Welcome to the 2016-17 School Year!

Dear Hawthorne Family,
Welcome to the 2016-17 School Year! We are so happy that you’re joining us. We look forward to sharing a great year with you at one of Seattle’s most dynamic elementary schools.

We are Friends of Hawthorne (FOH) PTA, a volunteer group of parents, teachers, caregivers, and community members. Our mission is to support Hawthorne so it can provide the best education possible to all its students. We raise money for student activities and supplies. We work to increase parent involvement in our children’s education. We advocate for Hawthorne students by uniting our voices to make ourselves heard within the Seattle School District. We support our excellent teachers and administrators.

We invite you to join us. Fill out the attached application form (or fill it out online) and hand it into a PTA member or the school office. Please come to our meetings, find a way to volunteer, and share your voice – what to YOU want to see at our school?

Get involved. There are a million ways to get involved. Here are seven:

Working together, we are stronger. Here’s to a fantastic year!

Best Regards,
Your Friends of Hawthorne Board of Directors
Co- Presidents - Rachael Caravalho & Suzy Largé, president@friendsofhawthorne.org
Vice-President - Brit Porter vicepresident@friendsofhawthorne.org
Treasurer - Josie Clark, treasurer@friendsofhawthorne.org
Secretary – Cathy Laetz, secretary@friendsofhawthorne.org

2016-2017 Calendar in English2016-2017 Calendar in Spanish
Membership Form in English, Membership Form in Spanish

Free Parent/Adult Programs at Atlantic Street Family Resource Center

Free Parenting Classes

Grandparent/Kinship Support Group: 

Grandparents & Kinship Caregivers in Action
Support group, every 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 6p-8p
Limited Childcare available & light dinner provided

Incredible Years:

Wednesdays, September 21st-December 7th, 5:45-8pm
Parents will have the opportunity to learn techniques that support children's social and emotional growth.
Light dinner and childcare will be provided.

Parents as Educational Partners:

Tuesdays, September 27th-October 25th, 5:30-7pm
Parents will learn techniques to support reading skills, encourage children's learning, and foster good habits. 
Light dinner and childcare will be provided.

Ages & Stages:

Light dinner and childcare will be provided. 
First Swing
· Session I: Fridays, September 30th-October 21st, 11am
Birth to 3yrs
· Session I: Mondays, September 26th-October 24th, 2pm

For More Information Contact:

Tiara Atkins, Program Assistant
Atlantic Street Family Resource Center
Serving Southeast Seattle
E-mail: tiaraa@atlanticstreet.org
Family Center: 206-723-1301
Website: www.atlanticstreet.org

Hawthorne Elementary Receives 2016 NNPS Award

Hawthorne Elementary School earned a 2016 National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) Award.

Established at Johns Hopkins University in 1996, NNPS invites schools, districts, states, and organizations to join together and use research-based approaches to organize and sustain excellent programs of family and community involvement that will increase student success in school.

Here's more on Hawthorn's 2015 award.

2016 Annual Hawthorne Day of Service

Special Thanks to the Students, Families, Staff and Community members of Hawthorne Elementary for inspiring each other to do Great works for our school. Our "Hawthorne Day of Service 2016" with the help of Emerald City Rotary was a Great Success this year!

Thank you to all who helped to plan, inspire, and to those who were present to do
the hard yet, rewarding work for our DAY OF SERVICE 2016!

Please visit our newly re-painted FUTSOL court on the playground, the school garden with it's re-constructed planting beds. And, note the fresh paint on the railing as you walk down the playground steps when you get a chance. Also, the entrance area to our school has been BEAUTIFIED!

Parenting workshop on child saftey at PTA Meeting

Friends of Hawthorne PTA Special Topic:

Savvy Parents Safe Kids
a parenting workshop on child safety
11/18/2015, 6:00–7:30 PM
Hawthorne Cafeteria (potluck)

This workshop on child safety will cover topics such as:

  •  The Fab 5 Questions YOU need to be asking before Play dates
  •  Cell phones for kids?
  •  Talkative kids (blessing or a curse?)
  •  Safety conversation starters.
  •  Teaching your child about body safety
  •  Out and about neighborhood safety
  •  Safety tools: What works? What doesn’t?
  •  Red Flags parents need to watch out for
  •  The “Super 10” every kid should know 

  We all want to keep our kids safe… join us and learn how to use our easy tips and tools that make safety fun not scary.

