School director urges online surveys Making citizens heard a priority for Popp

Increasing communication between the Snoqualmie Valley School District and the public is a top priority for Dan Popp, who was appointed last month to fill a school board vacancy left by Kristy Sullivan.

“If we could do a better job of two-way communication, we could have better support, and not have nail-biting propositions,” Popp said, referring to the district’s three capital facilities bond measures that voters have narrowly rejected over the last two years.

A scaled-down bond to make repairs around the district and install modular classrooms to ease overcrowding at Mount Si High School will appear on March ballots.

The school board is taking advantage of a slowing enrollment growth rate to step back and determine the best way to deal with existing and eminent crowding issues around the Valley.

A sales manager for Microsoft Learning systems, Popp wants to see the district utilize technology like online polls to hear feedback from community members as the district makes key decisions.

Though “people have really worked hard” campaigning for capital improvements and building new schools, Popp said the efforts have been unsuccessful in part because constituents haven’t had an opportunity to make their voices heard.

“As a taxpayer and parent, I haven’t felt like I’ve been asked my opinion,” he said. “At Microsoft, we wouldn’t make a decision without a great amount of input from constituencies. We survey partners two to three times a year as a minimum. We’re constantly reaching out to them, and we’re successful because of that.”

Valley residents also need to realize that it’s not just school administrators, educators and parents who have a stake in and responsibility for improving schools, Popp said.

“It’s also that couple that hasn’t had children in the school system in 20 years,” he said.

Popp said the most important way communities support students is financially.

“Schools get built, and classroom sizes diminish when there’s funding. With crowding, as a community, we become less competitive,” he said.

In a time of economic uncertainty and historic state budget shortfalls, community members can aencourage lawmakers to keep their tax dollars flowing to schools, Popp said.

“We’re competing for funding from the state and for other public funding. Government funding is finite. We have to be diligent, we have to be active, and look to our state and local representatives to support schools,” he said.

For the district’s part, “we need to come up with solutions that the community supports.”

As a father of five children in the district, with the youngest in first grade, Popp said he has “a vested interest in making sure the experience for students is exceptional.”

Popp said he’s found a lot to like in the district as his children have progressed through Fall City Elementary and Chief Kanim Middle School.

“We love these schools. The dedication from the teachers and principals is extraordinary,” he said.

Still, he identified areas where the district could do better.

“I’d love to see us improve on the number of students who graduate 12th grade, and go on to post-secondary education,” he said.

Popp said he’d like to stay on the board long enough to help the district accomplish key goals.

To stay in the seat, Popp will have to run this November, and again in the November 2011 election before the director district 5 position has another four-year term.

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