KCTS 9 Connects/New Arena Deal - September 14, 2012

CNX: New Arena Deal
  • KCTS 9 Connects

New Arena Deal

We break down the new arena deal reached by Seattle City Council negotiators and investor Chris Hansen. Seattle City Council President Sally Clark joins us to discuss the negotiations.

Trevor Greene
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Watch Full Interview

We interviewed Toppenish High School Principal Trevor Greene, who was just named the National High School Principal of the Year.

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  • Clark Transcript
  • Greene Transcript

About the Episode

This week, we break down the new arena deal reached by Seattle City Council negotiators and investor Chris Hansen. Seattle City Council President Sally Clark joins us to discuss the negotiations. Also, we meet Toppenish High School Principal Trevor Greene, who was named the 2012 National High School Principal of the Year.

PLTW Press Release

For Immediate Release:
September 6, 2012

Media Contact:
Jennifer Cahill, PLTW Director of Communications
317.669.0871 or jcahill@pltw.org

PLTW- and STEM-Advocating High School Principal Receives National Honor as “Principal of the Year”
District names PLTW as factor that set principal and school apart from other candidates

TOPPENISH, Wash.- Amid an auditorium full of students, teachers, State Superintendent Randy Dorn, state legislators, and his family, Trevor Greene received one of the highest honors given to secondary educators—the 2013 MetLife/NASSP High School Principal of the Year. The Thursday morning award was a complete shock to Greene; Toppenish School District Superintendent John Cerna elected to schedule a surprise assembly to present the award after receiving notification from MetLife/NASSP three weeks ago. Greene will be honored at a black tie gala in Washington, D.C., on September 21 to kick off National Principals Month.

Greene has been principal of Toppenish High School, a school nestled in rural Washington in the heart of the Yakima Nation, since 2009. Since taking the helm, he has transformed the school culture into one that expects success, expanding academic opportunities for his students, many of whom had never been expected to succeed, let alone graduate. He added rigorous courses, including 27 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering and biomedical science classes, a Microsoft IT Academy class, and a robotics class. To give students an opportunity to pursue postsecondary education, he made it possible for them to earn 30 college credits by the time they graduate from high school. He also made parental and community involvement a priority, reaching out to the migrant families and the Yakima Nation on the very reservation where he grew up.

“We are defying the odds,” said Toppenish Superintendent John Cerna. “A migrant population, high minority (96%), high poverty (99%). We have all the reasons we shouldn’t be successful. Now we have kids who are going on to be engineers and going to universities.”

Cerna credits Toppenish High School’s PLTW program with this success. Since its beginning, participation in PLTW courses has skyrocketed, the school’s dropout rate decreased, and state science scores increased by 67% over a three-year period.

“Our STEM program is bar none, one of the best in the nation,” Cerna said. “And that is because of the way it was done. We started small, the year after Trevor became principal. He got behind it right away. He’s carried it out, moved it forward. That’s a huge feather in his cap. I truly believe that’s why he’s won this award. Our PLTW program is what sets us, and him, apart from other high schools.”

In a joint release from MetLife and NASSP, leaders applauded Greene for his dedication and success.

“Trevor Greene played a central role in helping Toppenish achieve significant and sustained improvement among students who are affected by poverty and its associated issues,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Trevor’s relentless effort to increase rigor and provide opportunities for all students, regardless of socio-economic status, ensures a personalized learning environment where every student feels valued.”

Continued MetLife Vice President Derrick Kelson: “We applaud Trevor for his leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Toppenish High School. His efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”

The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. Greene and Laurie Barron, the national middle level winner, were then selected. Greene and Barron will each receive a grant of $5,000, which must be used to improve school learning (e.g. a special school project or professional development).

The MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program acknowledges outstanding school leadership and the crucial role of principals as leaders and individuals who go above and beyond to make their schools the best they can be for students, teachers, and communities. For more information about the program and winners, please visit www.nassp.org/poy.

