601 Fifth Avenue
Thursday, May 31, 2012
SEATTLE COMMUNITY COUNCIL FEDERATION
May 31, 2012
Mayor and City Council
601 Fifth Avenue
601 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98124
School District should reinstate the Community Nights in Schools program before Council approves Res. 31385, the “City of Seattle and Seattle School District Partnership Agreement”
To the Mayor and City Council—
Please do not approve Res. 31385, the “City of Seattle and Seattle School District Partnership Agreement,” until the District reinstates the Community Nights in Schools program.
Under this program, the School District has for more than a decade provided civic groups with low-cost access, through a simplified application process, for their meetings and other events after school hours. This enhanced access is required by the February 2000 agreement between the City Council and the School District which approved construction of the current District headquarters in an industrial zone. Unfortunately, on May 2, 2012 the District unilaterally canceled the Community Nights in Schools program, without prior notice to or consultation with Seattle officials. Scheduling for meetings in the fall is already being sacrificed.
Without the Community Nights in Schools Program, the City provides huge benefits to the District while receiving very little in return (other than what we all hope is the best possible school system). The School District receives free and exclusive use of many Parks Department facilities (sports fields, playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, community centers, etc.); it also receives millions of dollars from the City’s Families and Education levies. The Community Nights in Schools program begins to even this imbalance by providing civic groups access to schools after hours.
On May 2, the day that School District canceled the Community Nights in Schools program, we wrote urging that the Mayor and City Council work for a quick District reversal of its cancellation, so that the program continues and is strengthened. That is for fairness, but since May 2, we have become aware that it is also for obligation: the program is required by the February 2000 agreement that the School District signed with the City Council.
With community centers, libraries, and other public facilities increasingly unavailable for evening meetings, the Community Nights in Schools program is essential for sustaining volunteer groups and civic life. Information on it can be found on the Seattle Parks Department web site by clicking here. A copy of the application and instructions can be found by clicking here. Under the program, public meeting rooms in the evening in 47 public schools are available to community councils, educational groups, public service groups, and other non-commercial organizations for a flat fee of $15, with no handling fee and no requirement for liability insurance.
If the School District’s termination of the Community Nights in Schools program is allowed to stand, community groups will need to go through the District’s costly and cumbersome rental process (found by clicking here). The rental rates are considerably higher, and there is a $15 processing fee and a requirement for liability insurance. The requirement for liability insurance, alone, ensures that hundreds of community groups will no longer be allowed to use school facilities if the Community Nights at Schools program is discontinued.
With the School District planning soon to ask the voters for more than $1 billion in capital and operating funds, its provision of simple and affordable evening space for community meetings is an important gesture of good faith and a reminder of how schools foster democracy and participation. Res. 31385’s draft Partnership Agreement requires that the “City and District shall each act in good faith.” When the District unilaterally canceled the Community Nights in Schools program, was it acting in good faith? We suggest reinstating the program now to establish good faith before the Partnership Agreement is approved.
Please preserve and improve the Community Nights in Schools program as essential for civic engagement and partnership with the schools. SCCF designates its treasurer, Chris Leman (firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-322-5463) as its representative on this issue.
Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631
cc: Seattle School Board and Superintendent