Save the Date! Enrollment for Fall 2020 (Online) Enrichment Classes opens 9/22 @ 7 PM

Make sure to set a reminder for Tuesday, 9/22 at 7 PM to enroll for Fall enrichment classes via Homeroom, our online enrichment portal. We’ve got a great line up of virtual enrichment activities this session, with plenty of new classes, plus old favorites that are guaranteed to delight students (and give tired parents some extra time to get work done, or practice some much needed self care)! View the Class List here.

Enrollment runs from Tuesday, September 22nd at 7 PM through Friday, September 25th at 5 PM. Course offerings (including days/times, fees and class descriptions) are currently available to view on Homeroom.

Fall enrichment classes will start on September 28th and run through December 11, 2020 (with a make-up week scheduled from December 14-18, 2020).  Classes will start at 3:30 PM (2:15 on Wednesdays) and run between 45 – 90 minutes in duration. Note: some classes may have earlier/later start dates or times, so please check the class schedule carefully. Fall enrichment classes are open to students in grades 1-5 only.  Kindergarten students are welcome to enroll starting Winter session. More details are available on the Enrichment page.

By choosing to enroll in a class through the GH Enrichment Program, you will be supporting our dedicated vendors, many of who are local, small businesses. Plus, a portion of each tuition goes to the PTA’s scholarship fund to allow for all GH students to take enrichment classes, regardless of financial ability.

Questions? Please contact the Enrichment Coordinator.

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How does the education system work here in Washington and how can families get involved with it?

 From Genesee Hill Legislative Chair, Victoria Bhegani

With this past week’s reopening of schools there has been a lot of buzz, and understandably some confusion, about just who makes up the policies and practices that shape our children’s education and who to speak to about what we want to advocate for our children. As the Legislative Chair for the GH PTA Board this school year, I am just beginning to dive into understanding how these processes work. They are complicated! So please bear with me as I give a brief overview of the what’s and who’s of this, and then wrap up with some suggestions on how to get involved and who to contact in case you do want to reach out.

In Washington State, K-12 education is shaped by a number of forces, including federal officials, the governor, city mayors, state board of education administrators, the state superintendent, state agencies, school board superintendents, school board directors, teachers’ unions and- particularly in these times of pandemic- public health officials. Some of the key players in this at the state level are the Washington State Board of Education (SBE) and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and at our regional level, the Seattle School District (SPS) and our local teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA). In a very basic nutshell, education policies are often created by the SBE and the OSPI, who work closely together. School districts then must adhere to these policies, though there might be flexibility in how they do so. Policy implementation might also be changed by union negotiations.  

For example, with instructional hours, our state requires that students be in school for a minimum of 180 days of the school year and that elementary school students fulfill at least 1,000 instructional hours. In the re-opening of schools for 2020, the SBE has not changed these required hours. However, it has given school districts flexibility in how they implement them, be it through synchronous or asynchronous learning, or potentially outdoor learning. It’s not all up to the District though. Before school opened this fall, SPS also had to negotiate how these hours would be fulfilled with SEA.

As you can see, it’s complex. There are a number of pieces trying to move together to make something work, and in these times especially, what they’re trying to make work is no small thing. Our education system is trying to keep kids and staff safe this year, provide some security for vulnerable populations, keep staff employed, and engage our children in learning new things, all in the wildly different educational landscape of remote learning.  

It also bears noting that our state education system is underfunded, as was ruled in McCleary v. Washington in 2012. In the concluding remarks on the case the judge found, “State funding [for education] is not ample, it is not stable and it is not dependable.” While in 2017 the state introduced the “McCLeary Fix” to fulfill its paramount duty to fund education, despite good intentions, the education system continues to face funding shortfalls. These shortfalls affect how our system works at every level- districts struggle to meet their budgets and areas left especially vulnerable are special education, art education, teacher compensation and staffing for positions like nurses and school counselors. 

Further, in our regional politics, school board directors are unpaid. While Seattle city councilors receive a yearly average salary of $130,000 based on their hourly rate, and have up to four assistants working for them, our school board directors receive no salaries and have no paid staff to support their work. When you consider this landscape, it is not hard to wonder why processes do not work as well as they may. 

So what can you do about this?  

Get involved with the PTA

  • Join the Genesee Hill PTA. Your membership supports not only our school PTA but our state PTA. Stronger PTAs are PTAs that can better advocate for better schools and better school systems.
  • You can also learn about broader PTA initiatives by following the Seattle Special Education PTSA and the Seattle Council PTSA.
  • Give input about what should be the WA PTAs legislative priorities for the next two years by filling out this survey.

