Bye, bye birdies

Long-time Eagles flung from the nest, sent to Rainier Beach to make room for freshmen

By Abbygail Eleccion and Dakaria Heru

“Once an eagle, always an eagle.” That’s a popular saying among Cleveland alumni, but that may not be the case for a handful of students this year.  Juniors Vu Huynh and Cherry Arcilla are a part of a group of students who were displaced from Cleveland. They were reassigned into other schools right before the start of the school year. For them, seniority was forsaken as freshmen were chosen to take their spots.

Huynh, Vu
Vu Huynh

Huynh had arrived for the first day of school excited and prepared, only to find out that he was not enrolled at CHS. After attending the same school for both his freshman and sophomore year, Huynh was saddened by the news.

“I felt really sad because all summer I thought I was able to go to Cleveland,” he said. “I didn’t expect them to kick me out like that. I studied all summer for AP Chem.”

Arcilla experienced a similar situation. Just days before the start of school, she received a letter from Seattle Public Schools saying she would not be attending Cleveland for her junior year. She was transferred to Rainier Beach, but instead opted to become a full-time Running Start student. Arcilla was both confused and angry when she learned about her new placement.

“It frustrates me when I think about it because I had my whole high school experience planned out,” she said. “Freshman and sophomore year I was really involved in programs, inside and outside of school.”

Arcilla, Cherry Rose
Cherry Arcilla

What Huynh and Arcilla have in common is the fact that they live outside of the Seattle School District’s boundaries. Historically, Cleveland has been an option school, which means that a person’s address should not be a factor with enrollment. In the case of Huynh and Arcilla, it is even more vexing due to the fact that they have already attended CHS for two years.

According to the district website, they use a criteria that they like to call “tiebreakers” when there are more applicants than spots available. Some of the variables include whether a person’s sibling goes to the school, the feeder school from which the student came, and even a lottery. A full list of criteria can be found of their website, seattleschools.org.

Principal George Breland has not turned a blind eye to these changes. He is fighting to get these students back.

“It’s not my decision, and I’ve been fighting the whole summer to get them back in but it’s been unsuccessful,” he said. “I don’t fight out loud; I fight behind closed doors to the people who have the power to make decisions.”

For families who are concerned about their student being displaced, they should advocate to the school board for more information. Each school zone has a board representative; Betty Patu is the one for District 7, which houses south end schools like Cleveland, Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach.

Huynh, who is still a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team, commutes from Seattle Central Community College – where he now takes full time Running Start classes – every day to get to practice.

Having to leave the school that you grew to know can change everything for some students.

“Knowing that Cleveland was a STEM school, it was a great way to boost my place in getting to the college I wanted to go to,” said Arcilla “I didn’t have a backup plan.”

Note: Cherry Arcilla recently was readmitted to Cleveland High School.