April 20, 2010

SVSD Elementary Boundary Committee Recommendation – Compromise or Compromised?


I read the recommendation of the SVSD Elementary Boundary Committee last week with great disappointment.  Yes, our household was affected, but that is not why.  I was disappointed that, after developing and following a well-defined, criteria-based process for two months, the committee chose to throw the process out the window, let themselves be influenced by vocal interested parties and ultimately made a recommendation that does the least good of all options considered at alleviating long-term capacity problems and, according to their own data, almost guarantees the need to revisit the issue again in two years, instead of implementing a solution that would last longer.

Why is the Boundary Being Reviewed in the First Place?

The community is growing.  Three years ago, Snoqualmie Ridge growth was addressed with a boundary change that balanced capacity from CVES to SES.  Approval has already been granted for building another 250 – 300 homes in Snoqualmie Ridge.  Kimball Creek is gaining 90 new homes.  North Bend water and sewage issues have been resolved and applications have been made for 387 new homes already (pending approval).  Unincorporated King County areas have had 30 new homes approved in the past two years.

And, of course, while the entire district benefits from the increased taxes brought by the growth, the broader electorate has repeatedly failed to support bond measure that could have alleviated growth problems by increasing capacity in the growing areas.  So, what are we faced with?

growth-5yr Basically, CVES and SES are now balanced and both at full capacity.  It doesn’t even look to me like the projections for NBES and OES incorporate the projected North Bend growth, but that is a story for another day.

Ultimately, I blame the voters that either didn’t get out and vote (you on the Ridge) or voted against bond proposals, but I assume that once the growth hits North Bend and they need their schools back for their own kids, enough voters will engage and pass a future bond.  For now, we have a boundary review.

I Was *So* Admiring the Process…

This most disappoint part is that I was largely content to just let the process work because the process seemed well thought out and objective.  Here is where we’ve been:

  • February 11.  The School Board approved the formation of an Elementary Boundary Study committee at their February 11 meeting.  Elementary Attendance Boundary Study Announced.  This page outlines purpose, goals, timeline and identifies the committee members, which did not include an parent representatives.
  • March 1-5.  Criteria Survey fielded.  See the results.
  • March 5.  The committee announced criteria for the decision.  Elementary Boundary Committee Confirms Criteria.  Notably absent from criteria is proximity to the school – a recommendation from the first community survey which the committee explicitly chose to exclude from consideration.
  • March 9.  The committee announce 5 proposed scenarios.  Boundary Committee Develops Five Draft Scenarios. With this announcement, the committee also fielded a second community survey for feedback.
  • March ?.  Committee added Option F, described as “a potential solution that would disrupt fewer students than Options A or C.”  [If someone has more details than the district has published about why Option F was introduced, please share in a comment or e-mail.  I’ve heard that all options A – E result in Deer Park kids having a bus route on I90, but I have no substantiating details.]
  • March 23.  Committee narrows the options to A, C and F and fields another survey.  Also published why other options were not chosen.

… Up Until Last Week

Then, it seems to go sideways.  Admittedly, the district hasn’t done a stellar job of explaining how Option F got added, but at least it was done publicly and there was a public comment and feedback period after it was done.

  • April ?.  A group of families privately submit an 7th alternate option, which appears to have ultimately been adopted in its entirety and proposed to the School Board. 

I have obtained a copy of the letter allegedly from one of the communities affected by Option C, but not affected by the Modified Option C and made it available for download here as a PDF document.

I can’t verify that this is the exact letter, but it seems highly likely in my opinion. 

It appears that the proposal became what is now called a Modified C Option.  This option was not shared or reviewed with the public, as was the case with all other options.  And let’s be honest – this is a new option.  It differs as much as the other options.

Later today, I will follow up with my own analysis of A, C, F and Modified-C in another post and plan to include comment on the “reasons” articulated by the committee for their recommendation.  Feel free to register and comment below, or share links to other information that you’d like to put into the public record.

Full Disclosure – How It Affects My Household

I want to get disclosure out of the way, so fewer people will see bias in my comments.

I live in K-North and we are affected.  In the original 5 options, we stayed at CVES for two options and moved to SES for three of the options.  In Option F, we would have stayed at CVES.  During the previous boundary review in 2007, we really wanted to stay at CVES, however, this time my wife and I discussed the different options and decided we were okay with any of the options.  CVES and SES each have their pros and cons:

  • (+CVES) CVES is where our daughter went, is (long) walking distance and keeps our kids with the most of the other children in the broad neighborhood.  Also has ELC across the street for aftercare options.
  • (-CVES)  CVES lost their Hi-C program in 2009, doesn’t have all day Kindergarten and is generally still a bit overcrowded.
  • (+SES) We had heard great things about SES teachers and environment.  Has all-day Kindergarten and a Hi-C program.  Broadens the kids friend set to children from outside the neighborhood.
  • (-SES) Much further to drive to/from the school.  Could affect how potential future home buyers view home value (perception mainly, but a reality.)

I did study each option as it came out and participated in the community surveys, except for the first one about criteria because I didn’t know it was happening.

Jeff Jones writes about a wide range of topics, but has a particular interest in computers, technology, science fiction, poker and chai tea lattes. He moved to Snoqualmie in 2006, he works for a little company in Redmond during the day and spends the rest of the time with family and friends.

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6 Responses to “SVSD Elementary Boundary Committee Recommendation – Compromise or Compromised?”