No graphic conversations. No scare tactics. Want to learn more?  Contact Kim Estes at kim@savvyparentssafekids.com or visit us at savvyparentssafekids.com

Geraldine's hosts Faces of Hawthorne student art exhibit

For the third year in a row, Geraldine's Counter is hosting a monthlong Hawthorne Elementary student art exhibit.

The Faces of Hawthorne exhibit runs May 4 to 31 and features a mosaic of self-portraits by kindergartners and first graders, plus other works of art celebrating our school's rich cultural diversity, our students' creativity and our community's commitment to ensuring that the arts are a vital part of our children's education.

The self-portrait mosaic and other student masterpieces raised more than $1,200 at our Faces of Hawthorne Auction, enough so that all kindergartners and first-graders will get to take their self-portraits home after the Geraldine's exhibit.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation during the Geraldine's exhibit to help us continue to provide the high-quality art instruction and materials that our children deserve.

You can make your gift at Geraldine's or on our website (just follow the instructions for making a one-time donation).

Thank you for your support!

Special thanks to Volunteer Artist-in-Residence Claudette Glubka and Hawthorne parent Rachael Caravalho for coordinating this third-annual exhibit; for Hawthorne Art Teacher Elaine Simons for contributing several pieces of student art; to Allen Glubka for framing the artwork; to Hawthorne parents Mike Caravalho and Graham Ayers for hanging it all up and Karen Rosenberg for copyediting the exhibit materials; to Jonita Bernstein of Blueline Design for donating her graphic design services; and to Geraldine's Counter for hosting once again.

Ready, set … artist in residence!


Arts enrichment at Hawthorne Elementary School has kicked up a notch, thanks to an artist-in-residence program that started with kindergartners and will roll up to the upper grades in 2015.

Karen Harp-Reed, a veteran Powerful Schools teacher with more than 30 years experience in the classroom, worked closely with our three kindergarten teachers to develop her lessons focused on positional words, gross motor skills and respecting personal boundaries — all foundational skills in the performing arts.

“Spatial awareness is a huge thing in theater, music and dance — math, too!” Karen says. “As children move their bodies around and play with kinesthetic words like above, below and in between, they start grasping the fundamentals of addition and subtraction in three dimensions.”

Karen’s residency with kindergartners included eight 40-minute classes, culminating in performances that each class gave to their kindergarten peers. In 2015, Powerful Schools artists in residence will work with first-, second- and fifth-graders. Macha Monkey Productions — a nonprofit theater group that’s taught playwriting and performing arts at Hawthorne for years — will work with third- and and fourth-graders.

Most teachers have asked their artists in residence to zero in on the performing arts, complementing the visual arts focus of Hawthorne Art Teacher Eileen Simons. A visual artist will work with second-graders, supporting a STEAM (Science Engineering Technology Arts and Math) project in which students will engineer a toy or game, design packaging and advertising to promote it.

Great thanks to the many generous donors who raised the paddle at Friends of Hawthorne PTA’s 2014 Auction to fund our 2014-15 artists in residence. And kudos galore to kindergarten parent and Friends of Hawthorne PTA volunteer Marita Grunfeld for working tirelessly to get this program going.

Hawthorne celebrates library's grand reopening


Hawthorne’s newly remodeled library reopened with lots of oohs, ahhs, smiles and distinguished company.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Public Schools Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland celebrated with Hawthorne staff, teachers students, and representatives from Target and The Heart of America Foundation, which awarded the school a grant for the renovation last spring.

Hawthorne families came to check out the new bookcases, new tables and chairs, new artwork for the walls, new carpet, new paint, about 2,200 new books, 25 new iPads and a new projection/smart board system. Every student got several new books to take home.

It was more than a celebration of a beautiful new library. It was a proud moment for a school that “has come a long way — it’s made so much progress,” said Seattle School Board Member Betty Patu.

