Letter: Can You Imagine?

Kris Kelsay weighs in on the school bond issue.

In my “real job,” I work with early stage companies, many of them technology related. I find the work fascinating, and I always learn something from each of them along the way. One of my current sells a “Life Game” that uses gamification technology to help make life improvement accessible to everyone so I’ve recently been immersed in the science behind behavioral change and life improvement concepts in general.

One concept that I’ve learned about is this idea of setting an “affirmation”—which is basically visualizing the positive outcome that you’re looking for as a forgone conclusion. It started to make me think, maybe we’ve been fighting so hard about what is so wrong or not wrong about this School Bond, that we’ve forgotten to notice what’s so right about it. I’m definitely not an expert at this idea of affirmation, but here’s my attempt at painting the picture that I can imagine in relation to this school bond passing:

I see a learning environment that supports the Mercer Island School District’s 2020 Vision. I see schools where our students have space for personalized learning and adaptive spaces for project collaboration—they’re listening to a lecture, learning on their own, and collaborate with others—based on their individualized needs. They’re working wireless, with devices and integrated technology that connect them to each other and the world around them. Our students are fulfilling the vision – “preparing to thrive in the cognitive, digital, and global world while sustaining their passion and inspiration for learning.”

I see schools that fully support our outstanding educators. I see facilities that take full advantage of the expertise and best practice teaching that our educators are doing today. These buildings give room to bring to life their innovative ideas and project-based learning initiatives. They give our teachers their own spaces for collaborating and sharing, and integrated technology at their fingertips. They give them science rooms that are designed for teaching science, adequate performance spaces, and art rooms that support multi-day projects. They offer common areas that allow our Principals to bring their school, parents and teachers together and build community and pride.

I see a healthy school environment for our kids and our community. I see schools that have been built using sustainability best practices that reduce our carbon footprint and even offer an environment to teach those practices to future generations. We have schools that are set back off streets, improving the traffic and safety of our students, maybe new sidewalks that encourage more students to walk. Our facilities have natural light, low VOC, and kitchens where fresh food can be prepared. They meet new earthquake standards and are equipped to provide shelter to our entire community in the case of a disaster.

I see each Mercer Island school facility as a place of pride for all Islanders. They are busy, bustling centers of community where residents of all ages are connecting. I see new space for fields where people meet and play as efficient two-story schools replace existing sprawling schools.  I see community members meeting in our schools on evenings, maybe weekends or utilizing the additional performance spaces that are now available. I see a city government that knows the master plan for our schools, so can weave additional city needs in appropriately. Our property values increase as the recovery happens and young families want to come to the Island for our schools. I see a community who has once again put education at the forefront.

Wow. That idea feels good, doesn’t it?  

For more thoughts on this school bond, visit my personal blog at:www.whatifitfails.wordpress.com

