After an outcry from parents, Seattle Public Schools administrators delayed Wednesday's school board vote on proposed changes to the policy that broadly explains how students are assigned to the district's 97 schools.
District officials had insisted the changes were meant to streamline the Student Assignment Plan, a fundamental document they said had become unwieldy and self-contradictory.
Parents questioned that explanation, saying the changes would shift control over too much important substance out of the school board's direct oversight.
"Why is so much information being removed from this proposed Student Assignment Plan, which the board has to approve?" asked Eden Mack, legislative chair for the Seattle Council PTSA, during the board's public comment period.
But board member Sharon Peaslee — whose probing questions at the board's Oct. 21 meeting eventually unearthed the answers that heightened some parents' fears — urged district watchdogs to ease off. She said board members had concerns, too, and superintendent Larry Nyland's request to table the changes was evidence "the system is working."
"I was concerned at the campaign of emails which seemed to suggest that, once again [board members] are incompetent and don’t know what we’re doing, and how dare we let staff usurp our authority. That’s not what was going on — and the board was trying to resolve it," Peaslee said.
Among parents' chief concerns: the new proposed language does not spell out the paths students in the district's gifted tracks or language immersion programs follow as they get older and move from elementary to middle to high school.
District officials said the proposal doesn't change or eliminate those pathways; that those pathways are simply enshrined in another document. Several parents pointed out that document — the Superintendent's Procedures for Student Assignment — is not subject to board approval.
"It is not right to mislead parents and call these revisions minor," public commenter Summer Stinson said at Wednesday night's meeting.
In substance, Seattle Public Schools director of enrollment planning Ashley Davies said district staff were only proposing two changes: dissolving school choice waitlists earlier — in May instead of September — and eliminating one of the tiebreakers used to determine which students get preference on the waitlist.
On Wednesday night, board members also delayed a vote on a proposal to change Seattle Public Schools' bell schedule. District staff said they had not released an environmental impact statement on the changes a full seven days prior to the vote, as state law requires.