What a night. A positive experience, surrounded by insightful community members is an inspiring thing.
I was asked by our school district to attend a focus group regarding options for the next school bond. Sometimes things like this can be nerve-wrecking, as you never know what your group dynamic will be or worry that if people come in with preconceived ideas, will they hear your ideas if they differ. That’s the risk of focus groups. You accept it going in. So I set out reminding myself that this exchanging of different ideas is what my group is charged with doing … to speak and to listen, be open-minded. That was the ultimate purpose.
The particular group I was placed in was delightful, respectful, positive – composed of administrators and parents. We all seemed to grasp that the next school bond was about improving facilities, as well as how those improvements enhance and move forward education in the Snoqualmie Valley. They work in tandem.
No one questioned or judged earlier district, board or committee decisions that brought us to this place. That wasn’t the point – not what we were asked to do. We were asked to discuss and share our opinions about potential bond options – ones that revolved around secondary education, focusing on improving the Mount Si High School building, as well as a 6th elementary school.
Three bond options – and none of them cheap. How can they be when there is work to be done? Work we’ve known we need to do since 2007. That 6th elementary school costs around $30 million to build. And Mount Si is 60 years old. Except for the football field, it hasn’t been flood-proofed, brought up to today’s flood zone building code. The last remodel was in the early 90’s. It’s been through many floods. In the end, though, it is THE Valley high school, something that connects generations in our community as well as almost every district student. In a way, it’s the common ground of a vast Snoqualmie Valley.
It’s our community. These are our kids. These are our schools. They matter. Education is a broad spectrum of things, with the brick and mortar being an important component. We constantly strive to raise the bar on education, changing and improving as we learn more. We invest in teacher training, technology, new curriculum, new books – and then you hit a point when it’s time to make the big investment, an investment in the buildings that house all these things that encompass education today.
Last night we were asked to share our opinions on such an investment in Mount Si High School. As our group worked, three of us with children realized that if we can show voters why this investment matters and pass a bond, most likely our children won’t reap the benefits of a “21st century education building.” They will be gone from the district before the work is complete. So in a way, we were asked to work and contribute for the next generation of Valley children. And you know what? That’s okay, because for me, the investment in our schools is for the future of our community – a greater good if I am allowed to say that.
So thank you to Don, Ruth, Erin, Jill, Angela, Scott and the school board and district for inviting me, placing trust in me. I left this group collaboration feeling positive, inspired – having learned new things from listening to the opinions of others; working with them to forge a new path.
I can honestly say, there was no division in our group, only collaboration to move forward for the good of our schools and our kids. I believe this is what it is going to take when the next school bond comes around – positive collaboration, good planning and then showing everyone else out there why this next bond, the investment in our schools, matters.