Bill Keller back on his feet
I’m very glad to say that this morning’s committee meeting started on a positive note: Acting Superintendent of Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Christopher Williams updated us on the progress of Bill Keller, the Executive Director of the Associated Recreational Council (ARC), who was shot on March 8. Not only is Bill home from the hospital but walking around his neighborhood, up to six blocks at a time. He is also preparing a triumphal mid-April return to work, and we are all eagerly anticipating his comeback and holding him in our thoughts as he continues to heal.
Christopher also noted that we all want to express our huge appreciation to Christine Arcidy, Deputy Director of ARC. She has been holding everything together in his absence.
You can watch the committee meeting here: Christopher told us about his and the rest of the Parks Leadership Team’s response and actions in the 72 hours following the shooting; and a little bit about some of the preliminary lessons they’ve gleaned from the awful event, and how they’re going about learning more. It’s definitely worth a watch, and inspiring to be reminded, again, of what a dedicated community of people makes up our Department of Parks and Recreation.
Community trail projects at Cheasty Greenspace and FOLKpark
We asked Christopher for updates on a couple of community initiated projects: A mountain biking trail at Cheasty Greenspace and a trail connecting the off-leash dog park at Kinnear Park to the Amgen Double Helix Bridge across Elliott. Both proposed projects raise some vexing issues that won’t be resolved overnight.
In the case of Cheasty Greenspace, two groups of constituents have competing aims. A committed and enthused set of bike riders would like to see a mountain bike trail put in the natural area. On the other hand, a committed and enthused group of Parks volunteers has been working for years on restoring the natural area, pulling out blackberries and planting native species, attempting to help restore the city’s imperiled urban canopy. Mountain biking trails notoriously undermine the stability of slopes and hills, and the resulting erosion can create risk of landslides.
Parks, negotiating between these groups, plans to take the issue to the Park Board for consideration. Parks’ recommendation will be to establish best practices, criteria for site selection, and site standards for bike paths before selecting a final location.
In the case of FOLKpark, Christopher expressed appreciation for the community group that’s been so tireless at driving for activation of Kinnear Park. The newly opened off leash dog park appears to be getting a lot of use, and that draws people through other parts of the park.
Having a trail extend the park to the double helix bridge seems like an obvious great benefit, but unfortunately, it turns out the soil composition and the steepness of the slope in the area makes it prone to landslides. Christopher explained that Parks is doing its best to balance the needs of the community with the requirements of public safety and minimizing future liability to the city. The trail project was not funded by the Opportunity Fund this year, and Christopher is planning to bring the community members involved with FolkPARK together with the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Board so that they can discuss how the decision was made and what appropriate next steps might look like.
Teen Structured Programming Proposal
The bulk of our meeting was devoted to a discussion of DPR’s proposal for Structured Programming for Teens. They developed a response to Green Sheet 107-1-C-2, which Council passed during the 2012 budget process. Mayor McGinn proposed adding more hours to community centers. Though he often referred to teen programs, the additional hours were general and would have just kept the doors open. Council did not accept that add, and put a proviso on those funds ($176,091), asked DPR to come back with a proposal of how they would use those funds. Today’s presentation was about that proposal.
Parks focused on the programs in the Teen Unit, which is a unit in the Recreation Division. This division manages six teen programs that provide a diverse range of services that draw youth from throughout the city: Outdoor Opportunities (O2), Youth Employment and Service Learning (YESL), Teen Life Centers (TLC), Late Night Rec, and Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI).
Parks recommended that the provisoed funds be used to establish a pilot Youth Career Training Program (YCTP) in 2013. The Department will evaluate whether or not to continue the pilot as part of the 2014 budget process.
The pilot program will engage teens aged 14 to 19, in a variety of structured and stipend-based workforce preparedness experiences that incorporate job, life, and leadership-skills training.
YCTP will help increase the number of youth employment opportunities, address the need for workforce development, and support financial independence for youth in 2013. The program also aligns with the Mayor’s Jobs Plan, specifically on the investment in Seattle’s youth and young adults.