Advocate for adequate state funding

Give feedback about school re-openings this fall 

WA State

Seattle Region 

Parents, caregivers and families have a voice in all of this. If you want to see the school district acting with more innovation around how our students learn, you need to speak up and show up. So much of this depends on the legal understanding of responsibilities to our kids. Contacting your legislators and school and city council members, while acting in partnership with your PTA, is the best way for us to advocate for our children’s education. 

While these last six months have been challenging for Genesee Hill, many of our school families have been stepping up to engage. Our PTA Board has positions filled that sat empty for years and people are talking about public education and equity in ways many have never done before. Good things can come of this- things that help both our school and our public education system. Please contact me at legislativechair@geneseehillpta.org with any comments or questions you have or join me in a letter writing campaign to our legislators later this month. I’m rooting for our school staff who are navigating so much new territory and working hard to do the best for our kids. The advocacy work we do supports them, and I hope you’ll join me with it. 

References

  1. “Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” King County Superior Court, CONCLUSION, 2010-02-04, retrieved 2020-09-12
  2. McCleary v. Washington84362-7 (majority)(Washington Supreme Court 2012-01-05)
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Supply Drive and Swag!

Even though we had to postpone our Ice Cream Anti-Social until Sept. 16, we still launched the Supply Drive today!

As part of the PTA’s mission to support all the students at GHES, the PTA has provided the funding necessary for the teachers and staff of the school to purchase all the supplies a student might need throughout the school year in bulk. The PTA does this to help ensure that the teachers have the exact supplies they need, and each student has school supplies, no matter his or her circumstances. In addition, it should make the start of school a little bit easier on parents & guardians, since you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding just the right number 2 pencil or red marker. The cost of supplies works out to be about $20 per student.

In order to offset the expense, please consider making a tax-deductible donation for the cost of student supplies, so that the PTA can continue to purchase supplies in the years to come. If you can give a little extra, that would be most appreciated! Please donate here.

Also, the Genesee Hill online swag store is now open! Just in time for the new school year.  Shop for your new gear and show your Genesee Hill Elementary school spirit!

There will be samples of the latest GHE fashions at the PTA ice cream for supply drive on Sept. 16, 3-6, at Dakota Homestead!  Be sure to check it out!

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September GHE PTA Newsletter

Hello Genesee Hill Community Members!
We’re proud to share our September PTA Newsletter. This is the first edition of a newsletter that will be sent out the first Tuesday of every month going forward. We hope that this new communication channel will serve to build community, keep community members informed of updates and initiatives, and highlight opportunities to get involved. If you have a topic that you would like to see spotlighted in an upcoming newsletter, or have a question you’d like to have addressed, please reach out to communications@geneseehillpta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

Take care, 

Amy and Leigh Ann, Communications Chairs

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Material Packet Pick-Ups

Material Packet Pick-up Schedule – Our teachers have put together Learning Packets for all students. It is our hope that the District provided technology devices (iPads for K-2 and Laptops for 3-5) will be ready for you at this time as well. The following is the schedule (going by first letter of your student’s last name) for these packets to be distributed.

As much as we would love to see the students, we are asking that one adult from each household come to the gym, via the back door, to pick up their students’ packet. We appreciate your effort to make these options work. If you need another arrangement, please let Principal Kischner know.

Wednesday 9/9

9:00-11:00 – Last names beginning with letters A-B
11:00-1:00 – Last Names beginning with letters C-E
1:00-3:00 – Last Names beginning with letters F-H

Thursday 9/10

9:00-11:00 – Last names beginning with letters I-K
11:00-1:00 – Last Names beginning with letters L-M
1:00-3:00 – Last Names beginning with letters N-P

Friday 9/11

9:00-11:00 – Last names beginning with letters Q-Si
11:00-1:00 – Last Names beginning with letters Sk-T
1:00-3:00 – Last Names beginning with letters U-Z

Learning Packets will include the following:

  • Device: Laptop (3-5) or iPad (K-2)
  • Privacy shield
  • Drop-off Portfolio
  • Composition book
  • Writing tools

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Letter Regarding Academic Pods

from Genesee Hill Equity Chair, Kristen Corning Bedford

What are our kids going to learn this year? From one parent I hear this question with an exasperated tone, frustrated and stressed. And from another I hear the same question, no less stressed and frustrated, but with an added tinge of hope and possibility. What could our children learn this year?

The stress of what parents are managing as we approach the Fall cannot be overstated. A friend of mine, who is a therapist, recently told me that out of all her patients, parents are doing the worst. It’s a lot. And within the stress and strain there are multitudes: some parents are losing jobs, others are working overtime. Regardless of the situation, no one is able to provide their children with what they receive at school. And some children are further from educational justice, lacking also the safety and nutrition that school may provide.