Patu praised the school’s staff and leadership for all the hard work they’ve done in over the last several years — work that’s “really moving our kids forward.”

“We talk about equity in education for all kids, and it’s happening here at Hawthorne.”

Check out several more photos of the library makeover in this blog post by the mayor’s office.


5 ways the 2014 Hawthorne Walk-a-Thon rocked

Hawthorne's first-ever Walk-a-Thon fundraiser was a HUGE success in so many ways. Here's a countdown of the top five:

1. Students in every classroom rallied more than $14,000 in pledges from friends and family, near and far, to support Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) at Hawthorne.

2. Every kid got a Walk-a-Thon T-shirt and pedometer thanks to generous support from our sponsors. BIG thanks to The Moose Group, which donated the T-shirts, and to Windermere-Mt. Baker, IBS, Inc. and MEM Consultants, for the pedometers and other Walk-a-Thon supplies!

3. All told, pledges and sponsorships netted more than $15,000 for STEAM at Hawthorne. Pledges are still trickling in and we'll be accepting online donations through the end of October.

4. Everyone had a fantastic time walking from Hawthorne to Genesee Park and back! The cloudy skies and occasional drizzle were no match for our enthusiasm. As one adorable kindergartner put it: "This is the best thing ever. I've always wanted to do this!"

5. The hard-working volunteers who organized the Walk-a-Thon kicked off a proud new fundraising tradition that we can build on in the future. And dozens of parents and community members stepped up to make the event a huge success.

Talk about rising up!

Click on the photo in this post to scroll through several Walk-a-Thon pictures. See more on our Facebook page.

Hawthorne parents leading walk-to-school brigades

A few families take in some bright fall sunshine on a 15-minute walk to from Empire Espresso to Hawthorne.

A few families take in some bright fall sunshine on a 15-minute walk to from Empire Espresso to Hawthorne.

Did you know that October is International Walk to School Month?

Friday mornings in October, Hawthorne parents will be leading groups of walkers from two locations: Empire Espresso (3829A S. Edmunds St.) and Both Ways Café (4922 S. Genesee St.).

Join a group or drop of your kid(s). It's a great, good-for-the-planet way to start the day. Take a few extra minutes and connect with other Hawthorne families. It's more fun than driving, driving, driving and wondering why there aren't more parking spots closer to school, right?

Walk-to-school brigades will leave from Empire and Both Ways a little after 8 a.m. on the following Fridays: October 3, 17, 24 and 31. (No school on October 10, a teacher training day.)

If your kid(s) would like to bike to school, they're welcome — as long as you or another grown-up can ride with them.*

Any questions? Email walk-to-school brigade leaders Kristin Mehus-Roe (Both Ways, kristinmehusroe@gmail.com) and Liz Gillespie (Empire, elizabethmgillespie@gmail.com).

The folks with Cascade Bicycle Club, who helped us organize Hike and Bike Fridays in October and May during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, advise that it's best for kiddos to wait until they're in 2nd grade before biking on streets — even when supervised by adults. 


Hawthorne student art exhibit at Geraldine's Counter

Geraldine's Counter is once again hosting a Hawthorne Elementary School art exhibition featuring a colorful mosaic of paintings by our kindergarteners and first-graders, celebrating our school's growth as a community.

The theme of the exhibit, which runs from February 18 to March 30, at Geraldine's (4872 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle), is "Oh, the Places You'll Go!' — just like our 4th annual auction.

Come see the beautiful mosaic and more than a dozen framed artworks by first- through fifth-graders, which are available for purchase during the exhibit, and will also be sold at the auction (happening April 5 at the Northwest African American Museum).


All the artwork is available for purchase. Mosaic pieces are $25 apiece (more details on the orders forms you'll find at Geraldine's). The cost of framed pieces varies (for more info, email Rachael Caravalho at greeneyedoc@gmail.com).

Hawthorne families, don't forget to bring the kids-eat-free coupon we sent home in backpack mail before mid-winter break. (The offer is limited to two kids per table for breakfast, lunch or dinner from February 18 to March 31, 2014).