How the Program Works
YCTP will use the experiential learning methodology which applies newly attained job training and leadership and life skills (through the training Parks will offer) to real life situations (through the work experience Parks will offer).
The job training and leadership and life skills element will emphasize programming in the areas of pre-employment certification, youth teen advocacy, aquatics and tennis training, urban design and environmental learning, and education and college prep. Some examples would include lifeguard training for youth, first aid training, teaching forest restoration skills, GED courses, and college prep courses. YCTP may also provide technology training and web support training to assist in the design and update of a new Teen Web Portal.
The employment element of the YCTP program will includecommunity center front desk and Late Night support, pre-apprenticeship with Parks shops (carpentry, electrical, metal, paint, and plumbing), grounds maintenance support, truck crews support, ropes course facilitation, tennis and aquatic instruction, and trail restoration support.
YCTP work experiences will share a similar structure to YESL programs, offering 144 total program hours (25% training and 75% application) over six weeks during the summer or twelve weeks during the school year. YCTP participants will need to complete a minimum of 120 program hours to be eligible for the $599 stipend.
Program Goals and Performance Measures
DPR will evaluate the program’s success by establishing the following goals and performance measures. The performance measures are from the federal Workforce Investment Improvement Act, which provides a set of standard goals for measuring youth employment programs.
Each type of goal that is identified is equally important to the development of the individual, the effectiveness of the program for the individual, and the overall performance of the program.
The program will provide for the following:
- Attainment of basic skills, work readiness or occupational skills. All youth who are determined basic skills deficient must have a basic skill goal.
- Attainment of secondary school diplomas and their recognized equivalents (for example HSED, GED) before exiting the program.
- Placement and retention in post-secondary education, advanced training, military service employment, or qualified apprenticeships.
Parks proposed the following performance measures, which Council Central Staff approved but would also like to see slightly more refined, a process that Parks and Central Staff will work on together over the next couple weeks.
Skill Attainment Rate: measures the attainment of basic, work-readiness or occupational skills while receiving services with pre-and post program tests.
o Total number of basic skill goals + number of work readiness skills + number of occupational skills.
Diploma or Equivalent Attainment Rate: Of those who enter without a diploma or equivalent, measures the number of youth who receive one by the time they leave services. In-school youth that leave services and are still in school are excluded from this measure.
o Number of youth who attained a secondary diploma or equivalent within 6 months after completing the program.
Retention Rate: measures the proportion of youth that are in the following activities 6 months after they leave services:
- Post secondary education
- Advanced training
- Military service
- Qualified apprenticeships
In a final interesting twist, after yesterday’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee meeting, it seems that some of the Mayor’s funding for the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative that council placed a proviso on might be re-appropriated into these structured Parks programs. I’ll keep you up to date on that as I learn more.
Coming soon: Protecting public investment at Westlake Park and Magnuson Little League Fields
We’ve heard constituents expressing concern about a couple of issues, most particularly the fate of the little league fields at Magnuson Park and the damage already showing up early in the season to public property at Westlake Park, particularly the north end planters and the stage.
We asked Christopher to come to our next committee meeting prepared to talk to us about both of these issues. For Magnuson, he will walk us through the maps and bring us up to speed on planned field facilities and how the parking for the new tennis center and changes sought by Children’s Hospital are affecting the park. For Westlake, he will discuss possibilities for protecting the planters, including removing them, planting them with less vulnerable plantings, or looking for ways to redistribute resources so that Park Rangers and police are able to keep watch over the area.
Last but not least: We also approved the confirmation of two Park Board members today, which will go on to Full Council on Monday. I’m going to save my introductions of those two lovely individuals until after they’ve been formally confirmed, however, so you can expect to read more about them next week.
Finally, we learned with regret, but happiness for her, that wonderful Megan Heahlke, who has served on the Park Board for the past 18 months, has taken a very demanding job and is resigning from the Board. Megan, thank you for all your great work. We will miss you, and we wish you the very best!