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Old 08-23-2011, 09:47 AM
 
Location: Flagstaff AZ
8 posts, read 24,987 times
Reputation: 10

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Hello everyone,

As the title indicates our family is moving to the Seattle area by the end of the year. We came to visit in April and knew very quickly that we found 'home'.

I have been quietly reading threads about the area for a while now and am very thankful for the information. There are some things that still confuse me and hope to get some clarification.

First, we have children who will start school in the near future and naturally we are looking at school districts as well. We know where the 'good' and the 'bad' ones are. But what makes up a bad school district? I have a few websites I found helpful and some of these 'bad' school districts have very good school ratings. So why is it bad? Is it because those towns and suburbs are not as glamorous? I am mostly speaking of Renton, Burien and Des Moines.

Second, when we came to visit I had my city-data info in hand and we made it a point to go to all the areas we are interested in. Since I was looking for a euro-type lifestyle I was very happy to have found something very close to that. We have lived in Texas and Arizona - do I need to say more? Now, my question. None of the areas we visited were bad or run down. We went to all the high-end neighborhoods and also the 'less desirable' ones. Why is it that the south end of Seattle has a bad reputation? I couldn't find a lot of bad things and believe me I was looking for it. We would love to find a house and neighborhood that is walkable and has a few shops. However, we are not the family who runs up credit cards to impress the neighbors with our new project.
We liked Ballard a lot but I don't want to scratch off towns like Burien because of a reputation that might not be justified.

I'd love to get some feedback from you. Since I am German I can handle brutal honesty as long as it is truthful and not opinionated.

Thanks so much
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:27 AM
 
9,618 posts, read 27,342,201 times
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Most people reading this are going to disagree with me here, but the reason the south end of Seattle( and those towns south of Seattle) has a bad reputation is because the areas are more ethnically and economically mixed. In other words, people dismiss these areas because there are poor people and black people around.
The crime rates aren't bad in those places. Ballard has a much higher crime rate than Burien. But there are small parts of Renton, Burien, and Des Moines that are run down. If you're familiar with slums in places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles,Houston, Philadelphia, etc, Seattle's "run down" areas seem like nice middle class places. But if 5% of an area is run down, the entire area is dismissed as "ghetto" because someone drove through there and saw a black person, or heard something on the news, or who knows?
About schools and school districts:
Some people look at test scores, and decide that's what makes a school or school district good. That has a little bit of merit. The test results show what percentage of the kids in a particular grade passed it. It might show that in 4th grade, 90% of the kids on Mercer Island passed. It might show that in Burien ( Highline school district), only 25% passed. What this means is that in some schools in the Highline district, classroom time is devoted to the majority of the student's needs, and since many are below average, the above average students aren't given as much opportunity as in a place like Mercer Island.
That's where more information is necessary. Not all the schools in a school district are the same. I might try to avoid a school where only 25% of the kids pass the assessment tests, because they are going to be catering to the lowest common denominator, but what if there were other schools in that same district where 75% of the students passed? Should you avoid that town entirely because it has some terrible schools, and some pretty good ones? What if the pretty good school is loved by parents and students and has a lot of community and parent involvement?
I'm not sure that there are any pretty good schools in the Tukwila district, but Renton, and Kent, Des Moines, and Burien all have some good schools. They also have bad schools.
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Old 08-23-2011, 01:24 PM
 
Location: Flagstaff AZ
8 posts, read 24,987 times
Reputation: 10
Thank you for the helpful info. It kind of makes sense that 'bad' areas are labeled as such because of the diversity. When we visited we tried to talk to as many locals as we possibly could to get as much insight as we could. A couple of times people referred us to the 'vanilla' neighborhoods. It took us a minute to figure out what was meant by 'vanilla'. I had never heard that term.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:17 PM
 
Location: Greater Seattle, WA Metro Area
1,930 posts, read 6,535,543 times
Reputation: 907
One other thing to consider on schooling is that increasingly donations to PTSA's and levy campaigns (special votes in a school district for funding) are needed to support even basic needs in a school district as federal and state cuts to education dominate the educational environment. We stretched our budget to afford the Issaquah School District and are thankful we did. Even in a down economy the levy votes passed. From what I see in the local PTSA's the parents are willing to step up to raise money in many different creative ways to fund basics like art and science. That would be something I'd look for in a school district. There are many two income families in Issaquah and I am always amazed at the full time working parents who step up to help out or even the part time or stay at home parents that are able to volunteer (and do) like it's a full time job. It does take a village and I'd make sure the village I chose was committed to education.

You might also check out crime statistics in the areas you are looking at...

Crime Statistics
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:47 PM
 
604 posts, read 1,521,652 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slimlilly View Post
Thank you for the helpful info. It kind of makes sense that 'bad' areas are labeled as such because of the diversity. When we visited we tried to talk to as many locals as we possibly could to get as much insight as we could. A couple of times people referred us to the 'vanilla' neighborhoods. It took us a minute to figure out what was meant by 'vanilla'. I had never heard that term.

