Feral Families

This is the post excerpt.


We are moms in Seattle. We are authentic. We like our kids. We like our husbands. We like vintage. We don’t eat gluten and we don’t like the 45th president of the United States. 

No Cuts to Vital Services

Dear Superintendent & Directors,

I attended a recent levy information session at Sealth High School and have been following the recent reports of our $71 million budget shortfall for next year. I recognize and understand that some of our added expenditures come from our new higher staffing costs due to increased health care coverage and the Family Leave Act. I have also heard that one approach Seattle Public Schools is considering to alleviate to budget deficit is to cut back all school librarians to .5 FTE.

While I do understand that a budget shortfall of this magnitude will bring some painful cuts to our district, I strongly believe that cuts must be made in a way that will minimize their impact on students; especially students of color, students at Title 1 schools, students experiencing homelessness, and special education students. To this end, no cuts should be made to basic and vital services like: Librarians, Nurses, Counselors and Family Support Workers. Our District has repeatedly stated its goal to close opportunity gaps for our students. This goal can not be achieved if students do not have access to the very most vital of services.

I grew up in Seattle and attended Seattle Public Schools during the 70’s and 80’s. I was in second grade at Olympic Hills in 1977 the year the levy did not pass. Our school hours were cut back; we were dismissed at 1:40! We didn’t have Library, PE, Art, or Science and there wasn’t a single teacher in the building under the age of 50 because all of the younger teachers had been riffed. That was a miserable year. The following year, the levy passed and Seattle Schools flourished with an abundance of Magnet programs and school options. These levies must pass. I call on SPS leadership to directly address the levy opponents at The Seattle Times to illustrate what these cuts would mean for all, but especially for our most vulnerable students.

I would also like to propose a very radical approach of a local Seattle Public Schools Boycott of unpaid federal and state mandates until our schools are fully funded. I think we should consider non compliance with the legislature until they fully fund basic education for our students. Some examples are:

1. Refusal of SBAC or other standardized testing that exhausts valuable time, money and District resources.

2. Return to the 21 credit system rather than the 24 credit graduation requirement from the state that the District does not have funds to pay for.

3. Discontinue use of college and career planning via expensive technology like Naviance returning instead to a student centered paper plan.

4. Remove the standardized testing graduation requirement.

The families of Seattle Public Schools must be actively recruited to advocate on behalf of Seattle’s students in Olympia. The legislative session has begun and our district is running out of time. I ask of you, our school leadership, to organize our voice in a call to action.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

Mother of 2 Special Education Students in

Seattle Public Schools

The Viaduct💔

I sure am gonna miss you💔My Dad and I moved to Phinney Ridge in 1979, which was the beginning of my 99/Viaduct centric lifestyle. In high school I begged my dad to sell our house and buy a condo called Hill Climb Court that is a located on the Viaduct just a stone’s throw from the Western Street exit. It’s made of cement and has dusty rose metal accents and is to this day, my favorite building in Seattle. When we bought our house in South Park my love of the Viaduct was rekindled. I would gawk in amazement at the beauty every time I drove the top deck. That view when you turn your head and see a ferry coming in and the snow capped mountains, well it’s the best and most accessible view in the city. When Bee was 2 we were driving on the lower deck and she was holding her beloved Cookie, a cute little green frog stuffie who rode in a little pink furry backpack, too close to her open window. The moment will forever be burned in my mind as Christian, Beezus and I whipped our heads back in unison yelling, “Noooooooooooo Coooooooooolkkkkiiiiiieee!” Christian being the dutiful father that he is, actually drove back later to search for Cookie, but you know how that stretch of the Viaduct is; even if he’d seen Cookie laying there by the side of the road, how would he have stopped to retrieve the beloved frog? I hear some of you saying the Viaduct freaked you out, especially after what happened in the big San Francisco quake. I never felt that way. I did feel that way about our old South Park bridge and used to always roll down the window before crossing it-it was rated 4 out of 100 on the bridge safety scale!!! But I love the Viaduct and will miss it very much. Without it, my Seattle world feels less accessible more new money bourgeois. The Viaduct was truly the people’s roadway. RIP💔

No Justice No Seat

I am both very sorry and very grateful to be here today in the wake of this absolutely shameful & spurious display of partisan treachery, AKA the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. I am also here because I HAD AN ABORTION. I have zero shame, guilt or remorse and I believe Abortion is normal.

