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LETTERS: School board boundaries should reflect growth, people's wishes
I read with interest your story regarding school board redistricting. I was particularly struck by the quote by Jeff Hogan that read, "Using internal director district boundaries as a starting point for population realignment . . . is an accepted practice [and is based] on the premise that current boundaries are an existing historical community of common interest."
The above remark may be true for a school district community that has not grown at the rate of our community. Recent census data has revealed that Snoqualmie is the fastest growing city in the state. Population in Snoqualmie has more than doubled over the past ten years from 5,000 residents to 13,000. Such an explosion of growth certainly warrants consideration by the district when considering realignment of school board districts. In fact, I am surprised the district did not take this rapid growth into account and consider it as a reason to invalidate this "accepted practice."
State law (RCW 29A.76.010) requires that realignment comply with five basic criterion: 1) director districts must be equal in population; 2) must be geographically contiguous; 3) must be compact as possible; 4) may not favor or disfavor any racial group or political party; 5) must, to the extent possible, coincide with existing, recognized natural boundaries and preserve existing communities of related and mutual interest. The criteria does not include considering existing director districts that would serve to maintain the status quo. If this was the intent of the law, than why conduct realignments?
Snoqualmie has one of the densest populations in the district. Snoqualmie is compact. Roughly two-fifths of the community resides in Snoqualmie (13,000 out of a District of about 35,000). Snoqualmie is bordered by green-space; a river; a large and non-developable farm area (Meadowbrook); a waterfall; an interstate; a reservation; and a state highway making it geographically contiguous. Snoqualmie is an area of common and mutual interest. What residents of Snoqualmie may find as important, are not necessarily what residents in North Bend and Fall City may find important. As one North Bend parent commented during the recent public hearing regarding redistricting (and I paraphrase): What does Wilderness Rim and Snoqualmie Ridge have in common? How could a school board member residing in Wilderness Rim adequately convey the interests of that community and, at the same time, convey the interests of Snoqualmie Ridge (or vice versa)? Yet, the district's proposed realignment plan has Wilderness Rim and other areas of North Bend south of I-90 included as a district, along with areas of Snoqualmie Ridge north of I-90? Downtown North Bend is now grouped with downtown Snoqualmie in the district's plan? Another portion of Snoqualmie is included as a part of a large North Bend district which stretches from Snoqualmie Pass to Tokul Creek? The fourth district is comprised of the rest of Snoqualmie Ridge and Lake Alice? Somehow, none of these new proposed districts seem to have anything in common--not geography, not compactness, not the same issues (or areas of mutual interest), and definitely not areas of existing communities. In fact, the only thing they all have in common in the District's plan is equal populations of roughly 7,000 residents each.
Because the district's proposed plan recommends breaking Snoqualmie into four areas to be represented by existing board seats in North Bend and Fall City, it is not impossible for residents of North Bend and Fall City to be looking at a future school board comprised of up to four Snoqualmie residents. I am sure they do not want to see future school board "monopolized" by Snoqualmie residents, just as Snoqualmie residents do not want to see a school board comprised of no one from Snoqualmie.
Therefore, it is with all due respect that I entrust the district to consider a plan that provides for two North Bend director districts; two Snoqualmie director districts; and one Fall City. Such a model clearly better complies with state statute and, more importantly, complies with the wishes of the people. There is more than one way to slice a pie; however, when dolling out the pieces, it is always nice to make sure they are even and no one group is favored over another. The school board should be shaped to represent the community as a whole. The only way the whole community can be adequately represented is to ensure they are all part of the ingredients. Our kids, our residents, and our schools deserve nothing less.