November 24, 2008 · Updated 7:06 PM
After the Mercer Island School Board voted to approve a lease with the Boys & Girls Club to build PEAK on school district land, some people opposing the project have called for a citizen vote on the proposal. Some present at School Board meetings have decried the fact that despite opposition to PEAK, the board “ignored the wishes of the public” and voted to approve the project. But a public vote is not in order here.
The School Board is empowered by laws enacted in this state to implement what its members determine is best in the management of school properties and assets.
There are a series of laws regarding the deposition of school property. They are outlined in RCW Chapter 28A.335 (Revised Code of Washington) entitled “School District’s property.” Section 28A.335.040 begins with the statement “Every School District Board of Directors is authorized to permit the rental, lease, or occasional use of all or any portion of any surplus real property owned or lawfully held by the district to any person, corporation or government entity for profit or non-profit or commercial or non-commercial purposes.”
The Mercer Island School District’s own Board Policies (Nos. 3261 and 3262) though less stringent, also define and limit the authority of the school board in these matters. But it seems clear given existing laws, the School Board is the sole decision maker in these transactions. Its only specified duty in leasing school land in this case is to notify the public 45 days prior to signing. This step is presumably to allow other bidders to compete for [use of] the land — not, it seems, for the community to review or comment.
Is 45 days too brief -— probably. But it was not the first time that the community had heard about the upcoming deal with the Boys & Girls Club. Outside of a counter-proposal for the property, there appears to be little recourse for those who oppose the lease.
Right or wrong — agree or disagree — The Mercer Island School Board holds this decision-making power. This is why we have a School Board. This is why they were elected.