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    Site Council 9/10/19 Minutes

    Ricardo Lagos, Amy Moses-Lagos, Amelia McGee, Tim Fonken, Sarah McVay, Kristen Eason, Caitlin Marinos, Melissa Sire, Alys Wylen, Michael Alexander, Kristy Copeland, Linda Smith, Anna Farr, Erica Seddig, Jenny Pinto, Chelsea Lin, Kathleen Elsenboss, Nikol Stein, Rachel Gunderson, Stephanie Barnes, Joyce Macek, Paul Fitzpatrick, Jessica Wasse, Ruth Martin, Jen Scalfani, Melissa Knox, Rachel Brooks, Gregory Lorenz, Elizabeth Duffell, Molly Countryman, Kiran Chitluri, Anna Marshall, Erin Shade, Anna Peterson, Leimomi Barer, Liz Robinson, Tiffany Kuhn, Stacey Seifert, Keri Kochvar, Katie Zisserman, Maria Callahan, Jacob Clark Blickenstaff, Beckie Kenter, Christina Pizana, Eliz McCormack, Cindy Deshler, Gina Massoni, Robin Belz, Nicole Bowers, Margaret Butler, Satcha Dearborn Graham, Gene Martin, Jenny Sanders, Chris Ledford, Whitney Gregory, Erin Gomez, Beck Weinhold, Jon Ladd, Leslie Yen, Chris Barnes, Debbie Kosman, Susan Callari, Tristan Osborn, Jon and Anna Peterson, Leila Moro, Leslie Cary, Anne Arnett, Jeanette Fiess, Shawn LeValley, Tina Watkinson, Bridget Osborn, Natalie Smith, Jenny Cugier, Kaori Tanaka, Jessica Williams-Nguyen
    Chair opens with an acknowledgement of the Coast Salish people and Duwamish tribe, original inhabitants and stewards of the land on which our school was built.

    Welcome to our first Site Council meeting, welcome to returning families, new families, new and returning staff. Please refer to the one-page green handout “What is Site Council?”--
     to help understand the Thornton Creek Parent Group and Site Council. Please know that you can contact me ( to discuss anything school related. The Board of Site Council consists of chairs of various committees, all of which are described in this handout. Representatives from the Board as well as Staff have voting privileges when decisions need to be made regarding the school.

    Site Council has a history dating back to the early 1990s as a way of discussing and collaborating on school matters. We hold monthly meetings to discuss school related matters and decisions, and everyone is welcome to attend. To put something on the agenda for the meeting, anyone can contact Jessica or Kaori ahead of time. Also, if you are uncomfortable speaking in public, please know that you can ask one of us or another person to present your question or topic for discussion for you.  

    Tristan Osborn (parent) reports that the school district has a problem with the sand pit related to facilities—dirty floors, clogged sinks, etc. His understanding is that the district feels designated digging areas must be covered when not in use to keep them clean. SPS gave him dates next week, as early as Monday 9/16, to come out to TC and look at the sand area to assess. Anyone who wants to be involved can contact Tristan (

    Doug says as he understands it the district concerns are related to student safety—sand can’t be changed out (i.e. dog waste, festering water content), student hygiene. District wants to see if sand can be cleaned somehow. He has asked the district not to make any decisions without first letting the community discuss options. He is also looking into the possibility of a self-help grant, and the possibility of using this as an expedition opportunity (having kids design and implement a new digging area, etc.).

    Debbie Kosman reports on why the sand area is so important from a teacher’s perspective. There is a long history of digging at TC, in the old school it was part of the playground. When we were in the process of building this new building, the digging area was a huge priority for TC and SPS agreed to include it in the design of the play area. The digging area is a place for kids to practice all the things they are learning in school, such as Responsive Classroom, social skills, learning how to join into a group, problem solve, collaborate, develop friendships, learn to make a plan and work together to carry out that plan, communicating, advocacy, dealing with disappointment.  A lot of the kids who gravitate toward it are the kids who are not otherwise socially savvy and (as a parent pointed out) it gives kids who are not into team sports a chance to do something else). Digging provides sensory experiences for everyone, promotes executive function, and provides kids with an alternative. For some kids it’s the only thing they want to do on the playground, and if taken away those kids will end up in the field. It’s important as a staff to keep it. Shawn LeValley also notes that for kids who have gross motor challenges this is a huge place of learning and growth.