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of just calling it this year – suggesting that perhaps we could just give everyone across the nation a pass, all work together on a common project and regroup at the start of school 2021. The children would be ok educationally, because we’d all be taking this skip year together. But this doesn’t solve the very real crisis of childcare, which is where our systems are really breaking down and where we’re seeing the fault lines of a society that does not value Black, Brown and Indigenous lives, and severely undervalues female labor and caretaking.

Here’s what I can say with certainty, after six years as a parent at Genesee Hill, serving as both the parent representative on the Building Leadership Team and co-chairing the Family Committee for Equity and Inclusion for the last two: this is a staff that is doing incredible work, both in community building and in professional development, in order to support and educate our children. Not just in reading and math, but in how to be compassionate, engaged leaders with critical thinking skills.

And when we’re asking ourselves, what is my child going to learn this year, the number one thing on everyone’s mind are the formation of educational pods. Families are frantically trying to make sense of this time and figure out how to support themselves and each other when the systems are failing them. We cannot judge people for doing what they need to do to survive. But we owe it to our community to ask what’s equitable. How do we survive the coming Fall, when we’ll be expected to carry on with our jobs while also supporting our kids’ education, all while sitting together at the kitchen table? How do we focus support on the most vulnerable, not the most inconvenienced? How do we use our privilege to create change for others as well as ourselves?

If you’re mad, you should be! If you’re frustrated and scared, now is the time to channel that energy into making the system better. This must be a community effort, pushing our district and government leaders for greater clarity and innovative solutions for a new future. Here’s how you can use your voice to make a difference:

First, if you’re considering forming a pod with other families, we ask that you focus on childcare and socialization instead of curriculum. Childcare is something everyone is seeking, but providing educational advantages contributes to a widening educational gap. Ask yourself, who is getting left behind? Pandemic pods and withdrawing students from SPS highlight the growing inequities surfacing during Covid19. Because enrollment and attendance are central to determining funding for public schools, withdrawing your student further diminishes public schools’ ability to serve the most marginalized students and keep staff employed.

There is no single solution that will work for all, but we can be informed in our approach and intentional in our application. Integrated Solutions offers a great article that includes a list of questions to ask ourselves, which include the following that I’ve been focused on for my family:

  • Am I clear on what is a need and what is a desire?
  • Instead of thinking “how can I make sure my (privileged) kid doesn’t fall behind?” – can I ask myself, “how can I help to strengthen the public institutions we all depend on?”
  • Have I searched for local organizations (particularly those run by BIPOC) who are pushing for equitable approaches to these current situations and can I join with them? 

Genesee Hill also has a robust grade level cohort model that is set up to support families in connecting with and supporting each other. If you’d like to figure out ways to ensure all families at our school are getting the support they need, you can reach out to our Cohort Leader at cohorts@geneseehillpta.org.

Second, join the PTA and the Family Committee for Equity and Inclusion. We need more people showing up with diverse perspectives, to ensure we’re hearing from everyone and establishing norms not dependent on the dominant culture. How we hold meetings, choose leaders, listen and respond are all part of the evolution happening across institutions and industries. As a community of passionate parents and caregivers, we must link our individual school efforts to district wide efforts, in order to create equitable educational opportunity.

Third, contact the City Council, the School Board, and the School District. Tell them what you expect from them in supporting a more just response to the pandemic, and that there are changes you would like to see put into continued practice, like reducing testing and implementing ethnic studies. This blog post and letter, both prepared by educational researchers, outline actions to urge policymakers to take. (They come from the following document, A Guide to Equity in Pandemic Schooling by Dr. Erica Turner.) You can also learn more about how to support systemic change by reaching out to our PTA Legislative Chair, legislative@geneseehillpta.org.

What our children could learn this year is much greater than what they’d typically get in a year of gradeschool. They could learn resiliency and community. They could witness the beauty of slowing down and appreciating what they have – that what we need to learn is often much simpler and often not proven out by test scores. They could learn that they are part of a system and that they have the power to change that system. All education happens in relationship, teacher to student, parent to child, friend to friend. Perhaps our kids could learn that the adults, working together, ensured they were taken care of, while being given the opportunity to witness the possibilities that emerge from complexity and chaos.

While the above reflects my personal opinion, I’ve posted here as a representative of the Genesee Hill Family Committee for Equity and Inclusion and PTA.  Please feel free to send comments or questions to: equity@geneseehillpta.org All dialogue is welcome. 

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