Jul 26, 2014

Letter: Join Together for a School Needs Solution

CMIPS member Cliff Sharples writes in a letter to the editor that the community needs to remain supportive of the school district administration and find a solution for the needs of "overcrowded, outdated" local schools.

Letter: Join Together for a School Needs Solution


As a member of CMIPS, I am of course personally disappointed with the conclusive rejection of the new school bond proposal. In good faith and with strong conviction, many of us tried our best to convince the public that the District’s plan was the right plan at the right time, solving urgent problems with our existing facilities. We were not successful, however, so now we must come together as a community to dig into why this proposal was not adopted by our fellow citizens, and create a new bond measure that addresses our critical needs as quickly as possible, in a way that reflects the desires of our community.

On the positive side, the democratic process worked, pulling the majority of our citizens into a critical debate that hopefully now almost all of us have some awareness. While there have been many points along the 4 year journey for community input and discussion, this period of time since the bond measure was officially adopted has elevated the awareness and frequency of discussion, which I think in the end will enable the Board to present a new solution that the majority of Islanders will be happy to support.

I strongly encourage the school district to embark on a thorough research process to understand what the 60% “no” vote is communicating.  There are many differing points of view as to why this bond was not acceptable to individual citizens. Whether it is the debate over 3 versus 4 elementary schools, the size of a large bond versus smaller bond proposals, the wisdom of acquiring Stevenson Ranch, the wisdom of rebuilding versus remodeling, the desire for more specific details on the design of the new schools, more time for the public to provide input and debate, or a host of other potential issues, it will be essential to have a good understanding of where the relative importance lie in those different issues.

Most importantly, as a parent and member of the Mercer Island community, I would like to convey my deepest thanks to the MI School District staff, board, administrators, educational leaders, and teachers. Their dedication to the children of Mercer Island, their leadership in public education around the 2020 Vision, their countless hours of service above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities, and the demonstrated willingness to partner with parents and the greater community is what makes Mercer Island such an outstanding educational experience for our children. I’m in the fortunate position to work with many of the MISD staff every week in my PTA and MI Schools Foundation roles, and I genuinely appreciate just how special, talented and dedicated they are with little exception. As a community, I hope you will join me in providing an extra-special thanks and appreciation to Dr. Gary Plano, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and management in a diverse, wide range of areas. You can agree or disagree with his bond proposal, but his integrity and service to our community is second to none.

I believe the school board provided us with a well thought out, bold, comprehensive, cost-effective plan to replace our over-crowded, out-dated educational facilities.  A lot of us, including all but 2 of our state and local officials, endorsed the plan. The greater public, however, chose not to accept this plan for differing reasons. I stand ready to help understand what issues are most important to the residents of the Island, and ultimately present a new school bond proposal that solves our unacceptable capacity crisis, keeps us competitive with the rest of the region and provides 21st century educational facilities that our children deserve.

Sincerely Yours,

Cliff Sharples

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