Great big thanks to Art Teacher Eve Hammond, Artist-in-Residence Claudette Glubka and First-Grade Parent Rachael Caravalho for coordinating this second-annual exhibit! And to Jonita Bernstein of Blueline Design for donating her graphic design services ... and to Geraldine's for hosting this terrific event!


Hawthorne honored as 'high-performing priority school'


National, state and local education leaders raved about the progress Hawthorne Elementary School has made during a statewide tour of the 27 schools that have worked hard to boost student achievement with funding from three-year federal School Improvement Grants (SIG).

Kim Mead, President of the Washington Education Association, praised a packed assembly of students, staff and parents for the major strides Hawthorne has made since receiving more than $1.8 million in SIG funds.

Test scores have risen by double-digits across the board over the past three years. The biggest improvements since 2010:

  • Fifth-grade reading scores have increased more than 50 percent.
  • Third-grade math scores have risen 41 percent.
  • Third-grade reading scores have increased 26 percent.

"You outdid the work of 1,400 (SIG) schools across the country," she said. "It was all of you working together, working really hard. That's why you were so successful."

Mead presented Hawthorne with a "Washington State High-Performing Priority School" banner, and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel delivered a $500 check for the school's library.

Other leaders who attended the Nov. 18 assembly included: State Representatives Sharon Tomiko-Santos and Joe Fitzgibbon; Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp; and Kelly Aramaki, Seattle Public Schools' Executive Director for the Southeast region.

After the assembly, teachers, staff and parents met with leaders in the school library to share ideas about Hawthorne's success and the challenges the school faces now that the SIG funding is gone.

Third-grade teacher Oveta Hunter said everyone at the school has lived and breathed a commitment to turning the school around. "We all opted in. We came early. We left late. We were there to support each other. We were determined to make it work, and we did."

Fifth-grade teacher Carole Lynch praised the school's leadership for their confidence in teachers. "To have trust for your teachers that they know how to teach, in this age of testing … is critical."

Librarian Bruce Toomey applauded the school's investment in staffing the library full-time. Before SIG, the school went a year with no librarian at all, and in other years – like many other schools in Seattle – Hawthorne had a part-time librarian.

School Business Officer Eileen Gray suggested that schools would stand a greater chance at long-term success with five-year vs. three-year grants. "It would've been nice to spend the last two years working on sustainability."

Several teachers said they miss the 20 extra minutes in every school day, which adds up to a full class period once a week, and the coaches that sharpened teachers' focus on excellence and collaborating from classroom to classroom.

The school used to have two family support workers and a counselor who worked together to help families in need get comprehensive, "wraparound" services. Now Family Support Worker Yolanda McGhee does that most of that work on her own – with part-time support from contracted counselors.

Hawthorne was a "Level 1" school when the SIG process started — the lowest of five levels of schoolwide student achievement. It recently moved up to Level 2.

"To get from 1 to 2 is a huge jump," said Kelly Aramaki, the district's Southeast Seattle director. "When you plant bamboo, it doesn't grow for a couple years. It's establishing roots. Then it grows 16 feet a year. Hawthorne has the roots and a foundation for success in place. This school has the potential to be a Level 5 school within just a few years."

Aramaki added: "There's an energy level around Hawthorne that is rare in schools right now."

Principal Sandra Scott said it's been a nonstop team effort that involved teachers, staff, students and families. "This was heavy lifting," she said. "I am so proud of this staff. Everyone stepped up to the plate, took a big swing and hit it out of the park."

Read more about Hawthorne's success:

Head of NEA says state shines in education reformThe Associated Press

Want to improve your school? NEA president stresses collaboration as first step, Seattle Times

Washington SIG schools outpace others, Washington Education Association

Celebrating Hawthorne's strides

On Monday, Nov. 18, national, state and local leaders will present Hawthorne Elementary School with a high-performing school banner, a $500 check for the school library, and celebrate the tremendous strides Hawthorne has made over the past three years thanks to a $1.3 million federal School Improvement Grant (SIG). 

