Tuesday, April 15, 2014

North Middle School aka The Poster Child of Emotional Manipulation for Monetary Purposes

by Kim

Not a real sign... but it could be.  
In today's Everett Herald, there is a letter from a 7th grader at North Middle School. North seems to have become the "Poster Child" for the second running of the Bond.  It's hard to sort out the truth in the condition of the school.  We have had claims that buckets are placed in classrooms to catch ceiling drips and claims that students are getting SOAKED walking between classes on open covered outdoor hallways (it must have not rained much before they built the school in 1981....).

Now, we have a middle school student claiming that students are cautioned against leaning on the support posts of those covered walkways.  REALLY?  If that's the case, then the Fire Marshall needs to take a trip over there and assess the safety of the school.   Perhaps he'll condemn it and then all the students will be evacuated to the Community Resource Center for classes.... 

However, just 2 years ago, the building condition report the school board received said this: 

 "At present, the Everett School District DOES NOT HAVE A CRITICAL HOUSING EMERGENCY in the form of classroom space across the District. None of the district’s schools have been damaged from catastrophes or natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, wind damage or related structural failures. All of the district’s current permanent and temporary facilities are fully operable." 

First of all, if what the 7th grader said IS true, people need to be fired over letting a school degrade into a dangerous situation. Seriously, fire everyone from the Superintendent on down who has anything to do with facilities maintenance and made the decision to merely warn students over fixing the problem.  Especially since they were probably unstable clear back in 2012 when they broke ground on that new $28 million administration building. Where was the talk of the problems at North Middle School then?  Where were the parents and the teachers and the students?  $28 million probably could have more than adequately taken care of most of the issues, if not all, they are clutching their pearls over, now.  It was apparently as acceptable to let students risk being crushed by a walkway cover as it was to let student break their ankles on the poor fields at the high schools.  STUDENTS FIRST....

I hope that while the first thought of the district was, "Gosh, that ought to catch all those 'bleeding heart' voters who don't want to let the kids go wanting anymore and compel them to APPROVE the bond," that their second thought is now, "This makes us look REALLY bad...."  Because, if it's true, it really does.  

Meanwhile, who can forget THIS gem posted in the comments section of the Herald after an article about the bond:

"I work in the maintenance department of the school district so this must remain anonymous for my own protection, however I just can not vote for this. The complete waste and siphoning of money from my department must stop and our workers restored so we can have safe, healthy schools for these children. The custodians alone are still working under the 2009 budget cut and desperately need new equipment of their buildings and safety while our trades workers can barely keep up with demand or buy the proper materials with the constant squeeze from management. 

This levy and bond money will only be grabbed from the taxpayers without their blessings and fed into the admins bloated budget while we plebeians suffer. 

I will be voting no."

Which should lead any thinking person to wonder if our buildings and students aren't being used as pawns in a game of showmanship and public manipulation.  

In 2009, the administration had an evaluation done of most of the buildings in the district.  At the time, North Middle School received all 4's and 3's on the condition of the facility.  A 4 is "Building makes positive contribution to educational environment" and a 3 is "Building suitable".  If it had received 2's and 1's as Monroe and View Ridge did, it would have indicated a need for remodeling or upgrades.  

At the time, the report said that upgrades and modernizations that WERE needed at North Middle School were estimated to cost about $2 million.  Now, without any plans or detailed estimates, we have gone from $2 million to over $41 million for renovations and upgrades.  How did that happen?  

From the District's Building Condition Report
Add this to the fact that James Monroe Elementary and View Ridge Elementary were completely rebuilt for a cost of less than $19 million EACH.  The modernization of North Middle School will be more than the cost of those two newly rebuilt schools COMBINED.  Tear the thing down and start over - it HAS to be cheaper.  

The point is that one has to wonder where the truth is in all this. Emotional blackmail and heartwarming platitudes are how school districts fleece taxpayers into writing them blank checks.  I'm all for taking care of our schools so they operate efficiently and so that students in both ends of the district have schools of comparable quality.  However, I am totally against purposely letting schools degrade to dangerous levels when they are on the downward slide of the district's arbitrary 40-year replacement cycle and then using those poor conditions to convince taxpayers to open their wallets "for the kids". 

The high school I attended in Bellingham was built in the early 70's and, as of last month when I was up there, it looks exactly the same as it did the day I graduated 30 years ago.  I'm sure there have been upgrades since then, but I'm also sure that students are STILL getting soaked walking from one side of the school to the other through the "California-style" open courtyard passing areas.  But, there's probably little reason beyond that to tear it down and start over.  

Meanwhile, I hope someone calls the Fire Marshall to go have a look at those support poles.....  

We need to send a clear and unmistakable message to current leadership that things need to change.  Everett taxpayers have repeatedly been called "Generous" by this superintendent and, frankly, I think it's becoming a code-word for "Sucker".   Is it acceptable to make students wait just a little longer for their upgrades and fixes?  I believe it is if it forces a long-term shift in attitude that benefits both the students and the taxpayers in the Everett School District. We need less secrecy and manipulation and more students as priorities.  One has been too much "the norm" and the other has been sadly lacking in this district for far too long.  You can say, "Students first" and "it's about kids" all you want, but at the end of the day, actions have spoken far louder than words.....