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Letter: Mercer Island Reporter School Bond Endorsement Deeply Flawed

Three-decade Mercer Island resident Tom Imrich writes in a letter to the editor that the Mercer Island Reporter's endorsement of the $196 million school bond in the April 17 Special Election.

Editor:

Editor Ms. Mary Grady’s editorial “Our Students Can’t Wait” (3-28-12 MI Reporter) is dead wrong in her assessment of why “are citizens uneasy” about this school bond.

Her implication that the voters just needed more time to "process" the school plan and bond idea is incorrect. Voters could have examined the MISD plan and bond until the sun burns out, and it wouldn’t make a fundamentally flawed plan look any better. Further, there are many more reasons, and more important reasons why MI citizens should vote a clear and resounding NO.

Three reasons for ambiguity that Ms. Grady cited, namely tearing down schools with remaining life, finding space for incremental student additions, and better using existing school sites are true, but are only some of the important reasons to Vote NO.

Examples of other key reasons that she missed include the concern that the proposed added capacity is mostly in the WRONG location (added capacity is needed on the north end, not primarily the south). 

The plan doesn’t yet integrate with overall MI community’s requirements (e.g., traffic impacts, overall taxation impact for critical infrastructure needs) and other reasons. “Vote NO” reasons go far beyond her rationale. 

However, even looking at Ms. Grady’s own limited set of arguments, such as needing adding pupil capacity soon, argues eloquently against her own flawed voting recommendation and conclusion. The facts instead argue for citizens to send a resounding “VOTE NO” message on this flawed bond, and force a significantly improved and better justified MISD re-plan, for next time.

Tom Imrich

Three decade plus MI resident

(Ed. Note: Mercer Island Patch does not generally assume or advocate our own editorial positions on political issues, and will therefore not offer any endorsement in this election.)

Ken Glass April 07, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Jerry, I would appreciate your analysis of the professional opinions expressed here: http://mischoolsyes.org/build-new-or-remodel/ (scroll down). I didn't do the analysis...I saw that the committee did and analyzed the veracity of the analysis. Here is one specific example of the process they used to come up with this conclusion (would appreciate your analysis of this opinion as well -- specifically the remodel vs. rebuild arguments contained within): http://mischoolsyes.org/letter-dick-benster/ To your specific criticism....I don't see how the conflict of interest you imply would be in the consultant's favor -- since presumably industry folks would be contracted for the remodel and hence making almost as much profit (in Lake Washington's case, even more) doing a remodel or doing a "large public project".
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA April 07, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Ken- We long-time Mercer Islanders all appreciate the good work your Committee has done. However, no one I've talked to thinks tearing down all of our-not-so-long-ago remodeled schools make sense or is in any way desirable- including this MI High School student- Kyle Huber. Here's his thoughtful letter- http://mercerisland.patch.com/articles/letter-mihs-junior-weighs-in-with-student-s-opinion
Robert T. Brown April 07, 2012 at 04:43 AM
On the 21 CPC recommendation, it says that they found that "some significant programmatic improvements could be accomplished through remodels" though capacity couldn't be substantially increased (due to existing structure). So, in order to accomplish the task of creating "equitable", "21st Century Facilities", a new bond could be placed to renovate three schools, and add a fourth elementary. Ken, the examples on the website you gave included extra costs such as creating "learning clusters", adding a kitchen & commons, full insulation, bringing building up to earthquake, energy, and drainage codes, just to name a few. And remember, these studies were done by *other* districts, not ours. Most districts in the country only start thinking about building new after renovation costs exceeds 70-75% of rebuilding. As the recommendation later states, we would need to have "independent costing before putting a bond proposal before the public". I've even taken the time to create sketches of alternate plans: https://sites.google.com/site/nomischoolsbond/effective-alternatives
Ken Glass April 07, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Jerry, I was not on the committee. I looked at their work from the outside as well as the other information available before deciding if I would support this bond and to what degree. Regarding Kyle's letter, it is very well written and presents his arguments well. However, after looking at the data, I come to a different conclusion about this bond (without going into all the detail, here are some key things: would portables take over fields (does zoning even allow))? would 18 minute lunches and double assemblies and hallway classrooms continue? if a 4th school is built (where?), the middle school still must be addressed and 3 more schools still need to be built in 10+ years -- overall a more expensive option than the current plan esp. when considering maintenance costs at end of life. Why do realtors, who talk to home buyers, say exactly the opposite of what Mr. Huber says about folks looking at houses on Mercer Island vs neighboring districts? He's right about great teachers..it's important to keep attracting and retaining them. I agree with his assertion for education reform -- I'm proud to see district leadership doing exactly that in areas of student learning, teaching approaches as we prepare our students for the realities of the environment they'll face (and this bond supports that 21st century reform effort directly - it doesn't attempt to just address overcrowding, it does overcrowding and reform, which I believe is exactly the wise and prudent path to take)
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA April 11, 2012 at 07:37 PM
This Election I've encountered far more "NO on MI School Bond" citizens than ever before. They often say they've never, ever voted against any MI School Election- which certainly says a lot about this one. J-

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