Guest Blog: Can A Divided School Board Create a United Snoqualmie Valley? Or Is It Time To Unite For A New Course?

This is the second guest blog by Lori Riffe.  You can read her other thoughts on her own blog, Tainted Fishsticks.  There has been much public outcry over the March 8th school board decision to annex Snoqualmie Middle School to MSHS in 2013; in essence eliminating a SVSD middle school.  Community members outside of Snoqualmie hope the outcry will cease in time. That may be the case, but in my 10 Snoqualmie years, I have not witnessed the Snoqualmie community this opposed to a school board decision.  This is evidenced by people like Lori, who prefer to remain silent, stepping onto a more political platformRead on…

Things are heating up, yet again, in the Snoqualmie Valley School District.  I don’t believe in the last 11 years since we’ve lived here there’s been anything but controversy and divided opinion.

Honestly, I tend to steer clear of political whatnot.  I call it that because most of the time it’s confusing and not worth my time. Yes, I understand my lack of involvement baffles some people, but that’s just the way I am.  I have yet to find a political platform, or politician, for that matter, who provides me with enough clear and honest information for me to even take interest.  Not only is information confusing, but it tends to be selective, embellished and seemingly untrue.

You see, I am a big picture thinker, an honest person, and someone who relies on facts, not opinion, to determine my actions.  Our school district Superintendent, Joel Aune, apparently, shares my philosophy.  He stated it here, on the district website; “Honesty and integrity in our dealings with students, staff, parents, and with one another is non-negotiable.  Integrity, honesty, consistency, and compassion are the foundational building blocks for a trustful high-performance environment.”

What does grab my attention is anything that directly affects my family, my friends  and my community.  The recent school board decision to convert Snoqualmie Middle School (SMS) to a Freshman Learning Center (FLC)  in 2013 is most definitely on my radar.  You see, my son is a 6th grader at SMS, and so are my friends’ kids. Some of my friends have 5th graders who will attend SMS next year.  And, for all these kids, it means moving schools, learning new systems and making new friends right in the middle of their pre-high school journey.

I’ve been told there’s just a lot I don’t know about the facts that went into this decision.  I’ve been told we have to do this now.  I’ve been told the decision has been made and there’s no turning back. I’ve been told, essentially, that my opinion doesn’t count.

This puts me, and other parents, in an emotional place.  We feel angry, confused and helpless. We feel deceived by lack of information, and controlled by less than a handful of people.  Three people decided our kids’ fate.  Three. That is unsettling at best.

The animosity at the School Board level is evident.  Two new members elected this year are now part of an ‘us and them’ scenario.  The three original members versus the two new members.  You can hear it in discussions at meetings and see it in the voting.  But, shouldn’t this group of five elected board members join together to make the best decisions for our schools?  Is a 3 to 2 vote a TRUE representation of the opinion of voters?  How can we, the parents of those affected, and the taxpayers who fund these decisions, have trust and faith in a divided Board?

Joel Aune stated an interesting point, that, in my view, directly correlates with what I’ve just presented;  “Many of the problems and challenges that will emerge in the future are much too complex in nature to rely upon a “select few” for solutions.”

Perhaps a decision of this caliber should not be made by a ‘select few’, but instead, through more careful consideration, truthful presentation of facts and big picture planning for our kids’ future.  Is it possible that our school board could come together and reconsider their previous decision?  I would expect further conversation and investigation could lead to a solution not even considered before.  One that shows business sense and thoughtfulness.

My expectations for ALL of our elected school board members, as well as our Superintendent, are the same as my expectations for anyone I put my trust in.  Honesty, integrity, and may I add, the ability to admit fault.  As humans, we make mistakes, we act based on emotion, and we let others sway our decisions.  But, when our actions affect others, we must use logic and facts to lead our decisions, and be willing to change paths if the one we are on is heading in the wrong direction.

I challenge our school board to do the right thing.  First, and foremost, present clearly and honestly any additional information that may or may not support the current FLC plan.  Second, answer the tough questions posed by the public clearly, honestly and without defense and emotion.  Third, take another look at how this decision negatively affects many students and teachers, and whether the fallout is worth the predicted improvement for 9th graders. Finally, take this opportunity to make a positive impact on the divided district, which is ironically coming together against you.

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  • Great article, Lori!! My take on the turn of events has to do with the former school board, prior to the election of Carolyn and Geoff, threatening to move forward with the FLC regardless of the outcome on the bond vote. It was a tactic to try and persuade the faction of folks who were, and I assume still are, adamantly against the idea of a 9th grade campus. What it seems they didn’t take into account were all the “yes” voters revolting against the idea of a FLC without a replacement middle school for our children.

    I guess I am still just baffled by why the board members who agreed to move ahead with this plan feel that overcrowding at the HS has to be remedied immediately, but it’s OK to push the problem down into the middle schools, where the maturity level and emotional stability of the students hinders them from being able to effectively handle it. And no matter what anybody tells you, this whole thing started out with the need to relieve the overcrowding at Mt. Si High School. It’s not about some new innovative way to structure a school system, it’s about kids and space, period. I guess I just don’t appreciate the fact that my kids are test piloting this whole thing.It’s scary. Thanks again for your words. I just wish someone would listen.

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