Survey to find out why school bond failed

Later this spring, if the phone rings, it might be someone asking you to take part in a survey. That would be to help the Mercer Island School District learn about the recent bond measure failure.

MISD Superintendent Gary Plano recently hired EMC Research Services to conduct such a survey, which will help the board determine what the community’s thoughts are and why they voted the way they did. The same firm has done research and survey work for the City of Mercer Island.

Ian Stewart, a vice president and senior analyst for EMC and a MIHS graduate, was on hand Tuesday afternoon during the MISD board meeting. He said the idea is to complete a survey of about 300 people, which will give the district a good margin of error, and to talk with residents for about 15 minutes, which is ‘slightly longer than usual.’

Ideally, the survey would take place sometime toward the end of May, before school is released for the summer. The timeline would allow EMC to return to the board during the June 30 meeting with results and analysis.

The board discussed with Stewart at length about the best way to arrive at a list of topics or questions to be used in the survey. In the end, ideas from the board were to be directed to Plano, who would pass them along to Stewart, while a small group, composed of two board members — along with several members of the Yes and No campaigns — would also come up with a topic list to be addressed in the survey.

The survey is slated to cost $15,375 — close to what the city paid for similar work.

“I’m anxious to be able to look at the data and take that moving forward,” said board president Janet Frohnmayer.

The other board members agreed, eager to see what the data says.

“The answers [on why it didn’t pass] aren’t all the same for everyone — we all have different ideas about what we should do,” said Brian Emanuels. “I think, clearly, we were way off mark, and more data will help guide us in the future. I really want to know what is in the voters’ heads.”

During a different portion of the meeting, City Manager Rich Conrad and City Council member Dan Grausz were on hand to talk about a possible future development.

The city has been working on a project in the Town Center, which — should all the pieces come together — would free up the land where City Hall is currently located. While the four-acre parcel isn't big enough for a school by itself, the space is a possibility that the board and city will discuss more in the future.

“As the process has been going on and we’re looking for opportunities to work together, the idea of joining administrations in the same space has come up,” said Conrad. “Were we able to re-site City Hall, the northeast site would have potential. Of course, there are a number of players, and it is always complex.”

Conrad said it could be three to five years before construction begins on a downtown site.

“There is probably a timing issue here,” he said.

Several board members felt it was important to discuss all possible sites on the North end for a new school, even if there are some that quickly get eliminated.

“I think we need to have a bigger conversation. I think that’s the only way to show we’ve looked at everything,” said Frohnmayer.

“No one gets a holistic view if we only look at one site,” said Adair Dingle.

The board and City Council Ad Hoc Committee will look into possible sites and bring back a short report for the joint meeting on May 21.

The joint meeting will take place on May 21 at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers.


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