In my last column, I talked about local governmental entities that have the greatest impact on our daily routines and community quality. I got one comment from a resident, and it dealt with Federal Way schools. The comment is:
“When we moved here 16 years ago, one reason was for the schools. Now the schools are one reason we’re thinking of leaving.”
If you think about building a community as a team sport, realize that all team members have essential roles to perform if the team is to function as a dynamic contender. Thinking like team owners or voters, we have a responsibility to assure that all team roles are supported and functioning properly.
What priority would you place on the schools as part of team Federal Way? The commenter is considering becoming a free agent and changing teams because of the schools. Not having any information beyond what was shared, I can only surmise that expectations are not being met.
As team owners, our obligation is to position the team to win and always be competitive. The Federal Way Mirror published an article in the April 1, 2016, edition titled, “Federal Way Flashback: The man who stifled 22 school levy elections in a row.” Those levy failures occurred from April of 1974 to May of 1980. One might say those levies were voted down 40 years ago and are no longer relevant. But it established a legacy within the voting populace that Federal Way schools are not critical to team success.
The result of not consistently investing in and valuing the schools is one of the factors holding back Federal Way’s ability to attract corporate relocations to our under-utilized and vacant office spaces. The newly rebuilt Federal Way High School is an example of what can be done when a bond passes. It is progress in the right direction.
A first-class modern facility inspires. Levies are for education expenditures, and bonds are investing in infrastructure. Bond funds are needed to rebuild schools, purchase property and fix deferred maintenance items. Modern, well-maintained facilities not only serve those who are here now but give prospective investors, families and corporations confidence that a core team member is capable of meeting and hopefully exceeding their expectations in the present as well as the future.
Knowing that realtors generally have their eyes and ears tuned to what is going on in the community, I stopped into an open house in my neighborhood. In the conversation I had with realtor showing the house, I specifically asked what he found most challenging about selling properties in Federal Way and he said “the schools.”
He stated that when selling a home, he tries not to talk about schools. When asked about the schools, he lets his customers know that he feels confident that Federal Way schools work hard to provide a good education. But he also shared that people shopping for houses search online and check school ratings first. So, when they come and look at homes, they often have driven by the schools and see facilities that are in need of updating. In the realtor’s words, “It is hard to overcome negative perceptions.”
Federal Way school district is presenting us, as team owners and voters, an opportunity to continue rebuilding its foundation and upgrading many of its facilities. Yes, it is a bond election, but this is about “paying it forward” and building a better future.
If we as a community had consistently paid it forward over the past 40 years, Federal Way would in all likelihood be a very different city today. The cities on the east side of Seattle invested in schools and became economic powerhouse communities. Hindsight is 20-20, but team Federal Way can position itself to become a very competitive player within the region.
Federal Way can become a first-choice city for corporate relocations, more attractive for business start-ups and home buyers looking for great schools to support their families. Or we can choose to continue being an average team seeking redemption next year. Punting is not a smart choice. My choice is to support the Federal Way team and “Vote Yes for Scholars.”
Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.