Enrique Cerna:
It's a deal. That was the announcement this week from Seattle City Council negotiators as they reached a more acceptable agreement with investor Chris Hansen to build an arena in the Sodo district, that could bring back the Sonics and the NBA to Seattle. Now, this deal amends the earlier memorandum of agreement between Chris Hansen, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Hansen has now agreed to put up a $40 million transportation fund that's intended to mitigate traffic concerns raised by the port of Seattle and others in the Sodo area. A security reserve has been doubled to $30 million. This is in case arena finances do not perform as expected. The city would be first in line to be paid by that reserve. There is also a $7 million key arena fund for immediate upgrades for that facility. Joining me now to talk more about the negotiations of this arena deal is Seattle City Council president Sally Clark. Well, your colleague on the council, Tim Burgess says we got it all. Do you feel that way?

Sally Clark:
It's interesting. Tim, that was a question we got at the press conference, and Tim tossed that off, of course, we got it all. We had a really tough set of negotiations with Mr. Hansen. He was a good person to negotiate with. He got requests we were asking, he got the intent. When he didn't, he would look at us like we were crazy and we would try to explain ourselves better. Did we get it all? We got the core things of what we had hoped to get. Could we have pressed further? You never know when something's going to break.

Cerna:
Take me through these negotiations. We talked at the end of may when this first came to the front. And at that time, you know, you were kind of careful about what you said.

Clark:
Yeah.

Cerna:
And looking at this whole thing. And I think maybe all the council members were in that same area, because, it's like, is this too good to be true? Obviously, some things have changed. But when did the negotiations on this really start and give me some walk through on this.

Clark:
So the end of July is when we sent a letter to Mr. Hansen. There were eight council members who signed the letter saying, good offer. Really want to respect what you're stepping forward to do in the city. And here, after peeling through it, after having a number of conversations at the committee table, and here are our concerns. And there were three areas. First, the area of financial protections, for me and for my colleagues, making sure this deal never touches the city's general fund. General fund is what pays for police, libraries, pea patches, community centers, you name it. And that was fundamental. And I think Mr. Hansen got that too. His original proposal was not about general fund, it is all about using the taxes generated from the project to pay for the project. So we talked about financial protections. Secondly, we talked about the impacts and the long standing problems in that greater sodo area. This is a challenging place to try to put it.

Cerna:
Traffic.

Clark:
Traffic is a big deal. So one of the things that we have here as a result of this deal is taking not just 100 percent of the tax revenues and using it to pay down the debt on the arena to the benefit of the private occupant, but to take a portion of those tax revenues and say, we're going to try and solve some long standing problems here. $40 million when is a start. It's what we use to seed funding in order to have freight and traffic move better through Sodo. And the third area, and frankly for me this is the toughest one, what does a new arena mean to Seattle and to the Key Arena? And that one is a tougher one because we need to do some studies and figure out whether Key Arena, whether this new arena happens or not, Key Arena, does it have a future? What does it do for Seattle Center? And what's the best answer for Seattle Center.

Cerna:
And that's going to be a big question mark going through this.

Clark:
Big. We got some study money set aside here. We'll be looking at how to carry that out next year. And I think all the answers are on the table. You could have the study reveal and say Key Arena should continue as a performance spot, it's great. You could have everything all the way Key Arena served its life and it's done and we should talk about something different for that piece of property.

Cerna:
Since you have reached this agreement, what have you heard from the port, from others, who are still skeptical about the traffic concerns, Maritime area, and there. But also, about killing Key Arena.

Clark:
Yeah. Not surprisingly, some of the folks who have been the harshest critics or skeptics of the proposal, they have had some kind things to say about what we've been able to secure in this table and some of the financial protections and some of the beginnings in terms of starting on traffic issues. But the Mariners and the port and longshore and some of the others are going to remain skeptical. And I don't blame them for that. This is a tough proposal and we need to really buckle down to make it work. And I think this proposal that was voted out of committee just yesterday actually and goes to the full council on the 24th, I think it answers a lot of those questions. But for a lot of those folks, it's going to be prove it. Prove that your transportation infrastructure fund is going to make something happen.

Cerna:
In essence here, it was very clear before you went into the negotiations, when you looked at everything and said, okay, well, looks good, but not enough. You came back to Mr. Hansen and said you got to put up more money here. How did that go over?

