Wednesday, November 14, 2007

School Choice

The Seattle School District's loss, turned to the advantage of nearby suburban children:

Seattle Public Schools rejected a deal with a local nonprofit to start a technology-based school — not once, but three times since 2005.

So the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) went elsewhere, and now the Federal Way School District is poised to sign a deal this morning for a $1 million annual donation to start a program for grades 6-12 at Totem Middle School. The agreement will almost double the per-student money for kids enrolled in the school, which is in north Kent.

...."It is going to provide our students with an exciting option," said Federal Way Superintendent Tom Murphy. "It's going to open the doors to science and engineering and math and technology for careers for a lot of kids who perhaps never thought that was an option for them."

TAF already runs some after-school and supplemental programs in Seattle. Part of its mission is to help underserved kids learn about math, science, engineering and technology. TAF intends to start five academies over the next decade around the region.

Murphy approached TAF director Trish Dziko after reading media coverage about her Seattle proposal. At the time, Dziko was embroiled in controversy with the Rainier Beach High School community, which accused the district of secretly negotiating behind their backs and said Dziko was trying to "take over" their under-enrolled South Seattle school.

Dziko, a Seattle Public Schools parent who left Microsoft in 1996 to start TAF, continued to negotiate with Seattle, proposing a technology academy at African American Academy K-8, another struggling South End school that caters mostly to African-American students. But district leaders didn't want to expand the African American Academy into a K-12 school when other South End schools were struggling to fill classrooms.

Dziko said she spoke briefly with the principal at Cleveland High School before she gave up and offered the opportunity to the Federal Way and Renton districts.

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