- Kris Kelsay

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Trevor Hart March 30, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Reading this article, I found myself having "flash-backs" to the sixties! I pictured Kris Kelsey with flowers in hair wearing a paisley moo-moo. I even caught a wiff of incense in the air. It was a great experience to go back to those days when we wore rose colored glasses that made the world look so bright and beautiful. Then I came to end of the article and crashed back to earth with a thud. I considered what this bond proposal is REALY all about and compared it to Kris's "positive outcome" vision. I've concluded that this bond proposal doesn't cut the mustard. Tearing down more than a quarter million square feet of recently remodel educational space at a cost of about $ 2,700,000, only to then be replaced by as much and more square footage, is neither "green" nor prudent. Furthermore, the cost for such massive demolition has not been included as an item in the bond proposal. There is no doubt that the current student population needs more classrooms and support space. The addition of a 4th school at the north end, or substantial additions to each existing school will relieve the current overcrowding. With the addition of square footage, congestion will be relieved and modifications can be made to achieve "21st Century schools" that can easily accomodate flexibility and teaching opportunities for student learning. There's nothing wrong with Kris Kelsey's vision it just doesn't justify this 200 million dollar bond proposal.
Jeff Palmberg March 30, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I'm afraid that patching together short-term "fixes" for the problems will only postpone the inevitable. While the sticker shock of the bond is frightening many people, waiting will only make the eventual cost higher (by a long ways!). Most residents of Mercer Island moved here primarily for the wonderful schools. Let's not ignor the needs for significant improvements to the facilities which will not only maintain the current high levels, but open up our students to much greater opportunies for learning and the kinds of imagined outcomes presented by Kris Kelsey. And from a selfish perspective, EVERYONE will gain in property value when MI has state-of-the-art schools to go along with the state-of-the-art education the MISD already provides!
G. March 30, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Interestingly, I had just the opposite reaction. Indeed I was taken with the idea of creating our future instead of retrofitting it. We know that education is one of the most important elements of vibrant and knowledgable societies. Scandanavia particularly Finland is an example. This is an investment that will pay off in countless ways for us, including the value of our homes because of it.
Ken Glass March 30, 2012 at 10:23 PM
I have a flashback to 1990 when the MI community turned down a bond...and demanded a better and more cost effective solution. The end result - three bonds that ended up costing the taxpayers of MI 9+% *more* and produced less than the original vision. Susan Blake (a long time MI resident, former school board director and city council member) also makes a great point about this costing less per capita than the folks on MI paid in the 50s and 60s to build the schools here originally (see http://www.mi-reporter.com/opinion/letters/144669825.html). This bond is the right solution at the right time for the right price. If history prevails, turning it down will result in an inferior solution that costs more (like building a 4th elementary now (somewhere), redoing the middle school and rebuilding 3 more elementary schools a few years down the road at the end of their useful life -- not to mention the skyrocketing costs of maintaining buildings toward the end of life. That's one more new building than the current bond proposes. Right time. Right solution. Right cost. These add up to a YES vote to me.
Claus Jensen April 01, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Dea Kris Kelsay, Can you imagine to "agree to disagree" with opponents of the School Bond Initiative in a civil manner without disparaging them publicly in print? Can you imagine voluntarily disclosing your obvious Conflict of Interest (as a paid contractor hired by the School District for #30,000.) in all your posts promoting the initiative? I wonder if you can? Respectfully yours, Claus V. Jensen Voluntary Disclosure: Mercer Island Resident & Tax Payer for 32 Years Supporter of previous School Bond Initiatives - but NOT THIS BOND! Donated $100. to the Vote No Campaign
Claus Jensen April 01, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Spell edited post: Dear Kris Kelsay, Can you imagine to "agree to disagree" with opponents of the School Bond Initiative in a civil manner without disparaging them publicly in print? Can you imagine voluntarily disclosing your obvious Conflict of Interest (as a paid contractor hired by the School District for $30,000.) in all your posts promoting the initiative? I wonder if you can? Respectfully yours, Claus V. Jensen Voluntary Disclosure: Mercer Island Resident & Tax Payer for 32 Years Supporter of previous School Bond Initiatives - but NOT THIS BOND! Contributed $100. to the Vote No Campaign
Trevor Hart April 01, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Jeff, Many people moved to the island, as did we, for the quality of the education being provided, and not the "wonderful schools" you refer to. Prior to the '95 renovations of all four K thru 8 schools, the buildings were flat roof "California style" structures that were built quickly and cheaply under the formula put forth by the states (OSPI), back in the day when funding from the state was available. These were the buildings that housed the level of educational excellence we moved here for in 1990. We've come a long way from those antiquated structures that housed the production of so much. We need to continue to move forward with providing school buildings with adequate space and sevices that aid the delivery of educational excellence we've come to expect and cherish. Tearing down everything we have to merely replace with newer and larger is not the answer and this bond proposal perpetuates the current overcrowding rather than allievating it. A better solution is needed and this bond must fail so that the District can get to work putting forward a PLAN that more readily solves the problem in an efficient and cost effective way. I, and many others voting NO on this bond are, and have always been, supporters of education, but this bond proposal is ill conceived and not in the best interests of our children and the community.
Thomas Imrich April 01, 2012 at 08:39 PM
While Ms Kelsay asks: “Can you Imagine?”… [and then cites her imagined outcomes], ….all that I imagine is her dead wrong assessment of the MI bond’s true benefit and consequence. I even see a related consequence of her flawed thinking on a broader scale, in why many U.S.K-12 public education efforts are failing so badly in the world’s competitive education marketplace. Buildings aren’t the first order determinant for education quality. Teachers, curriculum, parents, relevant learning opportunities, and motivation are the most important factors that drive education outcomes. Instead, all that I “imagine” in my vision, regarding this particular school bond proposal is: - wasted money that would likely have a marginal effect, at best , on real education outcomes, - a poorly thought out school plan that puts the wrong capacity, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, - more unnecessary MI “self-inflicted” traffic congestion, without appropriate city coordination - wasteful bond tax costs, far out of balance with the communities real overall tax needs, and - the appearance of clandestine, illogical, and even overpriced land purchase and swap “deals”, done well outside of community view, scrutiny, or support. Education is critically important to both our community and country. So I’m electing to “Vote NO”. Send the school bond back for a re-plan at the fundamental level . Tom Imrich Three decade resident
anonathaniel April 07, 2012 at 05:53 PM
All I see is $196 million down the drain and someone pretending we all live in some magical fairyland where we throw around money like pixie dust.
anonathaniel April 07, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Plus, Ms. Kelsay, weren't you paid $30,000 to run your 21CFPC advocacy report for the school bond? Seems like a conflict of interest...


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