    Lisa Calvert asks how this compares to city/public park sand areas. Doug believes there are different regulations for school than for public parks (i.e Cedar Park used public playground). Tristan asks if there are any schools that have successfully implemented any of these things?    To be continued.
    Jessica Williams-Nguyen read the following statement aloud:
    Before I move to the next item on the agenda, I’d like to take a moment to address a few things that I feel are important. And I thank members of the community for encouraging me to address them publicly. If you are new to the community, some of what comes next may seem vague, confusing, and even alarming and for that I’m sorry. I ask that you bear with us, and I assure you this is a good place that seeks to be an even better one. For those who have been in the community you know that the last couple years in the adult world at Thornton Creek have been difficult ones for many. These years have been harmful for different people in different ways. Some families and, in particular, some families of color have felt excluded, marginalized and disrespected. This fact alone, that families who are or have been part of this community have felt this way, is something that I know matters to all of us. Some community members have felt attacked, silenced and deliberately shamed. Many of us have felt unable to fully engage in a place that should be like a second home to us all.

    Today, this year, I firmly believe that we are poised to move to a healthy and even a joyful place as a community. You may not feel it yet. Rome was not built in a day, and we have only begun to rebuild some lines of trust that have been frayed or broken. The most profound breaks may take the longest to repair. But I have seen some of that work beginning. Over the last month, I have worked closely with Doug, our new principal. Since before his first official day at our school, I have seen him proactively reach out to listen and to share his thoughts and perspective. He has shown deep care and respect for this program and all of its students, educators and families. He has shown collaborative leadership on many issues, some large, some small. And I have seen that his approach to working toward equity is a deliberate and a careful one because I believe he knows, as a friend once put it to me, that we move at the speed of trust. I feel confident that his leadership will support an environment of trust where real progress can happen. I tell you all this so you know why I feel that we are on solid ground to move forward. Actively and systematically promoting equity is not a mundane task in any organization. Reestablishing mutual respect in an environment that has been fraught with conflict for too long will not be easy. These things will take care, passion and perseverance. And time. Our path will have bumps, and the work may be hard. But I tell you honestly that I believe that we have turned the corner.

    As I have said in the past, I don’t expect you to take my word for it. I hope that you will soon begin to see for yourself. But if you don’t, that matters to me too. And I hope that you will feel comfortable enough to share that with me. I commit to you that it I will not avoid or deflect. I will always seek to support respectful and meaningful conversation about race and all other types of difference and identity that impact the ways we experience the world.

    From this place, the work begins in earnest, and there are many conversations that need to happen as we move forward. I can’t predict exactly in what way and on what timeline that will happen. And I think it’s very likely that we will need help. So I can’t give you a step-by-step plan today. But the conversations I am having with different people coming from different perspectives will continue. Specifically, I will be speaking with PTA leaders, chairs of the TC Parent Group EDI committee and with Doug about community facilitated conversation or a lecture series. You will hear more about that from me in the October meeting.

    I will need help. I count on each of you to step up to the challenge. To talk to each other. To self-examine. To listen. If you want to get more involved, there are two Site Council leadership roles you could consider volunteering for right now. We need an Ombudsperson, who can serve as a resource and an advocate for community members who experience problems engaging with Site Council. We also need a chair for Parent Enrichment. This role serves as a point person for organizing parent education and enrichment opportunities, such as night time lectures and works in collaboration with other committees such as EDI, Curriculum, and Special Education.

