Mayor Ed Murray’s Education Summit will be held April 30 at the Garfield Community Center.
During a recent meeting in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood, about 50 people, ranging from policy experts to high-school students, divided into small groups to discuss the education issues they face in their communities.
At one table, the discussion centered on how to make high school more relevant to students, and participants debated the importance of vocational training. At another, the focus was on how to minimize the problems that occur when students change schools. One teacher talked about one of his students who had attended four schools in a single year.
The gathering was one of 20 that are supposed to guide what happens at Mayor Ed Murray’s upcoming Education Summit, the first citywide event in six years focusing on Seattle’s students and schools.
The mayor has said the summit, scheduled for April 30 at Garfield Community Center, will focus on education-achievement disparities among Seattle schools’ students. The goal is to come up with solutions for how the city can help ensure that all students succeed.
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“This is not just the responsibility of the Seattle school district. All of us have a responsibility to support the success of these students,” Murray said in a news release. “These children are our children and we must not fail them.”
The summit co-chairs are Ron Sims, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden; Seattle Central College interim President Sheila Edwards Large; and Eckstein Middle School teacher Kristen Bailey-Fogarty.
Murray also created an advisory group that includes Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland, Seattle School Board President Betty Patu and City Council President Bruce Harrell. After the summit, that group, which has met three times since February, will come up with a specific plan for how to address issues brought up at the summit. The advisory group’s meetings are closed to the public.
Along with the community conversations like the one in Mount Baker, the city has planned two events this week that will be facilitated by high-school students.
At the Mount Baker meeting, hosted by Mockingbird Society, Treehouse and YMCA of Greater Seattle, attendees first watched a video message from Murray before the small-group discussions.
The host or hosts of each meeting decide which topics will be discussed.
Norm Rice convened the first education summit in 1990, during his term as mayor. That summit drew more than 2,500 people to a series of gatherings, and it led the city to ask taxpayers to support schools through what’s known as the Families and Education Levy.
The levy has been renewed every seven years, and since 2004 has focused on closing achievement gaps among different ethnic and economic groups. The most recent levy was approved by Seattle voters in 2011.
A year before the latest levy vote, then-Mayor Mike McGinn hosted a youth and families initiative, with large town-hall meetings and smaller community gatherings. The feedback from those meetings was used to craft the latest levy request, and also led the city to lobby Seattle Public Schools, the Legislature and the business community about working to reduce teen violence and Seattle’s high dropout rates, and to increase jobs for teens, McGinn said at the time.