We want better management of Bainbridge schools | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

Yes, “Our Schools… Our Future” — But, depending on your vote, which future?

If most people vote yes and we bet on the trend, that future is one of continuing tax increases, construction of some of the most expensive schools in state history, and a continuing fall in academic performance relative to peer districts like Mercer Island and Lake Washington.

If enough people vote no or simply abstain from voting, that future could be one of modest tax increases, of accountability and careful spending, and of renewed standing amongst Puget Sound’s better school districts.

There’s no question here that capital spending is on new buildings is out of control. Why? Because rather than focusing on the hard questions of management, the school district has instead spent its time planning glittery new buildings.

One reason for this is staff bias. Of the people working in the capital facilities office, 3.5 of the 4.5 FTE positions are paid out of bond proceeds. If we stop financing new construction, they lose their jobs.

The bigger issue here is in-bred management and lack of vision. The last three school superintendents have been promoted from within.

Second, there’s been a tolerance of bad managers and teachers, particularly at Sakai, where some of those pushed out of the elementary schools are parked before quitting.

Things have turned around now at the high school, but for about five years there was a new principal there almost every year.

The result is that, measured by state standards, academic performance on Bainbridge is now lower than in the Mercer Island, Lake Washington, Issaquah and Kenmore districts. By one standard put out by Stanford, BISD creates less “educational gain” than Seattle schools.

Unfortunately, with a weak school board that simply goes with almost anything district management wants to do, there’s little the public can do to get the district’s attention short of saying “no” at the ballot box. That “no” vote is a clear statement of accountability, that we want the focus on what goes on inside the schools, not what kind of stone goes onto their walls. With our wealth of talent here, Bainbridge should have some of the most interesting and innovative educational approaches in the country, but our district is instead becoming a regional also-ran.

If voting “no” goes too much against the social grain for you, then simply abstain from voting. Either one is a message to the board that we want better management.

ROD STEVENS

Bainbridge Island

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