I duno if diversity itself makes an area bad. Much of the east side and Bellevue has a high population of Asians. And the school districts there are stellar.

I think the reason areas south of Seattle have such a bad rap is the fact that it tends to be lower income. Places like South Seattle, Renton, Des Moines, and Burien are simply not as nice.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:20 PM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, 615' Elevation, Zone 8b - originally from SF Bay Area
44,585 posts, read 81,186,228 times
Reputation: 57821
The well educated professionals in this area are very concerned about their kid's education. Look at the success of private schools such as Eastside Catholic which built a new campus in Sammamish, and charges close to $20,000 a year tuition. Bellevue, Mercer Island, and to a certain extent Issaquah and Lake WA schools are better because of the amount of
parental involvement and cash they give the schools. The areas the OP is considering are more diverse economically as well as ethnically.

That also means diversity in the importance of education, and whether to help their local schools. A few carry all the weight but it's too much of a burden and eventually the parents of better students move to areas with better schools.

The eastside is actually very diverse with many residents from India and Asia, and lately Europeans coming to work for Microsoft. For them education is a high priority and they are doing well economically and are almost all willing to make sacrifices to help their schools educate their kids better.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:58 PM
 
Location: Capital Hill
1,599 posts, read 3,133,759 times
Reputation: 850
There really isn't very much wrong with Burien. It would be classified as 'blue collar'. Which means they are ordenary working class people, -not snobs. Many people who work at Boeing or the Seatac Airport live in this area. There are some very nice surrounding areas of Burien, like Normandy Park, Des Moines, Three Tree Pt., and Sea View. You can get very beautiful Westward views of the Sound and the Olympic Mts. The is also absolutely nothing wrong with the Highland Public Schools in that area. It's also quite woodsy. Just don't buy a home too close to the airport, or White Center, is all. Edmonds to the North is also excellent. Now, if you want 'German', move to Levenworth, WA. They made that town a chique little 'German' village just over the pass. But, you may get the impression it's 'phony', just for the tourists, which it is, but it's a fun place to go anyway, specially for their October Fest.
Someone metioned 'The German Heratige Society' on First Hill. It's been there for many years. My son-in-law's mother sings in their music group. They should be very helpful.









































moderator interpose: to all participants in this thread-- please remember that our rules state that posts have to be in English only. If you'd like to have a discussion or would like to give suggestions to the OP in German, please use a Direct Message. Thanks.

Last edited by scirocco22; 08-24-2011 at 12:08 AM..
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Old 08-24-2011, 09:07 AM
 
Location: Flagstaff AZ
8 posts, read 24,987 times
Reputation: 10
Thank you for all of your replies. They are very helpful and we do take every suggestion serious. I do feel nervous and don't want to make the wrong decision. I guess we have a lot of work to do.

Thank you also for the German link. I've already made contact with another German group which is very exciting.
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Old 03-14-2023, 01:45 AM
 
808 posts, read 541,858 times
Reputation: 2291
Quote:
Originally Posted by slimlilly View Post
what makes up a bad school district? I have a few websites I found helpful and some of these 'bad' school districts have very good school ratings. So why is it bad?
You've had some good answers. Another thing to consider is the community. I've been in many different neighborhoods during my decades in the Seattle area. There are some communities that have a very high tolerance for crime and disruptive behaviour. The kids are distruptive and disrespectful. You don't want to live in those areas. I haven't done a deep dive into the various neighborhoods in South Seattle, but look at the retail stores - do they look like they are protecting themselves from thieves? Do the residents throw their trash on the ground? Are the lawns well-maintained? Is there graffiti around?
My nephew complained loudly about gangs in his Federal Way school.
I moved from Seattle to Bellevue after my daughter's Grade One experience - the teachers were mean, the kids were rude and disruptive.
In Bellevue, the PTSA meetings were mostly moms organizing phone trees and working on fund-raising activities. I attended only one meeting in Seattle, whcih was nothing but parents literally screaming at the people at the font of the room who were stoically waiting for the meeting to end so they could leave.
The schools are a reflection of the community. When I lived in the Central Area, I could not believe the noise and disruption in the middle of the night. I even had someone knock on my door at 1 in the morning, asking for a hand-out! There is no way that kind of behaviour would be tolerated in most of Seattle.



Quote:
Originally Posted by slimlilly View Post
Why is it that the south end of Seattle has a bad reputation? ... I don't want to scratch off towns like Burien because of a reputation that might not be justified.
Get out and walk around. Walk into the businesses, visit the Library. Do you feel welcomed? Go to the grocery stores. There is a HUGE difference in groceries in the different neighborhoods. If you like organic, wholesome food, you don't want to have to drive for forty minutes to get to a store that carries what you want.
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Old 03-14-2023, 01:21 PM
 
Location: Seattle
1,883 posts, read 2,080,651 times
Reputation: 4894
This thread is from 2011. The OP's kids are probably in college by now.
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