Opinion

Snoqualmie School Board's Lerner sends wrong message in school choice

This week we are running a story about Kathryn Lerner, a school board member, sending her child to an out-of-district high school. I do respect the fact that she did this above board and have a lot of respect for her as a school board member. I think she has been a strong replacement for Kim Horn.

But this decision, with her parent hat on, could have an impact on future bonds and/or maintenance and operations levies. More importantly, it could have an impact on contract negotiations coming up this week, with teachers at all levels.

Public education is at a crossroads. It tends to be underfunded, continues to strive for measurable success, and in East King County, has to compete for teachers who can’t afford to live here.

Mount Si is a good high school despite the rhetoric of last year’s turmoil over an outspoken speaker and a few teachers. The staff at the high school really care about their kids. Heck, both my kids and my wife and I are products of Mount Si High School. The thought never even crossed my mind to send my children to another school.

My understanding is that programming is the issue that caused Kathryn’s child to go to another high school. I suggest that Kathryn, as a school board member, has the ability to help provide programming at Mount Si that will meet her child’s needs.

I hope that programming is the only issue. All high schools have issues, likely because of their need to foster kids into young adults. If the thought is that another high school isn’t going to have the same challenges, I would strongly disagree. Ask any parent from any high school, public or private, if there are things that could be improved for their school, and they would say yes. Teenagers, whether at Mount Si, Mercer Island, or Eastside Catholic, have to face drug issues, peer pressure, sexual issues, gender issues, race issues — all the things the rest of us face on a daily basis. No school is insulated from these issues.

But it sends the wrong message when a sitting member of the school board elects to send their child to an out-of-district high school.

Is the current system so broken that it can’t be fixed while her child is of high school age? Should voters support another high school that may mirror Mount Si when a school board member isn’t willing to send her child to it?

A relationship with schools is an important thing for school board members to have. All of the past and current school board members in recent history have had children attend Mount Si at some time. Kathryn will have work extra hard to foster those relationships with a high school she chooses not to send her child to. How can she be effective at making tough decisions about Mount Si when she has chosen to send her child elsewhere?

The message is wrong for the rest of us who chose to stay in the district. Time will tell if she has permanently damaged her ability to be effective on the school board. I hope this doesn’t affect our ability to bring on a new high school.

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