All Hawthorne families and community members are welcome to attend a staff, student and parent assembly from 2:10 to 2:40 p.m. in the Hawthorne Elementary School Cafeteria (4100 39th Ave. S., Seattle). The following leaders will join the celebration:

  • National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel
  • Washington Education Association President Kim Mead
  • Seattle Education Association President Jonathon Knapp
  • State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon

From 2:50 to 3:30 p.m. in the Hawthorne Library, leaders will meet with school staff and parents for an interactive session about SIG grant efforts and talk about what the school is doing to meet students' needs now that the grant has ended. Parents teachers and staff will be available to talk to reporters and bloggers from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

SE schools air concerns about growth boundaries

Read the letter that parents from Hawthorne and several other Southeast Seattle schools sent to Superintendent Jose Banda and the School Board in early October 2013 challenging various aspects of the a growth boundary proposal to deal with overcrowding in some parts of the district:

Dear Mr. Banda and Seattle School Board members,

To consolidate reactions from concerned SE parents and PTSAs regarding the proposed boundaries plan, the SCPTSA convened a group of parents and PTSA representatives from several SE schools—Beacon Hill, Graham Hill, Hawthorne, John Muir, Kimball, Maple (with Georgetown), and Thurgood Marshall. We came to consensus on several key concerns with SPS’s current proposal that we believe affect ALL students and families in SE Seattle, and urge you to avoid making changes to existing school boundaries at this time and to undertake a more inclusive and longer-term planning effort.

Key Concerns with SPS Proposal

  • SPS’s proposal is inequitable in its content and process, extremely so for the SE community. Low-income, minority, and non-English speaking communities were cut out of the process. The plan appears to have a disproportionate impact on Title 1 schools in the SE. The unreasonably short timeframe between the release of the draft plan and community meetings, the presentation of plan documents in English only, and the electronic-communication based rollout thwarted the ability of many affected parents and guardians to provide meaningful input. We question if the Racial Equity Analysis Tool, recently adopted as SPS Board Policy, was utilized as part of this planning process.
  • SPS’s proposal will be extremely and unnecessarily disruptive to our families and our schools. At this stage, it should be clear to all involved that changing school boundaries and middle school assignments is one of the most difficult and upsetting things that can happen to families and schools, and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
  • SPS has not yet clearly communicated what school- or community-level problems the myriad proposed changes are attempting to solve in the SE, and it is not clear how the proposal addresses any such problems. Questions posed at the initial community input meeting at Mercer MS were recorded, but answers were not provided. Public information requests seeking such transparency about the planning process and underlying data have been deferred until after the School Board’s final vote, demonstrating contempt for the schools and families affected. Consequently, there is a pervasive perception that SE Seattle is being needlessly bundled into changes that are necessary in other parts of the city.
  • SPS’s proposal undermines neighborhood schools and neighborhood cohesion by splitting neighborhoods, splitting apart siblings, and creating boundaries to parent engagement.
  • SPS’s proposal to redraw boundaries and change feeder patterns in the SE is premature given that planning and funding for key programs have not yet been finalized. In particular, we are concerned that space is being set aside for a not-yet finalized special education plan and a not-yet funded international option school.

Action 1: Make No Changes to the SE at This Time

  • Do not change existing boundaries.
  • Make no changes to existing middle-school feeder patterns.
  • Do not make Dearborn Park Elementary an option school for the 2014­-2015 school year.
  • If any changes must be implemented for the next school year:
  • Target changes to address only urgent problems in the SE to minimize unnecessary disruption, and provide clear information about why the specific changes are necessary.
  • Consider safety and walkability when reassessing proposed boundaries. Freeway onramps, industrial areas, and major arteries pose significant concerns.
  • Assure changes do not disproportionately impact Title I schools.
  • Grandfather siblings into existing schools and feeder patterns to ensure family continuity and academic security.
  • Work with principals to better-utilize existing space for new programs, to the extent possible, before limiting enrollment of general education students (e.g., the proposed cap to enrollment at Hawthorne to allow for expansion of special education programs).

