MISD superintendent discusses facility planning, enrollment, finances and more in letter

Successes, challenges and continuous improvement.

Those were a trio of focal points that Mercer Island School District (MISD) Superintendent Fred Rundle delved into when structuring his welcome back to school letter, which he delivered online to the school community on Aug. 30.

Rundle sent the lengthy, insightful and thorough message to district students, family and friends on the first day of school for grades 1-12. Kindergartners will begin their 2023-24 school journeys on Sept. 5.

On the community “hot topic” of facility planning, rebuilding and consolidating, Rundle said that, “Decisions about whether to replace elementary schools, finish the second half of the middle school, add enhancements to the high school, or even close an elementary school are quite a ways away. First, we need to take some of the ideas generated by the committee out to our schools and community for input and feedback.”

As discussed in a previous Reporter story, the updating process is in the embryonic stages for the committee members of the MISD Long Range Facilities Plan. According to the MISD website, the committee’s work will include reviewing the prior plan, along with delving into current demographic information, facility condition, vision and mission and the district’s financial status. The update is a continuation of the committee’s work from the 2019-20 process.

In the successes to build on section of Rundle’s letter, he touched upon a host of academic strengths. Those include, in part, the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment results indicating that 87% of MISD fourth-graders scored proficient or advanced in math (30% higher than the state average) and 89% of the district’s fourth-graders scored proficient or advanced in English Language Arts (40% higher than the state average).

In the financial stabilization realm, the district increased its bottom line without eliminating any programs and growing some.

“Not including the $2 million debt repayment we made last year, we increased our fund balance from $1.75 million to what we project to be around $2.75 million for a $3 million dollar turn around (the fiscal year closed on Aug. 31),” he said.

While the district’s enrollment numbers have risen with 133 new students in first, sixth, ninth, 11th and 12th grades, the district saw 51 fewer kindergarten students enroll this year compared to last year, and 378 high school students graduated last spring compared to 187 incoming kindergarten students to replace them.

On the professional improvement front, Rundle said that with its committed staff in place, “We are leading the way in our early literacy professional learning, adding new curriculum and resources at all three levels, and adding new classes and experiences across the system.”

As the school year kicks off, Rundle said that some vital aspects they will focus on are academic excellence and creating a sense of belonging for everyone as a foundation for achievement.

To view the entire message, visit https://tinyurl.com/3mar89hw