Clark:
Um, about as you might expect. When any of us are asked to pony up more. Originally, you go with either, you go with one of two answers, no or why. And Mr. Hansen had both of those answers. And that was fine. We should be able to justify why we want to change the deal and what it accomplishes for us and why it's a better deal for the city of Seattle. And I think we made that case to him.

Cerna:
How did that end up coming about then, I guess, or what was your sense of him in being able to say, okay, here's, I got this deal, okay, I'm going to have to pony up some more. And he's got some other investors with him, some big names.

Clark:
Yep.

Cerna:
But what was your sense of why he was willing to do all that?

Clark:
Yeah. I think this is going to sound strange, it's not particularly a business reason. Obviously, he's a business guy. And there will be money made in this deal for many people, including Mr. Hansen. That's true. It's gonna happen. I don't think that's why he has stepped forward to propose this, though. And this is very, this is subjective, is in a gut little thing for me. He's a business guy. Ultimately, he plans on doing well with this. I think he's actually being honest when he says that he loves basketball, he loved basketball in Seattle as a kid, and what it felt like, and what it meant to him, and what he felt it meant to the community. I don't think that that is hokum coming from him. I think that's genuine.

Cerna:
Got about a minute left here. This is not a done deal really.

Clark:
No.

Cerna:
I mean it's kind of feel good right now, but there is more, more of a road to go. You got to get the council has to approve this, county council, probably those people that are skeptical out there about everything are still going to be raising their concerns. Something could happen?

Clark:
You know, the big thing that's coming up, and one of the things that actually swayed me to ultimately support this was that we are not going to engage in what are called transaction documents, the final pieces of paper, until after the environmental impact statement is done. The size of this potential project triggers SEPA and environmental checklists. It will have to go through an EIS. And that's where you start comparing other locations like key arena and what are fatal flaws.

Cerna:
Did you go have a beer yesterday?

Clark:
I did not. We still have some other things. I think I'll abstain from having a beer with Mr. Hansen this time.

Cerna:
Maybe next time.

Clark:
Maybe.

Cerna:
We'll see what happens.

Clark:
Thank you, Enrique.

Enrique Cerna:
Trevor Greene is the principal at Toppenish High School in central Washington. Last Thursday, he got a huge surprise.[APPLAUSE] As he walked into the school gym, he was greeted by the entire student body, school administration, State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, his family, and a representative of the national association of secondary school principals, to let him know that he'd been selected as the 2012 National High School Principal of the Year. And Trevor Greene is with me now to talk about this tremendous honor as the National High School Principal of the Year. Congratulations.

Trevor Greene:
Thank you very much.

Cerna:
I got to ask you this. So how does a principal, I imagine you're a bit of a control freak around your school, knowing what's always going on, how does he get lured into an assembly with all of the students and state school superintendent there, and others, and a gaggle of cameras, and he doesn't snow that something's up.

Greene:
That was pulled off by our superintendent John Cerna.

Cerna:
The guy has a good last name, by the way.

Greene:
Yeah, he does. He scheduled a team meeting for our building principals, and we met and had some conversations about some new evaluation systems for teachers. And we took a break to go take a photo. And that's when we went to the high school and the surprise happened.

Cerna:
And were you surprised?

Greene:
I was, I was, yeah.

Cerna:
What did it mean to you to have this honor bestowed upon you? You actually knew that you were in the running, you had been nominated.

Greene:
Correct.

Cerna:
You had to go back and go through a bit of a presentation.

Greene:
Oh, yes. I was very humbled to be nominated as the principal for our region. And then when I was the state winner, it was beyond belief. And so the nomination for the national level was just icing on the cake. And this is a dream come true right here. What it means to me is validation for our town, for our school, our community, the work of our staff and our students, and the vision of our student. For me, it's an award for all of us. [APPLAUSE]

Cerna:
Let's talk about Toppenish. Tell me about the community and the school district that make up the challenges, but what you're also doing.

Greene:
Well, we're located in south central Washington on the edge of wine country and agriculture is big. We have a high migrant population. Transitional bilingual, both around 20%. We're 85% Hispanic, 10% Native American, so over 95% minority, and over 99% free and reduced lunch. So we have all the reasons for not being successful according to the quote unquote experts. But in spite of that, our teachers, our community, we don't worry about barriers. We strive to take what we have and make the best out of it.