I didn’t used to talk about my abortion. I didn’t think I had to, after all my choices about my pregnancy aren’t anyone else’s business. And then something happened, there was a shift, mine and yours and our, reproductive rights suddenly came under attack. I no longer felt like I could be silent about my abortion, and started posting about it, talking about it, shouting about it. And a funny thing happened, don’t get me wrong I was a little nervous at first, awkward maybe but not ashamed or embarrassed, I just wasn’t used to talking about Abortion so openly. But the funny thing I noticed was, when I talk about my Abortion, someone I know, a friend or a customer or sometimes a stranger, will say, “I had an abortion too,” and they’ll usually sit down and tell me their story.

Not only do I believe Abortion is normal, I think my Abortion was super normal. I was married, employed, had stable housing, not dealing with addiction or abuse; I just happened to be pregnant and I didn’t want to be right then-for many many reasons, which are absolutely nobody else’s business. So I went to see the good people at Planned Parenthood for what Brett Kavanaugh likes to call, “Abortion on demand”. He seems to have a problem with this safe legal right and would love to have seen me navigate through lots of obstacles and jump hoops meant to delay my procedure and undermine my decision making.

But Brett Kavanaugh is not the boss of me, and so I went and received a safe, legal abortion here in the state of Washington, fully paid for by the health insurance provided to me by my employer. I took a long weekend off from work, rested on the couch with snacks and trashy tv, pre Netflix days, but I didn’t tell anyone at work, or my parents; just my husband and a few very close friends knew.

Now I tell everyone, “Hey, I had an abortion!” I do it mostly because I’m trying to make a better world for my daughters, in part to be visible, to open the conversation and to normalize the reproductive experience of women.

And because I am privileged to tell my story, I also like to share stories of other women who may not have a voice here today. Around the same time I had my abortion I was walking downtown and on a corner just a few blocks from here, I met a woman, who was about my own age, who told me she was homeless and had just come from having an abortion. I looked down to see that she was bleeding through her pants. She told me she just wanted to get enough money for a room and a shower. I didn’t have what she needed and she lashed out at me. She was angry. She had every right to be.

She went on a tirade about our society’s lack of respect for women’s reproductive rights and pregnancy and how she believed she had done the rest of the world a favor by not having that baby and now she was going to suffer immeasurably by being out on the street for who knows how long, covered in blood.

Even after all these years, I think about this woman I met when I talk about Abortion and I’m thinking about this woman especially today. I can see her standing right in front of me, bleeding on that corner. She was so beautiful and she was fierce and brave and powerful. She knew Abortion is normal. She knew Abortion is her right. She owed no one and explanation or an apology. She was shameless and it was inspiring.

Sometimes we just need a reminder that we aren’t the only ones who’ve had abortions. Sometimes we just need a reminder that Abortion is normal. Sometimes we just need a reminder we don’t need to whisper about Abortion around our children. And maybe sometimes we just need to remind others to have a little human compassion and decency by shouting our Abortions on street corners. I’ll keep shouting mine, and if you haven’t ever tried it, I’ll give you the opportunity to now.

If you’ve ever had an abortion, or love someone who has had an abortion, please join me in shouting on the count of 3, Abortion is Normal! 1 2 3


No thank you to Naviance

Through my daughter’s eighth grade year, I started to familiarize myself with how high school is organized nowadays in SPS. It’s been a long time since my Ingraham days of “tennis shoe registration” where we ran station to station with little index cards and golf pencils signing up for our courses manually. So with a few weeks until school let out when I received this email from Seattle Public Schools, my interest was peaked,

Dear families,

We are pleased to announce the district’s college and career planning tool, Naviance, will be available in the 2018-19 school year to support your student’s personalized journey through high school. This is a web-based, mobile-friendly tool that you and your student can use to explore interests and options, consider post-high school plans, and ensures all students can have access to post-high school planning supports.

