Letter | New schools needed
March 21, 2012 · 10:30 AM
The current school bond proposal is the result of informed, critical thinking.
I write the following out of my care for the children of Mercer Island, on my own time and not as part of my official capacity as an educator and administrator within Mercer Island Schools.
As a MISD school principal, I prefer to stay in the background. But when it comes to the current school bond issue, I feel compelled to speak to the needs of our students and the integrity of the process that led to this bond. Our current facilities force compromises in the quality of our kids’ education.
In light of this, the citizens’ committee and the School Board that formed the bond recommendations should be congratulated. Both groups could have bowed to politics and fervent opinions. Both groups could have lazily taken recommendations from administrators on faith. Yet both groups chose instead to fully inform themselves by listening to experts and stakeholders. Both challenged themselves to closely examine the facts and critically look at all issues. As a result, the school bond accomplishes an impressive feat.
• The bond recognizes that there is no simple, clean and perfect solution. The issue this district is facing is the result of decades of decision-making and cannot be easily corrected.
• The bond prevents wasting our operational budget as limited by state law on non-instructional costs. A fourth elementary would effectively remove six teachers from the classroom in a system that desperately needs those teachers.
• The bond addresses immediate concerns while charting a path for supporting a 21st century education for all our students.
As principal of West Mercer Elementary, hardly a day goes by that I don’t compromise, in small and large ways, the best interests of our kids. Because I don’t have the facilities to support programs in the way my colleagues in other districts can, I cannot even support programs I could in my last school. Here is a short list of educational considerations that are limited by our facilities.
• Limits on science and art curriculum that require dedicated space or access to water sources not available in 25 percent of my classes.
• Lack of effective spaces for the following:
• Volunteer to support learning
• Group projects or flexible learning groups
• Technology access points
• Support and inclusion of students with special needs.
• Multi-class activities
• Guest speakers
• Community-based programs
• Limits on our ability to place all students in their neighborhood school
• Placement of programs for special populations such as special education and highly capable learners based on space limitations rather than demonstrated need.
This is only the start. Many small decisions are being made, limited or deferred due to facilities each week. And most wouldn’t change with a fourth elementary. Our schools are not designed with any modern innovative learning in mind. They were designed to give students a sit-and-get education that does not prepare students for further learning or the modern workplace.
The problem is that we have an amazing staff team that masks these compromises by providing students with creative, innovative teachers. But that doesn’t change that even the best teachers cannot make up for inadequate facilities.
I support this bond measure as one of the most informed, responsible and thoughtful solutions available to address a difficult problem decades in the making.