Licton Springs K-8

Licton Springs


History of Licton Springs

In 2013, Pinehurst K-8 School came together with Native community organization to build a partnership that combines a Native-centered curriculum with Pinehurst’s experience-based, multicultural, social justice education. Now this partnership upholds a new name: Licton Springs K-8 School.

Proposal of merge to School Board in November 2013 can be viewed here:

Native Heritage AS1 Proposal

Partnership from the Past to the Present: Carving Cultural Connections
Generations of students and Haida Master Carver, Saaduuts Peele, partner as a canoe family to carve the Cedar Canoe, Seahawkendai.

Saaduuts continues his work with Licton Springs K-8. Students in Maggie Staveley’s 3rd and 4th grade class learn the traditional work around carving miniature paddles. Students diligently sanded, meticulously painted designs, and wrote proudly of their finished paddles and about their experiences.

AS#1/Pinehurst K-8 History

“We Will Listen” By Shawn Morgan, with information from Margie (Walker) Edwards and the AS#1 archives

Based in Activism

The idea for a public alternative school in Seattle came from parents and teachers involved in small, private free schools founded here in the 1960’s. In March, 1970 these activists and others from the public schools formed the New School Movement (NSM), with one of its goals being the establishment of a publicly supported free school.

However, NSM’s free school proposal to the Seattle School Board was turned down. The explanation: “No money.” According to Margie Walker (who started teaching at AS#1 in March 1972), the NSM decided to not take “No” for an answer. For one and a half months the members lobbied, protested, organized sit-ins at administration headquarters, and pulled their children out of the public schools. The activism led to permission being granted for a pilot project called the “Alternative Elementary School (AES).”

AS#1 (as AES) opened its doors in the fall of 1970 in the old Martha Washington building on the shore of Lake Washington. The three teachers had $1751 for the year’s expenses, no support staff, and four virtually empty classrooms. As of April, 1971 the school enrolled 84 students, ages 5 to 12, transported from all over the city by parent carpools. About 11% of students were African-American.

A Free School

During the first year, parents and staff developed a statement of goals and principles. The cornerstone was “We will listen to our children, and we will adapt our systems to them.” The needs of the children were to be paramount. Other goals were to help children develop their own values and decision making in areas of importance to them; provide a variety of experiences in an enriched environment; attend to the whole child; foster equal partnerships of students, staff, and parents using the talents of each; and to welcome persons of varied economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Valuing joyfulness, the founders took as their starting point  A.S. Neill’s Summerhill school, expecting to develop this philosophy over time.

Unusual freedom was granted to the new program. Superintendent Forbes Bottomly guaranteed that “A parents’ committee will provide consensus for such matters as personnel, facilities and curriculum development,” and that the program should have “as much autonomy as is feasible within the public school structure.” AES was even exempted from the district’s standardized testing schedule.

Involvement of Teachers and Parents

The AES teachers that first year were Joe Sherman, Ken Tauscher, and “Hair” (later King County Superior Court Judge Harriet Cody). Their statements in the 1971 district evaluation report make interesting reading.

Teachers wore many different hats: counselor, budget planner, janitor, supply scrounger, and volunteer coordinator. They taught and played with kids all day, and then attended school meetings late into the night. Volunteer and parent energy was astounding, averaging 40 volunteers and 24 parents per week, for a weekly average of 264 hours! The record shows that over a four-month period, AES adults led about 50 off-campus field trips. Staff worked with informal groups of 8 to 12 students, paying particular attention to interpersonal process and conflict resolution. Accounts of early AES members show creativity, enthusiasm, and excitement, along with doubts about whether there would be enough energy and ability to keep it all going.

The freedom was real: it is said that some students weren’t seen again after the first day, apparently spending the year exploring the woods and fishing in the lake. However, gradually staff did start to limit students’ “needs” to be aggressive.

Evaluation of the Project

In the spring of 1971 the district assigned an evaluator, Henry Reed, to study how well the school was meeting its goals. Reed’s “Interim Report” highlighted the differences between AES and other district schools:

  • Parent involvement in decision-making
  • Evolving, unstructured curriculum
  • Heavy use of community resources, including volunteers
  • Emphasis on curriculum based only upon needs as perceived by the students

Reed tried to keep his assessment methods true to the spirit of the school—observational, personal, and flexible. Enthusiastic about the innovations in parent involvement, he recommended they be adopted by other district schools. However, Reed expressed concerns about students’ physical safety, for example, on field trips. He also found “particular weaknesses in the teaching of basic skills,” which he attributed to a lack of instructional materials and teacher experience (none of the teachers had previously taught in the primary grades). He recommended that the ideal size of the school continue to be 85 students or less.

The Second Year: Freedom or Structure?

Major changes occurred in the second school year of 1971-1972. The district sold the Martha Washington building, and AES was forced to move into condemned quarters at the Old Maple school (now demolished). Originally built in 1909, the Old Maple building had been physically transported in 1926 to 5320 17th AVE S. The exterior had not been painted for 25 years, and boards covered its upper floor windows. Margie recounts that visitors often just drove past because they thought the building was abandoned.

The district appointed Joe Sherman as AES’s first program manager, leading to dissension about whether he or the parent steering committee had authority to make program decisions. Also, some parents were getting skittish about lack of student supervision, gang-like behavior among some children, and whether students were acquiring basic academic skills. Other parents remained strong supporters of full freedom.

During a series of meetings in January 1972, teachers, parents, and children voted on whether to require children to sign up for and attend scheduled classes in reading and math. According to Margie, shouting matches, name-calling, and even possibly a fistfight marked the proceedings, which ended with the new requirements being approved by a slim 51% majority.

