the matter.

I’ll never forget the moment I was done with public school.

My fifth-grade daughter explained she’d been finishing classwork early and getting bored. I asked the teacher if she could keep worksheets on hand, never imagining the answer would be anything other than absolutely, but the response was indeed no. I can’t say I even got an explanation.

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We were fortunate to be able to do a private middle school where, coincidentally, the teacher kept challenge worksheets in a folder for any student who wanted the extra push.

The bottom line is that people want to work with organizations and businesses that go the extra mile. No doubt there are many SPS teachers who do, but something is clearly off.

The district has lost 4,000 students in the last five years. And there are some things Seattle Schools can’t control — like the fact that the city has more dogs than children. In King County, the number of people under the age of 18 dropped for the first time in 40 years!

During the pandemic, kids poured into private schools frustrated with continued delays to in-person learning. Also, a number of families left the city over public safety concerns.

More on the Seattle exodus: What Seattle police officers are saying during exit interviews

But with any problem, there’s always a role we play in it and Seattle needs to own its part. So I’ll channel Dua Lipa here and offer some “new rules.”

1. The plan you had to eliminate Seattle Public Schools’ advanced learning program, scrap it

I agree that the advanced learning program has problems, but the solution is to fix what’s broken, not shut it down. And by the way, telling people that the new neighborhood model is going to be better because it’s “equitable, inclusive and culturally sensitive” is not the best marketing.

Plans call for the advanced learning program to be gone by the 2027-28 school year, with the new model available in every school by the 2024-25 school year.

2. When people offer you help, consider taking it

It’s been reported on a few occasions that nonprofits offering to support Seattle schools are facing so many barriers they give up and go to other districts. We need partnerships.

3. Brush up on your customer service

While I get that you can’t treat schools like a business, you most certainly can embrace the principle of offering products people want. Programming, opportunities. If you make it attractive, people will come.

I realize declining public school enrollment is a national trend but Seattle seems to be expediting this by stripping away what makes it appealing to those with more choices.

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I hate to make education a numbers game, but at the end of the day, fewer students mean less money and cuts to programs. And while that may be a hard pill to swallow, better to take their medicine now before it gets worse.

Angela Poe Russell is a longtime Seattle media personality and a fill-in host for KIRO Newsradio.

KIRO Newsradio Opinion

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Angela Poe Russell: Some free answers for Seattle Schools’ $100,000 question