An original hip-hop tribute to the school was performed by a group of recent Summit alumni. The rest of the evening combined poetry, songs, dances, a martial-arts demonstration and a lot of reminiscences from staffers and students past and present.
Some alumni were introduced with the title “Summiteer,” denoting they had spent their entire school years there, from kindergarten through graduation. No other public school in the state offered that experience; now, none will. The new Addams School, opening in the building this fall, will be a neighborhood school for kindergarten through eighth grade.
Members of Roy Alexander’s “core class” performed a theatrical reading titled “Summit, the Dream That Won’t Go Away.” In Scene 1, children bored by traditional rote-based schooling decide there must be a better way to learn. In Scene 2, kids on a nature field trip proclaim how much fun it can be to learn about their world the Summit way. In the last scene, an uncaring School Board orders Summit’s demise; the kids, dispersed into regular schools, again face the numbing boredom of standard educational procedure.
In previous years, the Summit talent show was titled “Glimpses.” This final edition was rechristened “One Last Glimpse,” and it included faculty and alumni performances as well as acts by current students. It opened with Tom Rawson leading past and present faculty members in a rousing rendition of “A Chat With Your Mother,” folk duo Lou and Peter Berryman’s song lamenting young people who speak with “F-word this and F-word that.”
Some of Summit’s last students listened to the steel drum band on the second-floor balcony, before everyone was led into the school’s auditorium for the talent show. Despite its sometime reputation as a “hippie school” (to quote an item in the Stranger’s “Slog” blog from December), Summit’s student body was more than 50 percent nonwhite. ‘ ’ “ ” * –
Summit was an oddity within the Seattle School District on at least three levels.
It was one of four citywide magnet schools, which students from any neighborhood could attend (though, with its location deep within the city’s northeastern quadrant, bus rides could get quite long).
It was the only school in the district to teach every grade level in one building, with one administrative staff.
And, perhaps most significant, it was devoted to both experiential learning (rooted in students’ experiences rather than in rote instruction) and to teaching progressive ideals.
There were plenty of hugs, a few tears and, among the adults, more than a little open griping about Seattle Public Schools’ decision to shut down the program. Summit was known for its exceptionally close-knit parent community, which spent years fighting to keep the school open.
The day began with receptions for alumni from each of the school’s decades of existence. It continued with a big meet ’n’ greet, welcoming anyone who’d ever been involved with the school. They were led into the building by Summit’s steel drum band, one of several arts programs duplicated nowhere else in the school district.
For more than three decades, Summit K-12 was a different kind of school, even among the Seattle School District’s scattered alternative programs. Finally done in by budget cuts, Summit held a gathering of students, faculty, and alums in conjunction with its final spring talent show on Saturday.
The day attracted a good portion of Summit’s 500 students, and scores of past students and parents, to the former Jane Addams Middle School building in North Seattle’s Pinehurst area. Summit moved there in 1985, in one of Seattle Public Schools’ periodic efficiency campaigns. As the name implies, it had first opened in 1973 at the old Summit Elementary building on Capitol Hill (the private Northwest School is there now).