Letters to the Editor

Odyssey program needs to be fair, open to all | Letters | Feb. 4

Your article (“Debate goes on for proposal of new school program,” Jan. 26) may have left the mistaken impression that I am opposed to expanding the Odyssey program. I am not, for we have had our child’s name on the waiting lists for three years. But I believe the school district’s process for considering expansion has not been open and transparent.

What is it that we do not get about democracy and citizen involvement on this island? Last week’s school board “workshop” had tones of the hearings on the Strawberry Plant Park and Island Gateway, two other events at which it seemed that the goal of each side was to speak louder. This happens when either side feels it has not had a chance to express itself. And that was true here.

For years the school district has said that it cost too much money to expand Odyssey. The school district has also made the state of its finances such a rallying cry that it was no surprise parents were worried about how the expansion of a program would affect them. And they had heard about these changes only after the proposals for change had come up for a board vote.

On the other side, this was the first time that people wanting to get into Odyssey had a chance to voice their desires publicly. And yet this planning process has been going on for three months.

Too many events have a “we” and a “them” distinction here, when, with better public involvement and more information, people would have a chance to raise questions, to talk face-to-face, and perhaps even to suggest improvements. This kind of interaction, however, requires elected boards that are not afraid to involve the public and will take the time to do so.

We are constantly told how hard pressed the staff is, how little time they have to do their job, and at the same time we have a highly educated, highly professional citizenry that is eager to get involved in matters like our schools and parks.

These challenges, of finding ways to do more with less, represent an opportunity to bring our community together by using our collective talent to solve problems and develop innovative solutions. The only way to do this is to take the time to make the process fair and open to all, and to make sure there is no favoritism along the way.

Rod Stevens

Bainbridge Island

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