S2 E8: Phil Greely & Emilie McFarlane: Seattle School Guide

  • Emilie McFarlane’s thoughts and feelings on living in Seattle and Shoreline, especially when it comes to having a large family with multiple kids.
  • About the creation of the Seattle School Guide, a collaborative effort between McFarlane and our own Phil Greely.
  • McFarlane’s biggest tip for parents when it comes to communicating to school staff and her hopes and concerns for Seattle going forward.

With four kiddos ranging from 17 months to 10 years old, Emilie McFarlane knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be a parent in the Seattle area. A self-proclaimed Seattle girl at heart, McFarlane and her family moved out to the Richmond Beach area of Shoreline in 2015. While the larger space and safer neighborhood are definitely benefits gained in the move, McFarlane notes that there are some things she misses like the proximity to good food and other amenities. She also mentions the pain of owning a home that has never been touched or renovated, for now they are having to renovate it themselves. Overall, McFarlane says that if one were to talk to her when she was in her twenties, there are three things she would have said she’d never do: drive a mini-van, live in the suburbs, and be a stay-at-home-mom. She now does all three, showing that you simply never know where life might take you in the future.

In the seven years that McFarlane and her family lived in northeast Seattle, she notes that they often received odd stares from neighbors who could not seem to believe that they had four kids. She mentions that Seattle is made up of predominantly young, unmarried people, so any children at all (much less 4 or more) is a rarity. However, she is glad that her kids have each other and that their current home, while still small, gives them much more freedom and an excellent education.

Speaking of education, Rise Seattle’s own Phil Greely discusses the fact that, when showing prospective clients a new home, one of the questions he is asked most often is what the school system is like in the area he is selling. He realized that there has yet to be a comprehensive resource that gives parents a full snapshot of the school districts in the Seattle area. Once he was introduced to McFarlane, the two of them began a venture that is now known as the Seattle School Guide.

The Seattle School Guide is a website that provides a broad overview of all of the public schools in the Seattle region. When putting this together, McFarlane and Greely emailed, polled, and even called local schools to get insight on everything from recess and lunch time info to languages spoken at home. They both know how time-intensive it is to research schools, so their hope is that this site will take some of that initial pressure off.

Unlike other school websites, the Seattle School Guide does not rank area schools based on test scores. Rather, it takes into account real questions that parents ask (or should be asking), such as if there is a plan in place to help struggling kids or if other kids feel safe in their schools. While their goal is to help explain the somewhat complex Seattle schooling system, McFarlane still highly recommends parents visit the schools themselves, for a ton of data can only tell you so much; it cannot tell you what the vibe of the school is like.
McFarlane herself knows just what it’s like to have to find the right school system for your kids. Before her family’s move, McFarlane’s children went to private school. While she used a ranking site to find her kids’ current public school and is happy with the outcome, she does wish that she would’ve taken into account more than just test scores. Her biggest wish is that her kids grow up to know and love people from all walks of life, proving that the idea of the “best” school system is subjective for every parent.

Both McFarlane and Greely hope to keep the information on the Seattle School Guide as relevant as possible. Greely in particular would like to expand the site to include videos from the local schools’ principals, showcasing the commitment that these leaders have to local Seattle families and children. This plays into McFarlane’s major tip for parents when communicating with school staff: just go into it with a soft heart. These people are invested in doing what’s best for your children and have nothing but good intentions. If you can go into your conversations knowing this fact, you are guaranteed to have a more open and inviting dialogue.

McFarlane has big hopes for the future of Seattle. She envisions a city that her children, when grown, can remain in, find work in, and start families of their own in close to home. She hopes that big families can continue to live and participate in the city without being pushed out by high prices. Overall, McFarlane’s biggest hope is that Seattle further becomes and remains a city that all families can live and prosper in for generations to come.
The Seattle School Guide is officially up and running now, so feel free to check it out. If you would like to add your own pieces of information to the guide for your school, please contact McFarlane or Greely today.
About the Interviewee

Emilie McFarlane is a mom of four living in the Richmond Beach neighborhood of Shoreline, WA. She is a collaborator on the Seattle School Guide with Rise Seattle co-host Phil Greely. To learn more about this guide, please visit www.seattleschoolguide.com. To sign up for notifications of new or updated content on the guide, click here.

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