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Working together, despite Federal Way school levy outcome | Letter
I have heard concerns that the upcoming school district levy election is dividing our community. Vote “yes” because you support the teachers and students, despite the concerns you have regarding the school board leadership.
Or vote “no” because you can’t stand the thought of giving more money to a district that prioritizes raises and trips to Europe and Asia over textbooks, teachers and students.
People are understandably passionate about this. It directly impacts our children, our community and our wallets. I have been somewhat outspoken on the topic and, consequently, I have attracted people who are similarly outspoken – both “for” and “against” the levy.
Although this is certainly not a scientific sampling of the voting citizens, the one thing that unites us is that we want what is best for students. We just disagree on tactics. It is critical to keep this in mind because no matter the outcome of the election, our work as concerned parents and citizens has only begun and we will need to work together.
If the levy passes, expect change in the district to be slow and arduous. We have been successful with change, but it took three years to win a partial victory on the grading system. It appears that it will be in limbo for some time as a 40-person team meets once a month for the next two years, while the elementary students are still victims of the power curve.
With the exception of student achievement, the district goals (end states) as defined by the school board are nebulous. Year-to-year progress, cost, or any other method of measurement is nearly impossible to apply.
With regard to student achievement, despite Superintendent Rob Neu’s celebration of a 2.6 percent increase in graduation rates from 2012 to 2013, the 10-year trend for the school district (as reported by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) is still declining.
If the levy fails, expect change at a more frantic pace, assuming the board recognizes the failure to be a direct reflection on their performance. Trust and accountability will need to be restored to ensure that it will pass at its next opportunity in April.
I would recommend that the board get ahead of this, starting with a comprehensive vision, mission, quantifiable goals and measures. Transparency is key to trust, so a communication plan will be necessary to track progress and corrective action.
Despite our differences on how to bring change to the school district, as a community we are united. Our children are our No. 1 priority.
Rick Weir, Auburn