Not surprisingly, implementation was rocky. Margie remembers one student standing on top of a table in the middle of her lesson shouting, “I can do anything I want—this is a free school!” (He later became a doctoral student in mathematics.) Not surprisingly, students acted out the conflicts of their elders. By the end of the school year it was clear that issues needed to be rethought, and many more meetings were held, including five to six neighborhood groups each month.

Teams and Core Groups

A new plan, achieved this time by consensus, was put into place by the end of 1972. Children were assigned to core groups called “mushrooms,” which included some presentation of basic skills. Kids could visit other groups but were supposed to inform their home teacher of their whereabouts. Attention to lessons continued to be elective. Teams were set up for younger, middle and older students. All the staff that had been hired by the program manager were fired and rehired by the steering committee. By the end of the second year the youthful staff included only one teacher over the age of 27.

The History Continues

Through many fights for survival in the ensuing years, AS#1 has endured and grown stronger. AES eventually become AS#1, added middle school students, and tripled in size, but the emphasis on nurturing, flexible, multi-age schooling remains. Experiential education–with its emphasis on challenging experiences, social responsibility, and reflection–is a newer part of our identity. Students at AS#1 are free from grades and labels, and take few or no quizzes or tests. AS#1 administers the WASL and other state/district mandated tests but many families choose to opt out of these measures.

With an increasing desire for supervision and safety, some freedom and individuality have been lost. Still, AS#1 remains the haven for freedom in K-8 teaching and learning in the Seattle School District. Many did not give AS#1 a chance to survive its first year; instead, other alternative schools have since formed off its long student waiting lists. In spite of shortsighted external pressures for standardization and “rigor,” the AS#1 tradition continues: alternative and reliant on kids’ evolving needs.

Important Dates in AS#1 History

Martha Washington  (1970-1972)

1970 – The New School Movement in Seattle leads to AS#1 opening at the Martha Washington site, with 85 students.

1971 – Joe Sherman appointed first program manager.

Old Maple (1972-1982)

1972 – Move to Old Maple building.

1978 to 1981 – Struggles with district about whether AS#1 will move and where.

Bailey Gatzert (1982-1984)    

1982 – Move to Bailey-Gatzert building (with three other programs). Agreement on testing freedom reached with district.

Pinehurst    (1984-2014)

1984 – Move to Pinehurst.

1988 – Fight over district’s proposal to consolidate small schools.

1989 – Ron Snyder hired as program manager. 89 students enrolled.

1991 – AS#1 changes from a program to a school.

1992 – Five-Year Plan developed.
         -Rites of Passage Program started

1994 – Urban Habitat garden installed.

1996 – Fight to keep all-city status and busing. Desegregation busing ends.

1997 – Mandated enrollment increase from 180 to 220 students.

1998 – District move to neighborhood school attendance and open-choice. Mandated enrollment increase to 250. Hedge maze and big playground climber created. Student government organized.

2000 – Younger kids’ playground and grass areas created.

2001 – New vision and mission statements adopted.

2009 – District discontinues all district bussing.

2010 – Roy Merca becomes principal

2011 – School name changed from AS#1 to Pinehurst K-8

Lincoln    (2014-2017)

2014 – Program combines with the Native Heritage program. School name changed from Pinehurst K-8 to Licton Springs K-8 (to reflect future program location within the rebuilt Wil-Pac building). Moved to temporary location at the renovated south wing at the Lincoln Building.

Eagle Staff @ Wilson Pacific – (2017-2020)

2017 – Relocate to Wilson Pacific Site (now named Robert Eagle Staff Middle School)

Webster    (2020-present)

2020 – school moved to The Webster Building in the Ballard neighborhood

Quotes from the Early Years

[The goal is for the student to obtain] an education meaningful to himself, in an atmosphere of acceptance, grace, and respect.
Alternative School Steering Committee, 1970

An alternative school is a school which provides a response to parents who think that the regular school program is too restrictive, too structured and too highly evaluative for the learning styles of their children.

These parents want a school program which allows teachers the freedom to explore with children many learning routes and to choose their own instructional techniques. They want a school which provides all children with a feeling of being unconditionally accepted without being sorted according to ability or grades or other arbitrary measures that cause children to feel either inadequate or superior to others. They ask for an educational environment which will permit a greater degree of self-direction, internal discipline and creative expression on the part of children than the traditional program of studies allows.
Forbes Bottomly, Seattle Schools Superintendent, 1970

Upon entering the Alternative School, one is face-to-face with motion, activity, noise, hard work, hard play, enthusiasm, and disorder. Depending on the observer’s orientation, either the enthusiasm or the disorder will be the first thing noticed. Pupils are either in small groups or alone…The structure of time during the day varies with the exception of films, reading classes, and group meetings which are presented on a regular daily schedule. However, these meetings are left to the voluntary attendance of pupils.

[AS#1 is] a model for parent involvement in the process of education. Nowhere else in the Seattle Schools is there as large an amount of parent involvement, as sincere communication between parents, teachers, and pupils, or as much actual direct parental control over school policy.
Henry J. Reed, evaluator, 1971

My experience in the school is powerful. The feelings of community with those involved are genuine and lasting. Openness and change are two of the important ingredients of the school.
Joe Sherman, teacher, 1971

The man-hours consumed for this job are becoming superhuman tasks and are very wearing on the mental and physical health and well being of myself and my family.
Margot Larson, full-time volunteer, 1971

[I] eat occasionally, sleep rarely and dream a lot. I am very happy.
Harriet Cody, teacher, 1971