Washington Official Gets an Earful at Everett

Secretary Sean Donovan (far left) and Mayor Edwin Lee listen to students and teachers at Everett. Photo by Andra Cernavskis

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Laura Pogio, an 8th grader at Everett Middle School who lives in the Mission, told U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Tuesday that she thinks transportation is the hardest thing about school.

She takes Muni the 1.6 miles from her home at Harrison and 24th streets to Everett at Church and 17th, but generally arrives late. She wants better transportation.

Secretary Donvan light-heartedly told Pogio that he would bring that request back to President Obama, but then added in a more serious tone, “Those are the kinds of ideas we want to hear.”

While it is unlikely that Donovan or the President can do much about Pogio’s immediate problem, he heard more.

“We do have a big problem with tardiness to first period,” Principal Lena Van Haren told the Washington visitor, adding that this often has to do with transportation problems.

Secretary Donovan and Mayor Ed Lee stopped by Everett because it is receiving funding from a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. Among other things, the grant is meant to improve services at Mission schools and the ways in which social service agencies interact with the schools.

On Tuesday, Donovan and Lee sat around a table in the school’s library with about 20 students and teachers to talk about the school’s success and challenges. The school is in its final semester of funding from a three-year, $4.5 million School Improvement Grant. The boost from that grant gave officials and students plenty to say about their recent progress.

Everett has moved up 40 points in the Academic Performance Index, making it the most improved school in the city for the past year, according to Mayor Lee. Principal Van Haren, however, pointed out that the school’s test scores remain below the district’s average.

Most of the students responded to Secretary Donovan’s inquiries about the school by saying that they loved their teachers, describing them as helpful and friendly.

Kayla Rash, an 8th grader at the school who lives in the Sunset, said that the school’s Wellness Center is her favorite part of Everett.

“You can go to the Wellness Center for bullying or if you have problems at home,” she said.

Principal Van Haren said that some of the new federal grant will go towards further improving the center.

Litzy Tacuba, an 8th grader who lives in the Mission, said she’s noticed that a lot of Latinos have left her neighborhood.

“Mission has changed a lot. Now there are a lot of white people. I used to see more Latinos. It’s more expensive now because of white people, so we have to move out and come farther for school,” Tacuba said.

President Obama, Donovan said, is trying to create more affordable housing in the neighborhood so that Latino and lower income families would not have to move out. He mentioned the Valencia Gardens housing project, which first went up 66 years ago and was rebuilt in 2004. 

Mayor Lee acknowledged that “There’s gentrification, and people are being pushed out” and added that “the city wants their families to stay.” He did not elaborate on how this would happen.

Following the visit at Everett, Secretary Donovan and Mayor Lee toured the Valencia Gardens housing project, which they considered to be a successful example of affordable housing. Valencia Gardens, like Everett, has also received some of the new innovation and improvement grant.

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  1. landline

    The responses from Mayor Lee and Secretary Donovan are laughable.

    Lee’s economic policies promote gentrification and then he feigns horror that it actually adversely affects people. Crocodile tears.

    Donovan points to a project completed almost a decade ago as an accomplishment for his boss? A project that reduced the number of units affordable to the poorest residents of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Obama cuts funding for housing subsidies, zeroed out funding for public housing and pushes for the privatization of public education to enrich his cronies and patrons like the Pritzger family. Shameless.

    • Chris

      Are there any actual stats on how many people have been forced out of their homes in recent years? Is ethnic cleansing actually occurring in the neighborhood?

      • landline

        The rent board tracks Ellis Act evictions, up 60% this year. As far as I know, no one keeps track of people who leave at the first eviction notice or first instance of landlord harassment because they are ignorant of their rights or scared to assert them. Same with statistics on people who take buyouts under duress or under threat of Ellis Act eviction.

        “You don’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows.” You don’t need statistics to see the economic and demographic changes in the Mission.

  2. randolph mortimer

    “It’s more expensive now because of white people, so we have to move out and come farther for school.”

    Racism begins at home, folks.

    • Mission Lover

      She expressed her honest opinion, the truth. This is not about racism, she is speaking facts. Theory, not hypothesis.

      • Blurpy

        I know plenty of Asians (from India & China, for starters) that work in tech and have moved into the Mission, paying top dollar for housing.

        Good thing they were spared Tacuba’s honest opinion, eh?

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