Action 2: Take Time to Develop a New Plan, Take Time to Obtain Community Input, and Take Time to Implement a New Plan

  • Delay making changes in the SE until key considerations are effectively reflected in the plan:
  • Application of SPS’s Racial Equity Analysis Tool toward improving all schools and improving the process for gathering community input into planning
  • Linkages with educational goals and stability for students
  • Safety and walkability of neighborhood schools
  • Neighborhood cohesion
  • Assure that cart-before-the-horse issues are resolved before making disruptive changes:
  • Finalize plans for special education.
  • Develop and fund any international option school programs, and assure that these reflect neighborhood interests and needs. Identify a new location for an international option school before closing an existing SE neighborhood school.
  • When implementing a new plan, assure that the rollout provides sufficient time and better engages the full SE community:
  • Do not make drastic changes quickly, given the risk of academic and social disruption to families.
  • Allow time for the community to understand the proposal, and allow time for parents to plan for any changes.

We are acutely aware that the coalition of parents giving input here were disproportionately white and middle class.  We believe that the timing and outreach associated with this process have been inadequate for meaningful engagement and dialogue within our community.  Any new proposals should be presented to the full SE community, with adequate outreach efforts, in multiple languages, and with enough time built into the process to allow for the fostering of true understanding and meaningful dialogue with our diverse community.


Hawthorne fights growth boundary changes

Q13 FOX News: Parents say boundary changes could destroy academic gains

Sept. 19, 2013

The Seattle School District is talking about redrawing attendance boundaries for schools in November and parents at Hawthorne Elementary School said the move would destroy their children’s academic progress.

In the last few years the school has overcome low enrollment and poor test scores. If boundaries are changed, parents said it would mean a repeat of low enrollment, which would translate into less funding and community involvement.


When Karen Barrier purchased her home in south Seattle, she bought into her kids going to Hawthorne Elementary. But now Barrier is confused on where to send her kids to school next year with the talk of the district rezoning boundaries.

“We finally got settled, decided we liked where we are, and now we have to think about if we want them to go to a different school,” she said.

“It’s a complicated set of changes they are proposing,” Hawthorne Elementary PTA vice president Mary Murray said.

With the changes, Hawthorne Elementary could lose about 20 percent of its students. “It’s a large portion of our school and with those students,  go teachers who we care about,” Murray said.

Read Q13's full story here.

For more info on the growth boundaries proposal, visit: http://bit.ly.com/GrowthBoundaries.



Boston Globe shines spotlight on Hawthorne

The rise of Hawthorne Elementary and the work of Friends of Hawthorne PTA isn’t just being seen here in Seattle, we’re also kind of a big deal 3,000 miles away. In an article on October 21st the Boston Globe held Hawthorne out as a model for how a school and a community can come together to tackle the traditional problems facing many educational systems across the country. Click on the photo for the article, or you can read the full text below.

Metro-The Boston Globe by James Vaznis on October 21, 2012

SEATTLE — In the three years since this city returned to neighborhood schools, a small but growing group of parents who live on a rugged hillside of both wealth and poverty has been trying to persuade skeptical neighbors to give the local Hawthorne Elementary School a chance.

They have hosted cocktail parties and play dates to share their children’s successes there, raised tens of thousands of dollars for the school, and have circulated a fact-sheet to counter worries about low test scores and vague concerns about safety, proclaiming “Hawthorne Elementary is on the rise,” and inviting parents in for a private tour.

They have won over some parents, but many others snub the neighborhood school, even though their children are guaranteed seats.

“Sometimes we have to keep proving to people this is a good school,” said Jen Ayers, who lives across the street from the Hawthorne, noting her son, a first-grader, is thriving there. “He is happy and he loves coming to school. That’s what most parents want for their kids. We’re doing something right here.”

The eagerness of these middle-class families to embrace their neighborhood school is exactly what Seattle officials were counting on three years ago when they stopped providing parents with a broad choice of schools and assigned children to a specific school in their neighborhood.

As Boston contemplates changing its 23-year-old student-assignment system so more students can attend schools closer to their homes, Seattle shows the possibilities and the pitfalls of untangling schools from complicated citywide assignment systems and returning the buildings to their neighborhoods and the families who reside there.

As in Boston, Seattle’s old student-assignment system was rooted in efforts to racially balance its schools. And as in Boston that system was often unpopular with many families, who would have to rank their choices of schools, submit them to the school district, and then wait on edge to see whether the school district, using a series of tie breakers, gave them their top pick.

