In just two dozen pages, the Seattle communications consultant, Triangle Associates, plainly laid out the situation facing the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors in obtaining voter approval to fund the rebuilding of Mercer Island public schools.
Their key recommendation is for the school district to hold back on moving forward too quickly with a new bond measure — whether it is for a single school, the merely palatable 1.b option or any other iteration. Any new bond proposal at this point would likely fail again.
Islanders are not ready — they are still recovering from the shock of the unimaginable amount of money they were asked to accept last time.
Instead, the board must continue to reach out and rebuild trust within the community for perceived missteps regarding the management of school assets — real or imagined — whether they are material to the issue at hand or not. And following that, bring them along into the realities of what a 21st century education is all about.
The first sentence in the Executive Summary states that Islanders, while caring deeply about schools and the education of Island youth here, do not understand key elements of what is needed. In particular, the report says that “some citizens do not have a clear understanding of how overcrowding impacts the quality of schools.”
School district facilities are 20 percent over capacity. More than 4,600 students are squeezing into space that was designed to house 3,900.
Often heard is the fact that Islander students continue to excel despite less-than-adequate facilities. Something is working right, they say.
Still left by the wayside is the concept that the need for new facilities goes beyond providing physical space. A 21st century education is needed for 21st century jobs and living.
Who knew that the real teaching job for the school district would be to convince Islanders that schools and teaching have changed dramatically?