The Naviance college and career planning tool will allow students to:

• Research careers and colleges: Learn about career fields linked to personal interests, compare data from college admissions offices, take personalized surveys to understand strengths and goals.

• Get involved in the planning process:Build a resume, manage timelines and deadlines for making decisions about colleges and careers; organize and track documents related to the college application process, such as requesting and submitting letters of recommendation and transcripts.

• High School and Beyond Plan: Schools will be using Naviance to deliver high school and beyond plan lessons in grades 8-12.  The high school and beyond plan is a graduation requirement, which helps students and counselors make sure graduation requirements are met and are aligned to identified goals.

• Scholarship search: Students can search a database of scholarships based on their interest and goals, and organize materials for scholarship applications in one place.

Student Data and Opt-out Information

The district thoroughly vetted Naviance’s policies and practices with respect to preserving data security and student privacy. Families can choose to opt their students out of using this tool.

For students to utilize the college application support tools in Naviance, some student demographic and academic records need to be shared.  This may include gender, ethnicity, and transcripts. Students will also have the opportunity to add information about themselves when developing their high school and beyond plan and using other college and career exploratory resources within the Naviance tool.

We will be importing student information beginning on July 1 so counselors can use their training days during the summer to prepare for supporting your student in the fall. The window to opt out will be June 4-22, and will open again at the start of school.

Read more about Naviance’s commitment to data security and student privacy and opt out instructions

Each of our students is on a unique educational journey. We are committed to ensuring every one of them receives the support needed to prepare them for college, career and life. High school and beyond planning is one way we are supporting this commitment.

Thank you,

The College and Career Readiness Team

Seattle Public Schools

To which I responded,

Dear Superintendent and Directors,

I received a letter about Naviance informing me that I could opt out but not how to opt out. I found the information on the district website and it says I have to change the preferences on my Source account but I do not participate in the Source. I consulted our upcoming high school principal and guidance counselor and neither of them know how to opt out without a Source account. I also tried replying to the College & Career team but the email was sent with “no reply” options or contact info.

Please advise. The opt out window ends on 6/22.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

I was surprised by a quick reply from the College & Career Readiness team offering to teach me how to set up a Source account. I said no thank you and let them know that for a variety of choice and access issues they need to offer families another way to opt out. Their department sent me a computerized form a day or two later which I remember finding funny because if you don’t have computer access to use The Source, how would you fill out a computer form? By this time I had talked to several friends who wanted to opt their children out of Naviance too, but the form stopped working. I contacted the College & Career Readiness team again and it turned out THEY HAD MADE THE FORM ONLY FOR MY USE! Now I do appreciate that I am a privileged outlier but I reminded them they need a simple way for ALL families to opt out; not just the well known agitators. They thanked me for the feedback and said that they would work on that for the next opt out window of 9/5-9/19. They asked me to check back at the beginning of the school year.

On the first day of my daughter’s high school experience I emailed the SPS Director of College & Career Readiness, Caleb Perkins to loop back about what kind of outreach they were doing for families about Naviance and how one might elect to have their child opt out of this new system. Many parents of middle school and high school students I had spoken with were wary of this new system over data sharing, privacy and tracking concerns. Mr. Perkins responded to my email requesting a phone meeting we scheduled one for the following day.

I knew what questions I wanted to ask and they mostly centered on how parents will learn about this system so they can make an informed choice whether they would like to participate. My friend and educational blogger, Carolyn Leith is much more knowledgeable about some of intricate details of the system and she sent me a list of questions to use for my meeting, they are as follows,

1. How is Naviance going to be used? What classes will be using the software and what surveys will students be expected to participate in. Will the district inform parents of what surveys their students will be expected to complete.