  1. jloop says:

    Jordan- here is the funny thing… you say the numbers are misleading – well then how the hell is anyone supposed to make an informed decision if the numbers are indeed misleading. I’ve heard the argument that Cascade View is an aging poplulation – guess what – we all are. I’ve also heard that many houses are for sales. Well, who is to guarantee that families with 5 kids will not move into those large homes? There is no way you can guarantee the numbers – of any neighborhood for that matter. The only thing the board can do is bring the numbers down to a reasonable level at all the schools. By selecting modified C they are only shooting all of us in the foot. In 2 years we’ll have the same problem and have more change for our children. Quite frankly if I was set to stay at CVES I would be livid with the system in not correcting the enrollment number for next year. K-North has 71 students that will be moving (minus 5th graders plus Kindergartners included). How will that take the 721 students currently enrolled at CVES and make it a reasonable number. Wasn’t this whole process to relieve some of the pressure on the staff at CVES? Unbelieveable. I am fine moving to SES, but take all of option C and don’t just move the ones that cried the least. That is not what this is about.

  2. Jordan says:

    Jonesy, one last thing.

    Nobody from the Option C folks met privately with anybody from the board or the committee when we presented our case. It was emailed.

  3. Jordan says:

    Hi Jonesy!
    There certainly seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around out there, and quite frankly a lot of comments from people that either do not understand the process or have chosen not to follow it.

    “I read the recommendation of the SVSD Elementary Boundary Committee last week with great disappointment. Yes, our household was affected, but that is not why. I was disappointed that, after developing and following a well-defined, criteria-based process for two months, the committee chose to throw the process out the window, let themselves be influenced by vocal interested parties”

    “April ?. A group of families privately submit an 7th alternate option, which appears to have ultimately been adopted in its entirety and proposed to the School Board.”

    The number of families involved, and yes we did meet, was a group of 50 to 60. After much work, we did provide the committee with our feedback and suggestions. The good folks of Deer Park did the same previously. They put together an alternative, presented it to the committee, and the committee believed it was worthy of a new option, option F.

    Back in March we were frustrated that a new option (F) could be added without a chance for public comment. But then, we did noticed this on the SVSD site:

    “After receiving community input on the draft scenarios detailed above, the committee will review the input, make adjustments, and then post a short list of options.”

    We understood now that the committee could and would make adjustments to options.

    The notice on the SVSD site, posted weeks before the April 15th recommendation announcement, clearly stated this:

    “Committee members will consider input from the meetings and online submissions in making a final recommendation to the Board. The committee may decide to recommend one of the options discussed tonight as is, or may modify one of the options, based upon ideas which had not been previously considered.”

    It should not have come as a surprise that the committee changed or added an option, they had already done that before after a presentation by the option F folks. We simply did the same thing. Option F was not added “publicly”, it was presented privately to the committee by the Deer Park residents. The committee clearly stated that the ultimate recommendation could be a modified option. There was a chance for feedback after the recommendation, and you you good folks have put together your petition, arguments and rebuttals and they have been delivered to the board as you should have.

    The committee unanimously voted for the recommended option.

    I have to be honest, at the two public meetings back in March, after the choices were narrowed down to the new option F, C and A, option F and C folks appeared to be out in force. Almost all comments and questions were from those two groups. Option A supporters seemed strangely absent. We knew when we saw the new option F that the committee would alter options, would listen to new ideas and we got to work.

    None of the options are perfect, they all have their faults.

    Thanks, Jonesy.


    • Jeff Jones says:

      JoJo – First, let me applaud you and your community! Nothing wrong there, everybody should get out and fight for what they want as you did – you’ll get no criticism from me.

      However, in terms of process, I’ll have to disagree. What I hear you saying is basically that the small print allows them to make up a random recommendation at the last minute that is different from all of the publicly discussed options (per your quoted text above), so since they gave themselves that out, that makes it okay. That still doesn’t make it a good process in my eyes, when we’re talking about an issue affecting so many families.

      A through F were all published and had opportunity for public review, feedback and comment. All of them had surveys fielded at least once, and some of them multiple times.

      Modified C did not. That means that the only opportunity for comment is this past week after the committee made their recommendation but before the board decides. As your neighborhood did, many people are now expressing their opinions as is their right.

      I personally haven’t completed my own analysis of the various options, but I don’t have to in order to know that I am disappointed by how this recommendation was introduced at the last minute and endorsed without a similar amount of time for discussion and public scrutiny as the other options.

      Again – no criticism of your active neighborhood, they should keep fighting to stay at CVES if they want.

      And the great thing is, if Modifed C is adopted, we can continue this discussion again in only 2 years! Woohoo!

      • Jordan says:

        Jonesy, I hear you. I would add that the time to have taken issue with the committee and their possible modification of an option for final recommendation without the possibility of public feedback, would have been before it occured, not after. They gave everyone two weeks notice that they could and possibly would modify one of the options. It was no secret.

        Regarding the possible timing of another boundary change, the numbers are misleading.
        Actually, district projections have CVES with less students 4 years from now than there are today.

    • Jeff Jones says:

      Replying to you reply below because we reached the nesting limit.

      JoJo – the only reason projections could possible show CVES lower in four years is because a big part of the Ridge community have already been redirected to other elementary.

      Also, to my preanalysis, since they are redirecting all growth areas to North Bend, without really incorporating those into the growth projections, I suspect that we’ll be revisiting this issue again in no more than two years. The only difference is that this time, CVES and SES will be full, but NB will be the growth problem. The likely outcome? Worse for everybody. SR neighborhoods shifted to FC, Deer Park/new shifted *back* to SES, etc.

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