The decision for Seattle to return to neighborhoods schools was not an easy one, and the move spurred debate about whether it was abandoning its long and tumultuous commitment to desegregating its schools.

Seattle, facing legal action, became one of the first major cities in the nation to voluntarily desegregate its schools through mandatory busing in 1978, four years after court-ordered desegregation polarized Boston.

More recently, Seattle went to the US Supreme Court and defended using a student’s race as a tie breaker in determining high school placements. But the court struck down the practice in 2007, setting off confusion among school districts nationwide about the role of race in school assignments.

The case prompted Seattle to explore a return to neighborhood schools, and now after decades of cross-city busing school officials see neighborhoods as powerful forces in helping to turn around struggling schools by galvanizing residents, businesses, and community organizers to pitch in out of a sense of civic responsibility.

Officials also believe neighborhood schools are reducing the flight of middle-class families to the suburbs by letting them know which school their child could attend rather than leaving it to a mystifying process that left many families disappointed.

Across the city, enrollment is rising, and school officials are putting together a $675 million capital levy plan to alleviate crowding.

“There is general agreement that having predictability in our student assignment system has given parents more confidence about staying in Seattle,” said Michael DeBell, the School Board chairman, noting fewer families are moving out of the city. “The new assignment plan has created opportunities for school transformation that wasn’t there before.”

Seattle officials did not completely abandon school choice, recognizing that some parents would not be happy with their neighborhood schools. In the new system, they created 13 theme-based schools, like one that teaches Mandarin, that are open to families citywide and they let families apply to neighborhood schools outside their area if seats are available.

The transition has had its bumps. The biggest failure to date has been Rainier Beach High School, an academically struggling neighborhood school that could accommodate 1,500 students, but in June had only about 350.

Seattle is among a growing number of cities nationwide that have returned to neighborhood schools after decades of busing students across their cities, a practice adopted to integrate schools.

A variety of reasons are fueling the movement. Most notably, soaring gas prices have compelled school districts to shorten bus routes, and a series of federal court rulings has created confusion for school districts about whether they can use race as a factor in assigning students to schools.

But the movement has spawned immense opposition from civil rights activists, who say that it has resegregated many schools nationwide.

“It’s perfectly evident when you have neighborhood schools white families and middle-class families end up with high-performing schools and families in poor neighborhoods are left with inferior schools,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles. “We know that teachers with experience and choices leave impoverished neighborhood schools.”

For more than a decade, Boston has tried moving back to neighborhood schools or something akin to it. But every attempt to dismantle the current system — enacted in 1989 to comply with court-ordered desegregation — has failed, even after Boston stopped using race as a factor in school assignments in 2000.

The sticking point in Boston has been an outcry about a lack of quality schools, particularly in the poorest areas, where many students of color live.

That concern resurfaced last month, after the School Department released five proposals that would allow more students to attend schools closer to their homes, but would also limit the number of choices. A Harvard University professor found that as choices decreased under each proposal, inequity grew across the system.

Currently, the School Department divides the city into three sprawling geographic zones, each providing parents with about two dozen schools from which to choose. One proposal for change would simply assign students to the closest school to their home with available seats, while the others would create six, nine, 11 or 23 assignment zones.

In an effort to boost quality, the proposals call for overhauling 21 low-achieving schools. The Boston School Committee is expected to vote on a new student-assignment map this winter.

Seattle officials also confronted concerns that the city’s lowest-achieving schools were concentrated in poorer parts of the city where many families of color live.

But officials also believed poor families were not well served by Seattle’s former citywide system. The most-educated and informed parents knew how to work the process and get into the best-achieving schools, while families less familiar with the process ended up with the least-chosen schools, which tended to have the worst academic records.

One of the biggest public debates revolved around whether students currently enrolled in their schools could remain there under a new assignment system — an issue Boston is now facing. Seattle officials let the students stay and provided busing.

So far, Seattle has not experienced a dramatic shift in school demographics, although the Seattle Times reported in August that six schools have seen an increase in white students and three have moved closer to the school district’s racial mix.

