NEW SOUTH KITSAP HIGH SCHOOL, YEA OR NEA
Only Time Will Tell
Well, it’s that time of the year where the good citizens of South Kitsap divide into two distinct camps; one voting for the South Kitsap High School Bond Measure and one voting against the Bond Measure.
The last time the district passed a bond was about 30 years ago and that includes the last failed attempt. There have been many attempts to pass bond issues, but all have failed. The sad part of these statistics would suggest there is a major problem between the South Kitsap Community and the South Kitsap School District. The word that comes to mind is “Trust”.
To understand just why we find ourselves in this quagmire, one only needs to review the past relationship between the South Kitsap School District, the last South Kitsap High School Bond Measure results and how the district responded after the loss.
The last election was a fierce one. I don’t need to remind you how close it was. The mid-night fires burned in both camps as tempers blazed like an out of control forest fire. After the election, it seemed everyone in the pro-bond camp made excuses why the bond failed. I actually think the district was caught flat-footed when apprised of the results. What I found interesting and somewhat insulting was the excuse put forth “poll results would have been different if everyone who has a vested interest in South Kitsap Schools (and South Kitsap for that matter), would have voted”.
It is unfortunate that the pro camp assumed the 40.08 percent who voted against the last measure didn’t have a vested interest in South Kitsap Schools or South Kitsap itself. I guess the pro camp overlooked the fact that a non-vote might as well be considered a no vote, and if I’m not mistaken, this single fact ultimately made the final decision. The simple truth is, it is just iniquitous for someone to imply only the 59.92 percent of voters who voted for the last measure were the only ones to have a vested interest in South Kitsap Schools.
If that wasn’t enough, there were other bizarre issues brought up like United States Post Office failed in their duties in postmarking, delivering or something like that and the lack of drop off boxes for the ballots caused a great hardship on the voters. Look, we have been voting and dropping off ballots the same way for many years. If it was good enough for our national elections, it should be good enough for this election. Again, does the pro camp or the district lack confidence in the citizens’ ability to post or drop off a ballot? Why is it, no matter what, the losing camp always has to bring up such petty complaints to try to add cannon fodder to these issues? The pro camp should have been adult enough to understand “the people have spoken”, and to be fair if the other camp had lost, they would have been the ones complaining.
After the last election, the school district aggravated their local community by thumbing its nose at them and regrettably left themselves with a huge hurdle that now looms over the bond measure. In the article “Election Update”, the author reports “The school district’s Board of Directors has stated that if the bond doesn’t receive voter approval this election, it would bring up the measure again until it is passed”. This comment seems counterproductive when asking the voters to pass anything.
The statement begs one to ask, just who the hell do you think you are not abiding by the will of the people? How much does it cost each time this issue is placed before the voters, and then what is the cost when you multiply that by “until it is passed”? No voter likes to be told “you do it or else” on any voter issue. Statistics show that when trying to pass an issue multiple times, using the “until it is passed” attitude seldom achieves the desired goal.
I would like to remind the School Board that the age demographics of South Kitsap indicate roughly 46% of voters’ children have already passed through the education system and they voted or abstained because they do have a vested interest in South Kitsap Schools or South Kitsap itself. I would think a better choice of words than “until it is passed” is needed when you address this segment of the voting population as these folks have the absolute power to make or break an issue.
I, as well as others in the community, find it very suspicious that additional students were moved from the middle schools and added into the high school population after the election when there was already a major issue of overcrowding. Then came the publicity and pictures taken at the high school showing the severe overcrowding, but nowhere did that article say the district made its own overcrowding worse to embellish their cause. In my opinion, that was one of the dumbest events series of events to take place as it makes the district look vindictive.
It would also be very interesting to see the statistical analysis for this move and review the ratio of middle vs high school overcrowding data. There are many in the community that perceived this move as “punitive” because the bond failed. After all, there is that huge hurdle “until it is passed” raising its ugly head again.
So today, we now find ourselves in that precarious position of voting on not one, but two revenue measures for school construction and renovation on November 6th.. The school board has put forth a new strategy that may prove to be a game changer, and if I may say so, it’s brilliant. The district appears to be separating the high school and renovation issues. The district now proposes a 25-year, $185 million bond measure for a second-high school plus a four-year $22 million capital levy for major renovations at existing schools, new technology and improved security throughout the district. A capital levy only requires a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote whereas the bond would still require 60 percent approval to pass.
