I Guess We’re Intent on Finding Out the Hard Way

What if it fails? Well I guess our community is going to find out the hard way. We had before us a remarkable opportunity—an elegant plan that was carefully crafted by a smart, dedicated group of citizen volunteers that gave a year of their life to our community. Their recommendation was strategic, cost-effective and community-minded. And it failed.

There’s a million reasons why which I’m sure will be discussed at length over the coming months, but mostly today I feel sad.

I’m sad for our kids and school staff who will now need to continue to make due for years. I’m sad that teachers won’t have the spaces they need to teach the way they really want and students won’t have the spaces to learn the way they really should.

I’m sad for Youth Theatre Northwest, Pixie Hill Preschool, Country Village and CHILD School that will likely get their eviction notice this year to make way for a portable Kindergarten school on the North Mercer campus, and I’m sad for the next generation of Kindergarten students and teachers that won’t be a part of our elementary school communities.

I’m sad for our realtors and the story they now need to spin about our overcrowded and aging schools and try to explain away this vote. I’m sad for our young Island families that moved here for the schools and are now questioning their decision. I’m sad that my property values will reflect this decision for many years to come.

I’m sad for our Island athletes – our state champion MIHS swimmers and our community pool users that will likely see their pool shuttered with the next costly maintenance issue. I’m sad for our field users and teams that have lost an opportunity for additional fields space as we build two-story schools. The potential loss of our South Mercer playfields as Lakeridge continues to grow across the street.

I’m sad for our future engineers and scientists that won’t be able to take the courses that their peers are taking in other districts and won’t have competitive labs and facilities for their studies.

I’m sad for our open space advocates because we’ve lost our opportunity to save the beautiful Stevenson property from development and transition it to public use.  I’m sad about the battles for our parks that we’ll now need to fight as the NO campaign presses to find a location for a single school option on the North end.

I’m sad about the lack of decorum that has become the Island political norm. I’m sad for our community volunteers that were confronted by personal attacks, blatant distribution of false and misleading information, and even physical intimidation during this campaign. I’m saddened that we are no longer able to hold public meetings that aren’t scary and upsetting to attend. I wonder who will step up again to serve in this environment.

But mostly I’m sad that Mercer Island has so profoundly demonstrated that they’ve lost their vision of educational leadership and are now simply happy with being adequate.  

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10 thoughts on “I Guess We’re Intent on Finding Out the Hard Way

  1. Jackie Brown says:

    Kris, I’m sad about this result too, but I’m glad we have citizens like you who care so deeply for our community. Thanks for all you do.

  2. Tamae Moriyasu says:

    Very sad too and although it looked like it was coming, still shocked. I am so impressed by the grace and professionalism exhibited by the 21st Century Planning Committee, the School Board, Dr. Plano and the CMIPs committee. The bond failure was not due to lack of solid data, hard work and commitment by all of you.

  3. Kendra says:

    Kris, thank you for all the time an effort you put into this. Please remember that it’s appreciated by many.

  4. Lori Langston says:

    Well said, as always, Kris. We are grateful for your determination and passion. Your observations are spot on, but discouraging.

  5. Rich Mellish says:

    Now that there is no campaign I can take a moment at work to respond: Thank you for all your work. And hang in there. I too an discouraged by the results. I have a knot in my stomach knowing the difficult decisions my colleagues and I face in light of yet another setback (after years of financial setbacks via state budget cuts).

    Yet I do believe that we can regroup and stay focussed on what is right for kids. We will have to deal with the reality of this failure but Mercer Island is so loaded with creative and supportive leaders that I believe we will wade through this time.

    You all have been so essential in propping up this system and it is so critical that we continue to all work together to keep the vision alive. As a result I see kids with the same steely determination to learn and adapt and face what they see as huge challenges ahead for their generation. And they are right, the challenges will be significant. You model so amazingly well how to face daunting challenges, even at deep personal costs.

    I am with you and willing to support you in any way. Take a moment for yourself now. I know many of you neglected your own needs to support this effort. Regrouping will happen, but I agree with Dr. Plano, that a moment to take a breath will help clear our heads for the difficult work ahead.

    My sincere respect and admiration for all of you!

    Rich Mellish

  6. Robert Brown says:

    You say that we must “take a breath”, yet before the bond you and others plowed ahead and said there was NO time to wait. If what you said before is true, we must immediately work on more plans, and not dwell on what has just happened.

    • Rich Mellish says:

      Mr. Brown,

      I am not campaigning. Many of those who worked on this bond dedicate a great deal of time and resources on a regular basis helping move the vision of our district forward. They are primarily partners with me in educating our youth. Many have been with me and our leadership on the journey of many years in developing our vision and programs. They also spent a lot of time over the last two years studying with me and my colleagues to deeply understand the connection between our vision and the answers to our overcrowding.

      I wrote my comment to encourage partners in education and people I have been honored to work with. I don’t want the failure of this bond to discourage the deep work that is many years in the making. I want them to know that I, as a building principal, still appreciate and depend on their partnership. My comments are deeper and bigger than the buildings we teach in, yet also acknowledge that our facilities are deeply important to our vision.

      I teach all kids the importance of taking a moment to stop and think, especially in moments of significant emotion. Reflection leads to better decision making and opportunities to regain perspective.

      Please don’t take my comments as campaigning or debating.

      • Robert Brown says:

        Mr. Mellish,

        Thank you for clarifying. However, you wrote above that the bond helped “move the vision of our district forward”. It appears that given the bond results, that is very controversial (in whether the bond would have helped, not helped, or worsened our district).

        Looking at the reactions of the bond supporters, it seems to imply that they prefer to put this same bond back, but with a lower cost. In a letter to the Patch, one supporter wrote that the 4-1-1 config. would be a bad one. However, I believe we should reevaluate our options with a brand new 21CFPC committee, on that better represents the community (perhaps even including critics of the rejected bond).

  7. kriskelsay says:

    Mr. Brown,

    Post election data will show why voters didn’t support the bond. Any new bond will need to get both the school community vote and the votes of a LOT of folks without kids in schools. It will take new information to find out whether there is enough overlap between the groups to formulate a bond that can be passed.

    The first 21CFPC did represent the community and did include critics of the rejected bond–Michael Finn was on the committee and was an author of the CON statement in the voter’s pamphlet, and at least three others did not vote for the bond, but were less publicly active in their opposition.

    As for the 4-1-1 configuration, I already have a huge amount of data and information on that approach since the 21CFPC debated the topic for a year. My conclusion is that a forth elementary school 1) is not feasible for our district and 2) would not get the vote of the school community even if it was.

    If you would like to do further investigation on the topic, feel free. I’d be happy to give you feedback when you present a non-hypothetical plan that includes: a) the programs and teachers you will cut to support the additional $450K annual operating costs, b) the location of this new school and the cost of acquiring the land, c) a timeline for when the capacity issue will be solved given this approach, and d) scenarios for our potential low and high enrollment range over a 50 year period (4200-5200.)

    We can then compare this to alternative approaches and see what makes more sense for our community. Even without knowing the mysterious piece of land that your plan must include, I’ve personally done a deep analysis on the approach and it doesn’t pencil out from an educational perspective, from a capacity perspective, from a financial perspective, or from a land use perspective. I’m quite convinced that you won’t get the school community to vote for it, and when you add to that a significant “not in my backyard” campaign it’s not going to be politically feasible.

    If the board decides to go that route, I will be leading a very aggressive campaign against the next bond. Maybe I can buy your “Not this bond” signs for cheap?

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