2. Some surveys used by Naviance were intended to be filled out by students under the supervision of a parent. Will parents have access to student accounts?

3. How will students who opt out of Naviance be accommodated? How will this work if Naviance is part of a planned curriculum? For families who object to their student’s participation with Naviance, will a counselor be made available to help students navigate the last two years of high school.

4. How will opting out be handled with courses such as career essentials?

5. Does answering/ using different surveys change the data sharing agreement signed between the district and Naviance? What data is being shared (or made available for access via API’s ) and with whom?

6. What platforms ( such as Google Suite, Clever ) have access to Naviance? Does Naviance also have access to the data collected in Google Suite, Clever, and other platforms?

7. Is Naviance interoperable with other platforms and software used by Seattle Public Schools? Will parents be informed of what data is being shared and with what programs?

8. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to put in writing that it holds student personality tests and other sensitive data collected by Naviance and does not share it and will be liable for any breaches or misuse?

9. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to make transparent what algorithms and weighted factors are used to put students on specific career tracts? Is Naviance willing to share this information?

I started the conversation casually, moved on to the questions, without recording their answers and then moved into a friendly discussion of the larger issues at stake. Mr. Perkins has committed to sending me written answers to these questions, but since the opt out window only runs until 9/19, I decided to write a blog post about our conversation now while it’s still fresh. Incidentally the College & Career Readiness team has set up five regional Naviance Information Sessions but to date they have been poorly publicized and offered only from 5:30-6:30, which is a tricky for many families.

A few things I learned at the beginning of my meeting on speaker phone with Caleb Perkins and Krista Rillo were that SPS paid a little over $600,000 total to Hobson for the use of Naviance for three years. The district paid for Naviance using a voter approved technology levy. The district believes their legal team has thoroughly vetted the contract and has stiff penalties in place for any future theoretical data breach.

The district has designed a scope and sequence of how to use Naviance with a focus on 11th and 12th grade but actual implementation will be left school to school. Once parents have forfeited their chance to opt out there will not be any other chances to give consent for certain portions. They told me it is an all in system with individual schools being left to make decisions about how they will accommodate students who opt out. In addition to The Source, families can also opt out by informing their school office. I gave strong feedback that these were not enough options. Not all families feel comfortable working with their school office and not all school office staff are going to welcome opt outs. I gave the example of how differently SBAC opt outs are handled school to school. At my daughters’ school, it was seen as no big deal with as many as 10% of our students opting out of standardized testing. But other schools are much more hostile to test refusers. At nearby Denny Middle School there was a school carnival that only students who had taken the SBAC could attend and other friends around the district reported having principals want to schedule parent conferences in response to their opt out emails. These parents were then strongly encouraged to have their students take the SBAC. I suggested publicizing a phone number that parents could call directly to opt out of Naviance.

Both Caleb and Krista talked about aspects of Naviance they are excited about. Students can apply directly to colleges, send transcripts and apply for scholarships. Mr. Perkins is especially excited about a set of videos featuring underrepresented groups in non traditional careers. I asked if parents would have access to this information. The answer was a little shocking. They said they were not building in parent access this year and that parents would potentially have “read only” account access next year. They also said that based on what types of searches and inquiries the student was making, they would receive more info in those areas. So if your student was surveyed to show interest in engineering, they would start receiving notices about STEM opportunities in the area. For me, this is a red flag for tracking, and between that, lack of parent access and the idea that my child may be sending my financial information to multiple parties through this system, I am alarmed.