Cerna:
Now, one of the things, I know that you have put a real emphasis on and the district itself is stem. Science, technology.

Greene:
Yes.

Cerna:
Trying to bring that to the young people there. And also to get them to grow, to think about a life maybe in science and engineering and technology. Tell me about what you're doing.

Greene:
Well, in the next five years, Boeing has announced that they're going to have 30,000 jobs that go unfilled in the state of Washington because we don't have qualified people to fill those jobs. So the jobs will be there if we can convince our students of the importance of math and science. Stem, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, has just blossomed at the high school as a way of actually practicing what they do in science and math, the traditional science and math class, and put it into the real world application. So we don't, we don't supplant any of our courses in math and say you're taking engineering, so you don't have to take math. Instead, it accompanies the math courses, and students are giving up their electives to be involved in principles of engineering, intro to engineering design, civil and architectural engineering, and other things.

Cerna:
How are you doing this? Because, you know, when I was in junior high and high school, the whole idea of science or math and these types of things, I wasn't all that strong in it. I think there are some people that have the brain for it. Others maybe like me who really didn't think they had the ability to do it. But how do you get those young people to then suddenly decide, okay, I'm interested in this, how do you make it interesting, and the type of thing they can learn?

Greene:
I have to give a lot of credit to the curriculum that we're using. We use a program called project lead the way. And it's been developed by experts in their field. And it's very engaging, very hands on, collaborative. It promotes the activity that students, I believe, seek in a class. So instead of sitting and listening to a lecture, they're actually engaged in building things, hands on, project based learning. So it speaks highly of the program itself.

Cerna:
The idea of getting them involved and actually maybe having fun as they learn?

Greene:
That's it, that's it, yes.

Cerna:
I understand the robotics has been something that you guys have been doing.

Greene:
Our robotics actually has been an after school program. So the other great reason that we've been successful is the staff that we have. And I have some fantastic teachers that have caught the vision and decided to develop it into a massive program. And they were the ones that came to me and said we'd like to start a robotics after school club. They won their first competition in central Washington, in Yakima. And advanced to the international competition in Anaheim this last year. And it was a great experience. 12 of them flew out. 12 students that many had never flown before or left the state in some cases. So it's been some great be experiences for our students.

Cerna:
One of our big challenges today is the drop out rate, and the drop out rate among minority youth, particularly Latino youth is very high, 50% I think. What are you trying to do to reach those young people to say, look, I need to stay in high school, I need to get done here, I need to think about going to college.

Greene:
Well, we're doing several things to connect with the students and help them catch the vision of what is possible. We have a graduation specialist who works very closely with the students that are at risk and meeting with the parents and my assistant principal and I also meet with the families also. We have a program called Renaissance, which is a student recognition program that was brought to our district, our student John Cerna had promoted that district wide this year. So it recognizes students, not just the quote unquote royal family, the cheerleaders, the football players, but it's students that actually move from one level to the next. Let's say an increase in attendance, or if they're failing two classes, they reduce it to one. Or they improve their GPA by .05. Anything that we can celebrate with students, we do. So that's another great thing that we're doing. And then we have an advisory program. So we have a cohort of 24 students, when they come in as freshmen, that are tied to a teacher, and they meet daily for their entire four years of high school. And they'll go to that teacher their sophomore year, junior year, and senior year, and stay with the same group of students.

Cerna:
And now with this honor, how do you want to use it, I guess.

Greene:
I certainly want to promote our school, our community, our vision collectively, but I'm happy to be a spokesperson for many of the issues that affect education and the principles.

Cerna:
Well, thank you for sharing your vision and your story. And congratulations on that great award. And that is a beautiful, beautiful trophy there.

Greene:
Yeah.

Cerna:
And you are the national high school principal of the year. Congratulations. And thank you for your time.

Greene:
Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you.

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09/09/12

Trevor Greene is an exceptional person, educator, and leader. Faculty at WSU are so proud to be associated with Trevor and applaud his wonderful accomplishment. As per his personality and humility, he will credit others, but leadership does matter and Trevor is a "true leader!" Congratulations to someone who makes us all proud to be in his company.

Gene Sharratt, WSU

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