Petition update

School Board Unanimously Supports EEU Kindergarten

Fanny Yang
Seattle, WA, United States

Jan 7, 2016 — A big thank you to all who attended tonight’s school board meeting to show support for EEU kindergarten and inclusion! We had an incredible turnout that exemplified the essence of inclusion – a community of diverse individuals standing in solidarity, declaring that the only acceptable world is one in which everyone is embraced.

A special shout-out goes to everyone who testified to the power of inclusion. Several school board members were moved to tears by the heartbreaking struggles of kids isolated, neglected, segregated in schools that are supposed to serve them, as well as the incredible stories of lives transformed by the EEU.

We would also like to thank the school board for their unanimous support for EEU kindergarten, and their public commitment to high quality inclusive education in Seattle. We will work in concert with the school board to insist that SPS reinstate the funding for the EEU kindergarten program as a first step toward an educational system that truly serves the needs of all children.

For the first time since the issue arose in early December, SPS Special Education Executive Director Wyeth Jessee officially presented to the school board the supposed rationale behind defunding EEU kindergarten. The claim was that because EEU receives only special education funding from SPS, those funds are being used to provide both special education and general education, representing a misappropriation of funds and a potential compliance concern. This is a glaringly faulty argument. SPS’s contract with the EEU is significantly below the amount it would cost SPS to provide special education services to those same students in their public schools. The EEU actually supplies all of the necessary funds for general education, for both students with and without special needs, AND supplements the funding shortfall for special education services.

Director Jill Geary asked Mr. Jessee whether SPS has requested more time from would-be compliance enforcers to figure out a more finessed solution that does not devastate children and families and undermine our community; Mr. Jessee admitted that they had not. Director Sue Peters asked explicitly whether OSPI has specifically identified the EEU as a compliance concern; Mr. Jessee paused and was unable to come up with any answers other than a simple “No”. So, SPS administrators are defunding an exemplary program in an attempt to preempt a HYPOTHETICAL compliance issue, and they’ve chosen to do it impetuously and unilaterally. Just what is the intent here? Is SPS so fearful of regulatory oversight that it’s willing to sacrifice the well-being of its students its own long-term success? Does SPS have so little respect for the community that it believes we will acquiesce to being robbed of our voice?

We demand that SPS administrators listen to the families, the community, and their own board of directors. We call for SPS to come to the table with candor and genuine effort toward a thoughtful solution. We’ve heard SPS say “partnership” and “collaboration” – we now need actions to substantiate those words.

A recording of the school board meeting is available here:

Wyeth Jessee attempts to explain the decision to defund EEU Kindergarten – 21:20-28:34

Public testimonies by:
Theo Pauline Nestor – 1:20:43-1:23:02
Anna Fragomeni – 1:23:19-1:25:29
Ganame Halake – 1:28:06-1:29:20
Cinthia Portugal – 1:29:35-1:32:15
Eliza Rankin – 1:37:24-1:40:30
Lynn Dixon – 1:40:37-1:43:24
Dwight Rowley – 1:46:47-1:49:15
Stephany Primativo – 1:51:45-1:53:48
Laura Wood – 1:56:19-1:58:06

Board member responses regarding EEU Kindergarten:
Jill Geary – 2:04:56-2:05:50
Sue Peters – 2:11:40-2:12:27
Rick Burke – 2:19:01-2:19:51
Stephan Blanford – 2:22:32-2:23:17
Scott Pinkham – 2:25:16-2:25:56
Betty Patu – 2:28:36-2:29:22

An open letter has been sent to the school board and the community in response to last night’s meeting:

To the School Board Members,

I’m writing to thank you for your powerful support of the EEU kindergarten tonight. The previous lack of response and accountability from the administration has been disheartening. Tonight, I feel galvanized by the conversations, public testimony, and board members comments.

As one of the head teachers in the kindergarten program at the EEU, I’ve had many sleepless nights over our defunding. I always feel blessed to work with my students and team but my daily work took on a new significance. Watching the friendships in our classroom was even more powerful. Conversations with families have had different pain and urgency. We’ve been putting one foot in front of the other for weeks and wondering where we’re going.

The board meeting tonight was a reminder of why this difficult work is worth it. I am incredibly proud of all the groups supporting their communities. The representatives from EEU, Middle College, Rainier Beach, and the students- were inspiring. How lucky we are to see advocacy in action. I’m grateful to everyone who shared.

It is a concerning fact that the people who shared were there to speak for Seattle’s most marginalized populations. It was a clear theme in the public testimony. They spoke for individuals denied voices in the process. There were representatives for special education students and families, people of color, families living in poverty, and the youth served by the district. Seattle Public Schools has responsibilities toward these communities that clearly have not been met.

It seems Seattle Public Schools administration has consistently denied stakeholders the opportunity to be involved in decisions which directly impact them. It is painful that the very people who have difficulty finding a place at the table are the ones forced to defend their views and programs. How wrong it is that funding and administrative decisions were consistently the reason for denial of innovative services.

I am concerned about the administration but I believe in this school board. I am proud of Seattle for voting for this board I thank you for affirming the need for transparency. It is so valuable and important that the interests of people who are underrepresented are shared by this board. Your board reflects the diversity of the Seattle community. I am encouraged that with your perspectives and advocacy, Seattle Public Schools will be held accountable to their students and families.

Equity, access, and inclusion are not only laudable philosophies- they are tangible realities. The groups representedtonight continue to create those realities. With your support we will make actions follow values. Thank you for all for being a part of this incredibly meaningful work. It is clear you feel weight of your responsibility.


Jordan Taitingfong
Kindergarten Teacher, EEU

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