The conversation then took a turn into the big picture and that’s when I really began to question what Seattle Public Schools has gotten themselves into trying to fulfill the legislature’s high school and beyond requirements. Mr. Perkins told me that there had been discussion by the School Board Directors, with some directors in opposition, to naming this new project “Seattle Ready” after the idea that in order to live in Seattle now one will need to have a high paying job. They argued that this idea is “economy driven” and I argued that the opposite is actually true. Not only is child care highly sought after in Seattle, as working class person, a child care provider making about $20, I took strong offense to this notion that students might be dissuaded from pursuing a meaningful career like mine, that gives me so much joy, and supports so many people, because it does not pay “Seattle Ready” wages. I pointed out to them that they were actually doing a disservice to their own workforce by promoting these classist and elitist ideas and I suggested they look to the example of our First Student bus drivers. A “Seattle Ready” system is never going to suggest that a student might enjoy a career as a bus driver and yet what vacancies have not been able to be filled this year and last? School bus drivers. The school bus driver shortage is wreaking havoc on our Seattle working families who’s school buses are frequently late and sometimes don’t show up at all.

Another example I gave, is the district’s own IA’s who often do not earn enough to afford housing in Seattle and have long commutes into the city. These are the same people that the district relies on to care for our most vulnerable students, a position I hold in high esteem and yet the district would deem this career not “Seattle Ready” viable.

I would rather that my student were taught the value of a day’s work and learn about social justice and organizing for better pay for all workers than be taught that some jobs are better than others. I don’t buy it. And what about my friends who ARE artists and musicians and writers but that is not the job they do for money. This early emphasis on what job we have and how it defines us is misguided at best and troubling for me as a parent of kids who dance to their own drum. My youngest has always said she will be an animal communicator and a fortune teller when she grows up and my oldest would like to write for sitcoms but is interested in retail while she starts working on her scripts. It seems highly unlikely these tracks are available in Naviance or any “economy driven” system but I want my children to be who they are, loving, kind and interesting people, who also will some day have jobs, and maybe many many different kinds of jobs; this is why I have chosen to opt out of Naviance.

Saying goodbye to her second home

Dear Beloved STEM Staff and Friends of Beezus,

When Beezus arrived that very first day of STEM she was 8 years old (pictured above) the same age Minnow is now, and could barely read or write. She was slightly terrified but determined after having been kicked out of Pathfinder the Halloween of second grade. She was looking for a new home. I was used to getting frequent phone calls during the day from Pathfinder about her behavior and was slightly surprised when she made it through that first day, without a call. I remember walking up to Gluck to check in about their day and he looked me right in the eye and said, “We can do this!”

Beezus benefited greatly from coming in those early years when we were just starting to figure everything out. She had Gluck for 3rd and 4th and Parsley in some combination or other for every year after. She grew to love all of you; you were her best friends and she came Home telling us about your children and your marriages AND your divorces and what you wore that day or what you liked to eat for lunch.

By fourth grade she had memorized enough words to read books by herself. She never learned to sound words out, so they literally all became sight words. Even now she will sometimes get all the way through a book and have the main character’s name wrong, because with names it’s always anyone’s guess-especially when you have Dyslexia.

She was late. She forgot stuff. She never seemed to know where her pencil was. She was always filling her water bottle. She wouldn’t wear khaki pants. She clomped down the halls with bags overflowing with books. She read in your class. She had to be told a million times not to read in your class. She read in your class anyway. Sometimes she surprised you. Sometimes she was the only one who “got” it. Sometimes she never got it and made up her own way.

Beezus considers STEM her second home. She and I stayed up late Monday night sobbing about how much she’s going to miss all of you. But she’s excited too. And rightly so, The Center School is just the right place for her. They separated parents and kids on tour night and when we reunited after she was jumping up and down with glee, “I’m going to join the queer club and the feminist club and the film club and do the musical…”

Thank you for every drop of patience, every time you went the extra mile, every time you shared a personal story to help her connect with you and every time you comforted her when she cried. I hope that she leaves you with a little something too. It was never easy. But it was always worth it.

With deepest regards,

Shawna Murphy

Mother of Beezus, who will be 14 tomorrow!

