It is no secret that the threat of using $135 million in taxpayer money in a way other than what was approved by the voters has ruffled many feathers within the school district, mine included.
What is particularly aggravating is the fact that the 2017 bond was the result of years of deliberation, failed ballots, lessons learned, and “back-to-the-drawing-board” meetings. These long-range facilities discussions began nearly 10 years ago, before four members of the school board were actively engaged in the process.
In 2012 we, the bond committee, put a very conservative bond out to the public. A second, smaller high school designed with future expansion in mind, and additional elementary space were put to the voters. Fifty point five percent of the voters were in favor. Those against it gave open feedback. “If Moses Lake has two high schools, they must be the same size,” we were told. “It’s not forward-thinking! It’ll need expansion in just a few years,” was another message sent to us.
So we started over. This time a diverse committee comprised of school district employees, patrons, parents, law enforcement and fire department representation, landowners, renters, retirees and working folks came back to work on a solution. About 60 people met repeatedly, and pondered nearly 20 different options – and their associated costs — over a dozen meetings. These options ranged from one 4,000-student high school, to “freshman campus” to re-configuring our grade levels and building elementary space only, to doing Nothing At All. Each meeting, votes were cast and the least favorable option was removed. When a second, 1,600-student high school was put on the ballot, it garnered 54.45 percent “yes” votes. Many “no” voters once again told us why and the biggest reason was “It isn’t specific enough.” Patrons of this district were not interested in writing a proverbial “blank check.” They wanted to know not only what they were getting, but also where it would be built.
A bond measure that went to ballot in 2017 proposed to the patrons what they demanded, a measure as highly defined and as specific as one could get: a second high school with a defined location, major improvements to MLHS, and an eleventh elementary school, specified on the ballot, gathered the number of votes required by law to pass.
For the current board of directors to do otherwise with the money will set a horrible precedent and will leave a bad taste in the voters’ mouths for generations to come. Irreparable damage will be done to the trust of this district and its board of directors long after your terms of service are through. For what this board is proposing is precisely what the voters turned down in 2015: a blank check.
Please do not disrespect the hard work done by so many, for so long. Not a single decision made since organizing the 2012 bond committee was made lightly. All options were considered — you can ask any one of us who have served over the years. Please do right by the voting patrons of this district, and honor the will of the voters.
Laura Lea O’Brien has been a Moses Lake School District patron since 1993 and involved parent since 2002.