    Lastly, I will mess up. I trust you to help me see my own errors, failings and blind spots. I trust you all to do this for each other. We will not always agree, but together we can make sure this is a place where each child and each adult is valued, respected and cared for.

    p.s. We are also in need of an Ombudsperson, a chair for the Parent Education Committee, and a co-chair for the EDI committee. Anyone who would like to volunteer for those roles, please contact us.
    It’s been a great start to the year, and an interesting puzzle to put together. Coming into this school year, I saw a lot of infrastructure that needed to be put into place for staff and kids—there wasn’t a master schedule, wasn’t a school supply order placed, 5th grade assignments were up in the air. I appreciate your resilience and open feedback from the community. I feel very pleased and fortunate to be working with talented, dynamic teachers who have a real growth mindset and who are willing to work together to move forward and have hard conversations, including continuing conversations around equity. This year will see changes in the way we handle finances and family engagement, through the equity lens of inclusiveness. Thank you to everyone for dealing with big changes.

    I’m delighted to be visiting classrooms, seeing Responsive Classroom at work, experiencing morning meetings across grade levels. We are working on so many logistics all at once, while also training up a new office staff, 1/3 of whom are new to TC. We are down one assistant principal, so two of us are doing the work of three for the moment, and we appreciate your patience and understanding. My leadership style is collaborative by nature, I believe in open communication, in being as articulate as possible, updating the community on issues, thinking about trying to reach the broadest possible audience.

    As for morning drop off procedures, we have heard a range of reactions. Once we have had more time to see what is and isn’t working, the staff will discuss their reactions along with community feedback and figure out next steps together.

    Enrollment: Our numbers—like those in other nearby schools—are down in K. I met with the Director of Schools to discuss this, and we agreed to keep in mind the larger picture of the school and the delicate position it’s in when considering any changes in staffing. I am advocating with SPS to keep things as stable as possible this year. Parents, we must have kids here on Oct 1. Parents might not know that the district takes a headcount during the first 5 days of school and this is how district makes staffing decisions. Important not to panic and worry about staff. We are ok. Kids who are new to the district can enroll, but because we are outside of the choice window, we can’t take kids from other SPS schools at this time.

    My first priority is that Staff and systems at TC are solid. I anticipate that we will rebound and recover.
    Stacey Seifert, chair of Volunteering Committee, shares that she has two new members on her team (Melinda and Bridget). Next week the volunteer committee will be sending out an information packet on volunteerism at TC, and a special edition newsletter with a Sign Up Genius link that lists volunteer opportunities for the year. They hope you will read through it and note your interests for volunteering, whether it’s for an event, in class, on a committee, or by sharing your skills and interests so they may help match you up with an opportunity.

    If you signed up to volunteer last year through the district you are covered for this year. If you are new you need to go through the district process on volunteering in the school. Please contact Stacey at if you’d like to help out in the next few weeks.

    At the meeting, Doug presented certain parameters for volunteering which seemed new to many of us. The following day, he called the district to clarify. The following is the correct information about volunteering protocol at SPS:  If you are just coming into the building to watch an assembly, class play, or participate in other community-wide activities, you can just come and sign in and get a visitor’s badge (this would also apply to grandparents or visiting family and friends from out of town). To work in the classroom (with or without a certificated teacher) or chaperone a field trip, you will need to complete the district paperwork, which  includes a background check (for working with children generally). In order to be approved to drive children in your vehicle for a field trip, you will need to submit a driving record, forms for which are also provided by the district.

    1st grade team wants an increase in hours to match the number of hours K gets. Last year K and 1 both got 2 hours/day. Now that hourly rates went up, teachers were supposed to keep this budget under 100K. K was reduced to 1.8, 1st was reduced to 1.3 (or thereabouts). Tim Fonken (co-treasurer): we can talk about funding. Lisa Calvert: This should have come through the BLT before SC discussion/request to parent group. Doug will add this to the agenda for the BLT meeting next week. Tim can get date on financial impact of various scenarios in the meantime.

