Guest Blog by Carolyn Simpson. Carolyn served on the MSHS School Learning Improvement Team – 2006-10, Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation – 2003 – 10/ President 2009-10, SVSD Facilities Task Force – 2007-09 and in many other volunteer roles at MSHS and SMS while her now college-aged children were in the Snoqualmie Valley School District.
By now, you have probably heard that the school board approved the February bond to be placed back on the April 26 ballot. It was great to see so many people attend a school board meeting. I would love to see this many people come together to re-focus the discussion from facilities to education goals like reducing dropout rates. It’s a dream, I know.
Speakers last night in support of putting the bond back on the ballot used coaching and cheerleading terms like “don’t delay, “need to get it done”, “the timing is perfect”, “go for it”, and “I promise, it won’t fail”. The “winning” mentality was followed with statements like “even if the numbers are wrong I’ll still vote yes”, “I don’t need any more conversation about the numbers”, and “don’t be distracted by dropouts and Olympia”. All of which was then summed up with the justification that “infrastructure projects don’t get any cheaper.”
The pre-game discussion was much more somber with speakers asking the board to get more information and not make a hasty decision. David Spring encouraged the board to wait for the budget cut information from Olympia before making the bond decision. I encouraged the board to use only one set of enrollment and capacity numbers for better understanding of the needs and to take the time to understand why enrollment is so much lower than that anticipated just a year ago. I also told them that any decision to reduce the middle schools to two would be inappropriate and not supported by over-capacity high school enrollment. Stephen Kangas encouraged the board to adopt a strategic plan, identify education priorities, and develop a budget before making decisions about new schools.
Now for the wrap-up by the school board: Craig Husa, Marci Busby, Dan Popp, and Caroline Loudenback spoke up in favor of putting the bond back on the ballot. Scott Hodgins expressed disappointment that the board did not focus on the budget first. He said that although David Spring may seem like a broken record, he agrees with him about this: there will be cuts in basic education funding that will impact class size and the budget for the next three years. Scott said that his experience building 18 new schools has shown him that new facilities mean increased expenses for custodians, administrators, utilities and other costs that usually amount to between $600,000 and $1,000,000 per year. He thinks that for this Freshman Learning Center, those costs will be about $1 million per year – which he said (with Ryan Stokes help) is about the same cost as 12 to 15 teachers. He expressed disappointment that this amount was not communicated prior to the bond decision and that the school board has not given the budget discussion enough justice.
Scott said he agreed with many statements made by the public: “funding is in jeopardy”, “the capacity and enrollment picture has changed”, “maybe this isn’t an emergency”, “the district needs a plan”, and that “the district should be using one set of numbers”. He stated that he doesn’t want to build a building and then risk cutting teachers and increasing class sizes because of the additional costs of running the new building.
But, even after his strong statements of concern, the bond resolution was approved by Scott along with the rest of the board in a unanimous decision. “Winning”!
Carolyn also writes her own blog. You can find it at http://snoqvalleystudentsuccess.blogspot.com/
** Opinions expressed by Guest Blog writers are not necessarily those of the Living Snoqualmie administration **