Yes, we need a second high school, and while I voted to approve the last measure, I am not so naïve that I don’t recognize just why there was such a high percentage of no or non-votes. It is a well-known fact this community is worn-out from the districts’ glad-handing, murky transparency and lack of trust. Believe it or not, an opportunity has presented itself and it would be beneficial to both camps. The School District needs a new high school and the community needs employment; it’s a win-win solution which can possibly gain common ground for both camps. The district would do themselves a great service with respect to the mistrust issue and to show they support the community by taking advantage of this opportunity.
No glad-handing or lack of transparency, just black and white contractual terms stating the project prime contractor would first seek local (Kitsap County) workers and suppliers. I have written thousands of contractor contracts and as long as it’s to code or specifications, you can have the contractor doing almost anything including wearing pink hard hats with feathers. Below is just a brief example of problematic questions that need to be answered by the district that directly affects this community;
- What is the current rate per square foot with respect to this bond measure as compared to the current commercial rate per square foot in Kitsap County?
- Is the contract being written to provide local contractors with a real chance to obtain work instead of bringing in outside county or state workers?
- Will the contract be written to disallow weasel words when it comes to the prime contractor hiring local contractors, such as; may, should, can? You get the idea.
- Will the contract be written to use local suppliers for the building materials needed?
- Is there a place where the citizens of this community can review/look at a complete set of building plans? In this digital world that should not be a problem. I doubt that anyone wants to tell the district how to build the school, but someone needs to ensure you’re not using gold-plated light fixtures, imported Italian marble, or buying administrators $13,000 desks. That’s called fiscal responsibility and that means getting the best bang for your buck. I am sure others, both pro, and con, will have equally important questions.
- Who is going to ensure there will be no cost overruns charged back to the district, and eventually to us, the citizens of South Kitsap County? We all know, or you should know, that a contractor makes a great deal of profit on change orders or modifications to the contract. These need to be kept to a very minimum and if there is a mistake, someone needs to be held accountable.
All the information provided by the district so far has been tongue-in-cheek except for the small artist rendering of the conceptual site plan showing the layout of a second high school. I hope the school board has taken note of how the contract was written by the State of Washington for the tunnel in Seattle. I have no doubt a document like it will become a model document when using public money to hire a contractor in the near future.
Having had the pleasure of living in South Kitsap for over 50 years, I have seen both camps go at it for many years and while both have merit, very seldom do they find any middle ground. One camp has always accused the school district of fiscal irresponsibility and lack of accountability by reallocating bond monies, while the other camp wants to provide the best facilities available to educate their students no matter what it costs. This is extremely unfortunate because many feel the district has lost touch with the community and the kids are paying the price when both camps are unable or unwilling to reach common ground.
One additional note to remember; this community has been “bonded to death” in the last few years. Everyone wants money, Fire and Rescue, EMS, Maintenance Operations, and Public Safety are just a few bonds/levies that South Kitsap has been asked to approve. The district needs to make a concerted effort that the new revenue measures they seek, when added to the existing tax base, would not be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
By now, you would be justified in asking if I still support South Kitsap School District, and at present, I would have to say yes and no. Yes, I support the overworked, underpaid teachers and principals at the individual schools and No, I do not support the School Board, Administrators or Superintendents Office. In my opinion, the Board, administrators and Superintendent should be required to take a remedial course on how to effectively deal with the parents and the public, as well as attend a lecture on “why did I forget the world doesn’t revolve around us.”
Why such a negative attitude? I, like a lot of parents, are sick and tired of the administrators trying to placate parents and students when there is a real problem. Yes, like a lot of parents, I have had problems with the district. In my case, they were Special Ed issues. The school administration ignored the IEP we had just negotiated with them. It seems before they act, they want to see just how far you will go and how serious you are. They challenge everything and make it extremely difficult knowing that many parents give in. I didn’t give in and I achieved my goals. That being said, like a lot of the community, it is getting harder to not let my personal feelings cloud an achievement that would create a real, substantial, life-altering benefit to our kids in this community.