Friday, April 25, 2014

Everett School District Bond Rejected Again

While the April 22 Everett School District Bond vote will not officially be certified by the county until May 6, and there MAY be a handful of votes counted and added to the total in their next update on May 2, it's basically a final tally here 3 days after the election.  Yesterday's tally barely budged the needle in the district's favor and I don't think there are enough votes out there still to be reported that will push it to the needed 60%.  

Here's how it looks for Round 2 of the Everett School District $259 million bond request:  
Vote CountPercent
APPROVED11,590   58.58%
Total Votes:19,784

And, here are the certified results from the February vote:

APPROVED          10,654   58.13%
REJECTED            7,674    41.87%

Total Votes         18,328

You can read my take on Round 1 HERE.  

So, they essentially got 1,456 more people to vote in Round 2 - a mere 8% increase. They got a 9% increase in those who approved the bond and 7% increase in those who rejected the bond.  At the end of the day, they didn't even gain .5% in the final approval and certainly didn't get to their required 60% to pass it.  

I assume, that like Round 1, they will sing the praises of the MORE than 50% who voted "YES".  However, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. They don't get the money.  

Now, let's apply a little history here - The Everett School District LOVES their history. They talk about it all the time and Larry O'Donnell - champion of everything the district does - even wrote a book on it in the early 1990's that I just happen to have a copy of.  

The last time Everett faced an embarrassing (and really quite spectacular) bond failure was 1975.  The district presented an $11 million bond in February of that year, and, not unlike February of this year, the levy passed and the bond failed.  However, they waited an ENTIRE YEAR to try again, but alas, the bond failed AGAIN in February 1976.  They put it on the ballot again that same year during the September primary election and it failed AGAIN.  They finally set it aside for nearly 2 years and tried again with an increased amount of $16,972,000 in February 1978.  They also had a smaller bond of $1.5 million for district swimming pools. The regular bond passed that year and the swimming pool bond failed.  

But, notice that when the bond failed the first time, they didn't rush to put it on the ballot again with the attitude that they just needed to beat the bushes for more voters.  They waited a year and suffered the humiliation of having it fail THREE TIMES in a row before they set it aside for nearly 18 months. 

In other words, it's been nearly 40 years since we had this kind of failure in the district. There was another less spectacular bond failure in 1996.  The district ran a bond in February that got less than 55% support. They did exactly what they did this year and ran it again immediately in April and got 60.3% approval. Perhaps they relied too heavily on history to repeat itself 18 years later.  

Meanwhile, I have heard the School Board and Administration pat themselves on the back in the last couple of years for getting done what no other Superintendent and Board has been able to do for 20 years - they built a new administration building! Okay, GREAT!  But then they also must own the fact that they achieved another historic milestone that stretches back farther than 20 years - they failed a bond TWICE in a row.....  Are the new administration building and the bond failure connected? Absolutely!  

So, what next?  They cannot legally run another bond until February 2015.  I assume that will run it again, then.   However, will it be the same package with the backed-in and unsubstantiated project guesstimates and unrestrained money usage based solely on the discretion of the School Board? Who knows. It shouldn't be the same package and language if they truly got the message they were sent by the voters.  

Of course, we here at the Everett School Board Project will be presenting our ideas in the coming weeks.  We hope the school board and Superintendent has the courage to consider them.  We would even welcome a meeting with Board President, Pam LeSesne to discuss them.  Now is not the time to gather in all their properly pedigreed community friends to figure out what went wrong.  In fact, I believe that parade of "Community Leaders" actually just annoys the living daylights out of average people - I heard it every time a letter appeared the paper from one of them.  

Now is also not the time to fire up a public meeting that is carefully controlled and led by their expert manipulators.  Now is the time to reach past the PTA cheerleaders and go directly to the moms and dads who, besides having kids in the schools, don't have any other connections or agendas beyond making sure their children are in safe and effective buildings getting a good education. 

This will take a signal to the public that they are willing to accept public input outside their next Rotary meeting.  This may take a Town Hall-style meeting where no one is telling us we must "accept positions we may not normally want to accept" or told what is and isn't acceptable to ask or discuss or that we are allowed to only make a 3-minute statement to which they will not respond in a board meeting.  This may take them setting up tables at concerts, sporting events and Curriculum Nights and going where the parents are instead of asking the parents to come to their 4:30 Tuesday afternoon board meetings.  They are going to have to listen FAR more than they talk.  

We were told after the first bond failure that the only real failure was that we (the voters) didn't get enough information and that not enough of us bothered to vote.  So, rather than listening (beyond asking for emails which they apparently only really wanted from supporters), they decided to just talk LOUDER and more OFTEN about the bond - as if that was all we needed as a public.  

I could have told them that wasn't going to work.  But, I don't have to now....