“The city is less segregated than it was in the 1960s,” DeBell said.

Nestled amid the bungalows in a middle-class neighborhood of mostly white families in the western part of Seattle, Schmitz Park Elementary School is one of the city’s highest-performing schools. Nearly 90 percent of third-graders last year met standards for reading on state exams, and 82 percent did in math — notably higher than the school district averages.

Many families in the neighborhood feel like they hit the jackpot with the return to neighborhood schools, and enrollment has risen so swiftly the school has run out of space.

On a sunny June morning, Principal Gerrit Kischner stepped outside his building and walked to the back of the school yard to finish a school tour. There, eight modular classrooms were set up to house the third grade, fourth grade, special education, music classes, and even an assistant principal’s office. The area has been dubbed “portable village.”

The school also had two other portable classrooms for fifth-graders on another part of the school grounds.

“Every time we think we are having a bubble [in enrollment] it doesn’t pan out that way,” said Kischner, noting that each year brings a larger class of kindergarten students.

Indeed, this fall the school added two more portable classrooms, as enrollment hit 540 students — almost 200 students more than the 2009-10 school year, the last year before the switch to neighborhood schools.

That rapid growth has spurred plans for construction of a new and much larger school, which should be ready by 2015, pending voter approval.

Some parents say the switch to neighborhood schools has persuaded families to stay in the area because their children can go to the same school, like they do in the suburbs.

“We use to have kids [in the neighborhood] going to four or five different schools,” said Karen Kasameyer, of Schmitz Park. “Parents would get into their cars and go in four or five different directions.”

Other factors, such as a weak housing market, also are behind the enrollment increase. School officials say that enrollments across the city began rising in 2008, as the nation’s economy nosedived — reversing a troubling decline in enrollments that caused some school closures.

“Young families use to live in the city and move to the suburbs when their kids reached school age, but now can’t afford a house in the suburbs or can’t sell their house in the city,” Kischner said. “I think that’s a good thing. We didn’t expect that.”

In southeastern Seattle, where many of the city’s lowest-performing schools are clustered, families could have easily thought they got the short end of the stick.

The Hawthorne, for instance, a few years ago was designated among the lowest-performing schools in the state.

But some parents saw a lucrative opportunity in the designation — enabling the school to receive a $1.5 million US grant to extend its school year, expand its arts offerings, and bolster teacher training. The parents note that the school’s test scores are going up.

The parents also like that the school is rich with diversity. More than half of the students are black, a third are Asian or Pacific Islander, 15 percent are Hispanic, and 8 percent are white. “They are getting so much more by coming here,” said Kristin Mehus-Roe, a parent. “They are getting an education of the world.”

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeVaznis. The Boston Globe |by James Vaznis on October 21, 2012

Hawthorne community raises $11K for school's library

Hawthorne Elementary School parents, teachers and friends let out a collective cheer on Oct. 11, when they hit their goal to raise $10,000 to revamp the children's library — one day before the official end of their campaign. 

Since then, their generous network of supporters has kept giving … and giving … and giving. Since last Friday, Oct. 12, the fundraising total for its Hawthorne Library Reimagination campaign has topped $11,300.
Nearly 30 library "champions" made it all happen, mobilizing friends and family, neighbors and coworkers over email and on Facebook. 

In all, more than 170 people contributed to the campaign, which will help them:

  • replace outdated non-fiction books

  • add more copies of fiction favorites, such as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," which always have long wait lists.

  • get technological presentation equipment, including a smartboard and document camera.

"The library is incredibly important to our students. Many of them do not have books at home and they look forward to library day with excitement and anticipation each week," said Katie Kribbs, a kindergarten teacher and Friends of Hawthorne PTA vice president. 

"With young children, it is our biggest job to inspire a love of reading and these high-interest books do that, be they Dora the Explorer or a non-fiction book filled with hairy spiders," Kribbs added.
A special thanks went to the staff at See Your Impact, who did a fabulous job helping them set up and run the campaign; and to Scott Oki, a former senior vice president at Microsoft, a Hawthorne alum, and See Your Impact co-founder, who contributed $1,500 in matching contributions to motivate their fundraisers.