Ronnie Cunningham and his family live a half-dozen blocks from Madrona school in the house where he grew up. He went to Martin Luther King...

Share story

Ronnie Cunningham and his family live a half-dozen blocks from Madrona school in the house where he grew up. He went to Martin Luther King Elementary and dreamed that one day his children would attend the same school, but after King closed, he looked into Madrona.

That was the school his sisters attended, he says. At one time, one of his cousins was the principal.

He and his wife, who is white, looked into the school’s curriculum and heard good things about its teachers, but equally as important were a warm community and a place where their daughter would be around a lot of minority children.

In Seattle, Cunningham says, that’s not a common experience for minorities. It’s not good or bad, he says, that’s just the way it is.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“All things being equal, we wanted her to be in a place where she saw many students and teachers like herself.”

Madrona’s population is 77 percent African American, and 90 percent minority. It’s a largely nonwhite school even though the surrounding neighborhood has a growing number of white families. Madrona’s test scores are rising, but are not high. Cunningham, who has a Ph.D. in educational psychology, doesn’t put that much stock in average test scores.

“I don’t worry about test scores,” he says, “I worry about my child. What’s predictive of the group isn’t predictive of the individual.”

So far, he likes what he sees. Madrona has a new, strong writing program, and his daughter has learned to love writing and reading, he says. She comes home excited about school and is eager to return each day.

The school is close to home, too.

Cunningham knows that the racial mix of schools is a passionate subject, and that there are different ways to look at it. To him, however, racial diversity of a school is not what’s most important.

“I want to see schools that work. Period.”

The district, he says, should concentrate on putting the infrastructure and resources into place so all children can achieve.

“At the end of the day, what’s most important to us is that our child is being educated,” he says. “We’re lucky that she’s being educated in our neighborhood.”

Linda Shaw,

Seattle Times education reporter