Proof is in the process

Since March of this year, members of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force logged over 2,200 hours of volunteer time and have met virtually weekly to formulate a recommendation for how to best address the rapid growth in the district's student population.

On Aug. 23, this group of 23 people, including parents, one student, teachers, district staff and community members, reached unanimous consent on a final recommendation for presentation to the school board on Sept. 14.

I am not, however, going to outline the recommendations of the task force in this column. You can hear the final recommendations by attending our public meetings next week or by accessing our Web site. Public meeting dates, times and locations are:

Monday, Sept. 11

7-8:30 p.m.

Mount Si High School

Tuesday, Sept. 12

7-8:30 p.m.

Chief Kanim Middle School

However, almost as important as the final recommendations of the task force is the process that this group followed. As a parent member of the committee, it is my opinion that the community should feel confident with the final recommendations prepared by this group.

Here are some highlights for your consideration:

Key underlying aspects of this process included public involvement, an open and proactive communication strategy, data-driven results and a set of decision-making criteria that places "what's best for kids" at the top of the list.

From the beginning, public involvement and open communication has been a critical aspect of our work. Throughout the process, we have worked hard to keep the public informed through these guest columns, public meetings, our Web site and e-mails, all to maintain an on-going dialogue with community members about the course of our work.

At one point, this public process produced information that changed the course of the task force. At the June public meetings, public feedback prompted the task force to drop the satellite campus concept and replace it with a grade level reconfiguration concept instead. This was done due to the overwhelming amount of feedback we heard from community members who were not in favor of eventually having one very large high school in the Valley. The satellite campus concept would have ultimately produced a high school of approximately 3,000 students. The community spoke up in preference of smaller schools and we heard you.

The total time devoted to this project is incredible and not just because it was all done by volunteers. I mention the 2,200-plus hours because it demonstrates a level of thoughtfulness, research and quality of work devoted to reaching a solution that will meet the needs of our district in both the short and long terms. The task force has spent considerable time both in meetings and on personal time reviewing a wide range of data and information to reach its final recommendations.

I feel confident that the task force has done its homework and the public will see that the final recommendations reflect this effort. Not only has the task force considered what we need in terms of construction of new school buildings, but we have also considered the substantial investment we have in our current school buildings and district-wide support systems like transportation, technology and district leadership. In addition to creating more space to house our growing student population, we must invest in what we already have to ensure its continuing viability.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the key and driving factor behind the quality of work produced stems from a genuine desire to present a recommendation that is "best for the kids." To help guide decisions, the task force developed a set of criteria to assess conceptual themes and possible solutions. This list included what was best for kids at all grade levels, financial realities, enrollment projections, geographical realities and political realities.

Notice that "what's best for kids" is at the top of the list. Through each conversation and examination of the conceptual themes and possible solutions, we kept the kids in mind. I am confident that the final recommendation reflects a solution that will meet the needs of all children across the community.

So, please come hear for yourself the recommendations of the task force. I think you will find that the proof is in the process. A summary of our final recommendations, answers to frequently asked questions and a myriad of details and background research are available on our Web site for your review.

Kathryn Lemer is a member of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force. This is part of a biweekly series of guest columns written by task force members. For more details, visit www.snoqualmie.k12.wa.us and click on "Facilities Task Force Information."

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