The school has a very large number of emotionally, behaviorally, and learning challenged students, and it focuses its resources on them very strongly, to the significant detriment of average and gifted students.
The school's leaders have changed several times in the last few years, and it's hard to figure out where the school is going. There is a strong history in the teachers and parents that is so nonconformist that it is sometimes malcontent and unnecessarily anti-establishment, and the leadership has a tough job trying to make it a place of healthy academic learning rather than a place of indoctrination into the protest everything culture. We'll see how it goes but meanwhile my kid is getting a weak academic experience at school.
The school focuses its energies in developing character rather than academics. As a result the kids in this school are really nice kids for the most part. It's a much kinder environment than I went to school in, and this is good for now, but later I worry about the naivete this creates and the harsh realities of the real people out in the world that they will encounter some day.
My 7-year-old has attended Salmon Bay School for 3 years. Salmon Bay has strengths and weaknesses. Whether its unique strengths fit depends on your child's needs.
If your child is emotionally, behaviorally, or learning challenged, this is the school. If your child is academically gifted, it is not. Unless you're lucky enough to get one of the scarce spaces in the Spectrum program, you don't really have a much better option in the area. The Seattle School District puts its funding into priorities other than academic excellence, and it's a good place to be a teacher or administrator but not to be a student.
Here are my perceptions of strengths and weaknesses:
1. High priority and resources on emotionally, behaviorally, and learning challenged kids. Every effort is made to keep them embedded with the rest of the kids, and that is good for the challenged ones, and both good and bad for the rest.
2. Relatively strong commitment to PE. Was 5 days a week, now 4. Better than many.
3. If this is your thing, they have a relatively strong bias toward cultural activities and progressive/liberal/anti-establishment political awareness at school. If it's not your thing, this strong bias is a weakness and the indoctrination of your children will annoy you.
1. Very poor student teacher ratios. My daughter has had 26:1 for 3 years, K-2 grade. Outrageous. Unfortunately it's not that much worse than other schools in the district, though.
2. Because of the very poor student:teacher ratio, teaching is focused on bringing the lowest achievers up to minimum standards. Especially in the elementary grades (it is a K-8 school), average and gifted students are mostly on their own, and challenging expectations and opportunities are scarce and nonexistent.
3. The historically alternative and touchy-feely nature of the school has attracted parents and created a parent culture that is more malcontent and anti-test, anti-establishment than it is progressive and enriching. There are so many people opting out of testing here that the school's test statistics are not very meaningful, and there are a very high number of people here that don't immunize their children.
4. The school is old and has dust, water/drainage, and I would guess as a result, also mold problems. Another result of the district's funding priorities.
My two children go to this school. There is no other school in the NW part of Seattle that has such a caring and focused approach. Salmon Bay does not paint your child like a robot, they respect each individual. Many parents want the study and test method for k-5, Salmon Bay focuses on preparing the student for junior high and high school both emotionally and socially. They are very strong with educating the student at the highest level.
Some of the teachers are very qualified and really care about the students. The vice principal seems to care about the kids including those with special needs and who come from special circumstances. However, the principal is rarely seen and demonstrates close to disdain for children who do not fit the mold.
He rarely if ever acknowledges parents and it seems like he wants as little as possible to do with middle-schoolers. These issues negatively impact the overall school climate.
All students receive regular art, physical education, and music classes from trained specialists. It is a K-8 school with a strong sense of community building from all of the teachers and staff except the principal. I have volunteered my time once a week for two years and the man has never bothered to introduce himself or acknowledge my contribution in anyway. The vice principal, however, is wonderful and contributes greatly to the school climate. All of the kindergartners know his name and like him. In contrast, very few if any of the kindergartners or first graders know who he is. His lack of social skills is appauling, and he has no business working in any school.