School district defends controversial boundary proposal

North Wood homeowner declares the plan would ‘disproportionally impact minority communities
By Dan Aznoff | May 17, 2018
Courtesy of: Michael Brannan Jackson High School senior Maya Brannan looks up to her dad, Michael Brannan, while the two share a laugh outside their home in the North Wood neighborhood. The older Brannan has staged a one-man campaign to shed light on what he describes as “institutional discrimination” in the proposed new boundaries for elementary schools in Mill Creek that he claims will disproportionately impact minority communities served by Everett Public Schools.

The media firestorm created by one Mill Creek parent has forced Everett Public School officials to justify their initial boundaries for two elementary schools as based on the district’s core values and projected enrollments in 2022.

Geographer and mapmaker Michael Brannan presented his findings to the Mill Creek City Council on May 8, charging the “the new boundaries drawn up would assign students from minority-dense areas away from Mill Creek Elementary, forcing them to cross two major arterials to attend the lower-rated Penny Creek Elementary.”

The initial boundary plan was developed over several months by the Elementary Boundary Committee to balance enrollment and prepare for the opening of a new elementary school in the fast-growing southern portion of the district, according to district spokesperson Leanna Albrecht. She added that he district serves 1,200 approximately elementary students with addresses in Mill Creek.

She countered Brannan’s claims by explaining that Brannan’s facts are based on outdated figures from the 2010 census.

“We’re not comparing apples to apples,” Albrecht said. “His figures are based on demographic surveys that reflect the ethnic makeup of communities eight years ago, not on actual numbers of students who will be assigned to classrooms in the fall of 2019.”

The district spokesperson emphasized that minority enrollment, based on the Boundary Committee’s recommendation, will actually increase the number of African-American students at Mill Creek Elementary from 27 to 28 students. Albrecht added that the population of “students of color” is expected to increase slightly at both elementary schools under the district proposal.

“She is missing the point,” Brannan said. “She cannot dodge the fact that this plan would force an overwhelming number of minority students to the lower-rated school.”

Brannan was also quick to point out that he believes Mill Creek and Penny Creek are both “exceptional schools,” but that Mill Creek has a higher rating from the Real Estate website Zillow. He does not suspect anything illegal or deceitful about the boundary proposal, describing the plan as “institutional discrimination.”

Albrecht defended the district against any hint of discrimination.

“Mr. Brannan is focused specifically on portion of the Mill Creek Elementary School boundary--the area in which he stated he lives; the same area that would move to Penny Creek under the proposed boundary,” said Albrecht.

The concerned parent admitted that the City Council has no authority over the policies of the Everett School District, but used the audience participation portion of the council meeting to share his concerns along with his frustration with the lack of response from the district. His story was picked up by at least one Seattle television station this week.

Brannan said he would not be impacted by the proposed boundary adjustments because he has only one child, his daughter Maya, who is a senior at Jackson High School. The Mill Creek resident is white and claims that his reaction is purely as an observer of trends and statistics.

“And I am not worried about the possible impact this could have on my property value,” he said, “because I plan to live in Mill Creek for a very long time.”

He admitted being astonished last week when he walked through his neighborhood and realized how many ethnic minorities are represented in one community.

Albrecht thanked Brannan for his input, saying his opinion will be combined with feedback that will be taken online until May 25.

The mapmaker is not alone with his concerns. More than 200 neighbors in the North Pointe community signed petitions asking the district to keep their children at Mill Creek Elementary, with safety being their top concern.

Students currently walk to Mill Creek Elementary from the North Pointe neighborhood along 35th Avenue SE and are not required to cross any major arterials. Under the change, students from the neighborhood would have to walk in the opposite direction and cross a state highway—132nd Street SE—to get to Penny Creek.

When fully implemented, said Albrecht, whatever changes are adopted by the Everett board could affect as many as 650 elementary school students who live in or near the city of Mill Creek.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.