    May minutes approved, June minutes approved

    Mary K has decided to change the way she is working with school. No more classroom singalongs. Site Council leadership is working with her to figure out her involvement. More discussion needed. She will be here tomorrow at the community gathering. Hopeful that she can stay in the lives of our students, but lots of uncertainty. She is launching a new project, wants to do more multi-generational gatherings and big groups. Background: Mary K has been an artist in resident at TC and other schools for years, her program was enrichment. Liz Robinson explains that Mary K has always been enrichment rather than a replacement for formal music instruction. Her sing alongs did not impact teacher prep/planning time. Other music enrichment has been ukulele for 2nd and 3rd grade, and orchestra instruments for 4th and 5th grade.

    Doug reports that instrumental music will be on Monday afternoons for 5th graders, and 4th graders if there is enough room. If we get over 600 kids to enroll next year we will have extra FTE for PE, Art and Music, which would give us more opportunities next year.

    Christina Pizana, PTA president, introduces TC PTA. This is our 2nd year as organization started by equity-aligned parents. We are an independent organization that looks at equity from a district perspective, and then takes what we learn from the greater region and brings it back to our school. I invite you to join PTA, Our first meeting will be Oct 4 at 6pm. We will have a discussion on equitable processes, and kids will be participating in activities, all welcome.
    COMMUNICATIONS: Anna Farr reports that there will be changes in submission dates for the newsletter. Check the website for updates. We will try to keep dates firm to respect weekend volunteer time. Calendar and website are updated but still awaiting meeting with Doug. Anyone can submit to the newsletter but there are rules about what we can print. 200 words or less.

    CURRICULUM: Jesica Avellone (Chair) is working on another What is TC night.

    DISTRICT RELATIONS (Mike Alexander): no update

    EDI: Greg Lorenz would love a co-chair, prefers not to chair alone

    FACILITIES: Amelia McGee is available for classroom set up for teachers, particularly new teachers and admin. An outdoor facilities person is needed.

    FUNDRAISING: Satcha Dearborn Graham reminds us to stay tuned for an update on the Moveathon in early October.
    Question about whether or not Fundraising needs to help collect class fees. Doug says class fees need to go through school and be collected by school. Asked teachers to separate classroom fees, expedition, and camp fees. Teachers will work with office to pay through Schoolpay online to lessen the workload for new office staff. Working on systems for scholarships, grants, assuring that every child can participate and partnering with the community to support these goals.

    GRANT WRITING: Anne Arnett is meeting with mindfulness training programs that might be implemented here. If so, we can write a grant to support that. Teachers can contact Anne to help write grants for projects. Archery may be one area where there is grant money available.

    HOSPITALITY: Chelsea Lin and Jenny Pinto are hard at work with all the back to school events. Thanks for all the coffee and treats.

    PARENT EDUCATION: This chair position is open

    HIRING: Elizabeth Duffell and Anna Marshall share that there was lots of hiring over the summer, information is coming on hiring trainings through the district. Doug is advocating with SPS about getting more staff of color, lack of diversity among staff is an important conversation but not an issue unique to TC, same struggle at Cedar Park. Community energy should help rally district to find solutions to take actual substantive steps to promote a diverse workforce.

    HEALTH AND SAFETY: Jessica Knaster Wasse thanks everyone for patience as we make changes in traffic flow. Working with SDOT to remove overgrowth in private property blocking the walkways on 40th Ave NE.

    SPECIAL EDUCATION: Beck Weinhold and Julie Shin. First meeting will be 10/7 at 6:30, childcare available. Please check the newsletter for more information.

    VOLUNTEERING: See above.

    MISC NEWS: Lisa Calvert reports that an anonymous $15,000 donation has been made in memory of Sandra Brettler to support expeditionary learning, which meant so much to her. We are so grateful to this anonymous donor. Thank you!
    Meeting Adjourned.