Island Forum | Groups come together to support MI students, schools

Tuesday, April 27, 600 Mercer Island community leaders and parents will fill the Mercer Island High School gymnasium for the Breakfast of Champions. Please join us to show your support.

Last year, when the school district faced nearly $1.8 million in budget cuts from the state, the Schools Foundation was asked to focus community fundraising efforts around one single, critical need: retaining our outstanding teachers.

Out of that economic crisis, a unique partnership was born. Never before had there been a more important need for collaboration between organizations that support education in our community.

Coming together, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation, the Mercer Island PTA Council, the Fine Arts Advisory Council, education leaders and concerned parents worked tirelessly on the first ever Bridge the Gap Campaign. Our goal was to tell the story about what $1.8 million budget cuts in our schools would mean for children in our classrooms. The news quickly spread throughout our school community, since quality public education is the number one reason parents move to Mercer Island. Our Mercer Island community responded with donations totaling $437,000. This amazing outpouring of support exemplifies Mercer Island’s strong commitment to public education. The funds raised at the Breakfast of Champions and the accompanying Bridge the Gap campaign enabled the district to retain six of the 11 teacher positions slated for elimination.

The economic crisis sweeping our nation and state has put a tremendous strain on education funding. Passing the school levies in February was even more critical than usual. Our community approved the school levies by an overwhelming majority. Our children give a huge thank you to all Mercer Islanders.

The state Legislature finally passed a budget last week. For the Mercer Island School District, the result was “the bad news is not as bad as it could have been.” The good news is because the cuts were smaller than expected, we have the opportunity to positively affect our children in their classrooms. The Bridge the Gap Task Force has been hard at work, and our community is poised to exceed the money raised last year. Let’s make it happen. The Bridge the Gap “Ask” is $500 per student. A successful campaign will close the gap, and we will regain some ground.

Here are the facts: $3 million in cuts in three years to the district’s budget have taken their toll. Central administration has been reduced and reorganized, principal positions have been eliminated at the middle and high schools, 12 educator positions are gone, librarian hours have been reduced, office secretary positions have disappeared, the equivalent of 50 class sections at MIHS were eliminated, clubs and after-school activities are reduced, and maintenance and custodial services have been cut drastically. The list goes on and on. Parents with students at every level have noticed the changes in the classroom.

Our schools are still excellent, our children still excited to learn, awards continue to be won, but our educators need our help. Now is the time for the Mercer Island community to come together and close the gap. There is a very simple formula to keep in mind. $500,000 raised in this campaign maintains the school district at exactly the same level as today. Each additional $85,000 raised translates to one additional teacher in our schools.

What can you do? Attend the Breakfast of Champions or one of the companion events at your school. Donate today to Bridge the Gap. Donations are accepted online at www.misf.com or by mail to PO Box 1243, Mercer Island, Wash., 98040. For more information, call the Mercer Island Schools Foundation at (206) 275-2550.

Mercer Island children thank you for your commitment to quality education.

Penny Yantis, Mercer Island Schools Foundation

Denise Hopkins, Mercer Island Schools Foundation

Mary Kay Woolston, Mercer Island PTSA

Joan Wold, Mercer Island PTSA

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