In Support of a Native Focus High School

Dear School Board Directors,

I am writing today in support of a Native Focus high school with an indigenous pedagogy. My family is very privileged in that our two white students always have access to Seattle Public Schools and spaces that honor and affirm our home culture and language. Specifically we are thrilled that our oldest has a seat at The Center School next year for her freshman year. We chose this option school specifically because we thought our daughter would flourish in a school culture so similar to ours at home; a school that places a high value on art and science, doesn’t have football or cheerleaders, has a Queer club AND a feminist club that our daughter can’t wait to join.

I believe Native American families should have a culturally focused option for their students as well. We are living on stolen land here and as Seattleites we must recognize that our city was founded on white male supremacy and the oppression and genocide of the Duwamish people. In 1869 the city of Seattle outlawed the Duwamish people from living inside city limits and moved the people of the river out of the city to what is now Auburn, away from their river which was the center of their culture. I can attribute my learning about the Duwamish people to my very excellent teachers at John Muir Elementary, who were already teaching with a multicultural/anti-bias framework back in the late 1970’s.

I don’t know the full history of Native Focus schools in Seattle but I know growing up here, we did have some. We also had a school for what we now would refer to as Romani children, then called The Gypsy School. Later we also had the African American Focus school, which was very popular and many of my neighbors here in South Park attended.

As a long time preschool teacher, I know families often choose my program because they believe I will provide culturally competent care since they have a similar cultural background to mine. Just as many families choose not to come to my program because they prefer providers who speak their Home language and look like their child. All of these choices are valid.

One point of opposition I’ve heard Is a misguided concern that a Native Focus school would somehow harm the diversity of our other high schools. Actually the opposite is true, more options will increase diversity, as was the case when Seattle Public Schools offered many more options and bussing was available throughout much larger geozones. Seattle is a racially segregated city, neighborhood to neighborhood, so families like mine only have the good fortune to attend diverse schools when we also live in diverse neighborhoods. The way to change this is by offering more choices through option schools and transportation to schools in other neighborhoods.

We know and read about the obstacles that our young people of color face every day. Systemic racism, oppression, lack of access to resources and opportunities, these are all areas where young people could receive intensive support in a Native Focus school. This would be a place where Home culture would be affirmed and honored and students would have the opportunity to learn outside the dominant narrative. This would also meet district goals of making sure more Native American students graduate from high school and work to close the opportunity gap.

I live near the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. There is a powerful art installation on the side of the longhouse with Chief Sealth’s face and the words read, “Chief Seattle is Watching”. I think about this image frequently when I drive past and I think it’s an important reminder here, especially given that we live on stolen land, we must provide our Native American students with the kind of education that their families are seeking, in this case a Native Focus High School.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

SPS graduate & mother of 2 SPS students

Test Season

Twelve Reasons to Opt Out of The SBAC

1. Because these tests have implicit bias which favors well off white, English as first language students with the most access to resources

2. Because the actual tests take weeks away from classroom instruction and restrict access to school computers for real learning-practicing for the tests takes away more precious learning time

3. Teachers do not see test questions given or the students’ answers and often don’t have access to the results during the school year that they’re teaching said students

4. Students report these tests are very stressful

5. These tests are manufactured by large corporations who profit massively from this industry by selling the test, the curriculum to pass the test and the GED prep and certification for those who end up dropping out

6. The tests are graded in sweatshops by low wage workers who are required to produce certain amounts of each score to create the desired bell effect

7. Students must have highly proficient typing and English literacy skills even for the math portion which embeds the math problems in written work, testing not only math but English comprehension and reading

8. Because it is your right

9. Because you believe in public education and know the only way to stand up against injustice and corporate greed is to speak up and fight back

10. Because you believe in our teachers

11. Because you believe in your student

12. Because these aren’t the standardized tests we took, they are harmful to children, teachers and public education

And more reasons:

*Because severely disabled students are made to take these tests even when the individual does not have the physical or cognitive ability to do so

**Because those who opt out are given a zero rather than a null score rendering all statistical comparative data absolutely useless

***Because students should be engaged in experiential learning that fills them with a sense of wonder