The $50 million school levy, as of this writing, is failing in the election. It won’t pass, but the word “failure” isn’t the correct term. The only way the levy is a failure is if discussion of better schools ends here. The measure of success is not percentage points, but the conversations that can be born out of the percentages.
When a student fails a test, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re incapable of understanding the concepts. To teachers, that means that work needs to be done to bring understanding. This is a chance to work on the concepts.
Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said that since the money is not coming in from the levy, it is time for the school board to get to work finding other revenue sources, likely internally. There are difficult decisions ahead.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it will mean cuts and in this age cuts to schools are never a positive thing. The problem with voting is there is not an explanation as to why voters chose what they did. What is clear is the majority of voters did not chose the $50 million levy approach to changes in the school district. So what’s the solution?
It’s time for the board to listen. Jerry Gibbs, of Citizens for Responsible School Spending, said he thinks this is the time the district is ready to just that. His group is meeting soon to talk about ideas to present to the district. The no campaign was vocal — it was impossible not to see the signs all over the district. Previously, Gibbs felt his ideas had not been well-received by the school board. Now, however, his campaign has proved successful enough to send the school district back to the drawing board.
School board member Harlan Gallinger posited the solution of continuing to meet with the community. At the Nov. 7 school board meeting he said that scheduling meetings in the community is the next move. It’s a good idea. These community meetings would be free of the auspice that the district is there to ask for money. Instead, the district will ask for information.
It’s also an opportunity for the district to repair the perceived image that the levy was the result of clandestine meetings. What Gibbs called a “7 a.m. backroom lack of transparency.”
Whether or not the levy was the right move for the district doesn’t matter now. What matters is what happens from here on out. The best move is to both listen and talk.
There’s significant need in the Peninsula School District. Fields need to be upgraded and technology needs funding. Although there’s arguments as to whether or not a new school is needed in Gig Harbor North, only time will prove or disprove the theory.
Cuzzetto is right that the need is there, even without the levy money. Gibbs sees that, too.
There’s room for both sides at the table. The district has the institutional and internal knowledge of what needs are the highest priority. Now, the community has the chance to be part of what happens next. Cuts are coming, there’s no avoiding it.
Now that this levy has failed to pass, same with the 2011 bond, maybe the problem isn’t the amount of money but who it asks for money. This is a 120-square-mile district. It’s hard for the district to be everywhere. However, that’s what makes the district so unique and special.
Gallinger’s suggestion that the board hold informational meetings. The meetings would be free of the election-centric campaigning. Instead, it’s a time to come together and gain insight into the district and needs of the schools.
The meetings will be Nov. 16 at Vaughn Elementary, Nov. 18 at Purdy Elementary and Nov. 20 at Henderson Bay High School.
It’s possible to give students the best. The solution can’t be the 2013 levy, so the board needs to look elsewhere. Not just in the budget but in the community as well.
The levy trails by less than 1,000 votes. That’s not much. It has it’s supporters and detractors. Now that the numbers are in, it’s time to wipe the slate clean and work together to find a solution.