Effort to get reliable input on new Wa-Hi plan is wise

The school district is conducting a telephone survey through WSU that should provide a clear picture of what the community wants in renovating Wa-Hi.

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Did School District officials have a clear sense of what the public was willing to fund when a $69.6 million plan to overhaul Walla Walla High School was proposed?

That’s debatable. And it has been debated around town, and in the School District Board room, since the bond proposal failed to be approved earlier this year.

Now, school officials have embarked on a mission with the goal of obtaining a crystal clear vision of what Walla Wallans want and will support.

The district is conducting a telephone survey through Washington State University using a scientific model making it accurate with a relatively small margin of error. The WSU survey starts with a random selection of 5,000 residents and then 300 responses will be collected, said Mark Higgins, school district spokesman.

In addition, school officials are hoping a large number of people to fill out an online SurveyMonkey questionnaire on the district website (wwps.org). Results from SurveyMonkey are far from reliable, and school officials are well of aware of that. The online questionnaire will be used do its data can be compared from the WSU survey results. It’s essentially a double check that could prove helpful in confirming trends.

But this effort will only succeed if people agree to talk with pollsters and a wide array of folks — and a whole lotta them — take the online survey.

Shortly after the Wa-Hi bond proposal failed, Superintendent Mick Miller conducted a town-hall style meeting seeking direction from the community.

At that meeting a citizen, Tim McCarty, suggested the district or the citizen bond committee contract with a professional research firm to test options with voters. He said scientific, accurate polling is essential in getting a true read on the direction voters favor.

Miller and the Board not only listened to McCarty, the heard him. They heard what many of the 60 people said at that first meeting and the others that have followed.

Miller and the Board were particularly interested in knowing specifically why people voted against the bond and what they would be willing to support in the future.

Miller, Board members and district officials should be commended for hearing the public and seeking out information to get a true pulse of the community even though the final results could mean a total shift in direction. They are taking a wise approach in developing a new Wa-Hi plan.

Comments

ImJustSayin 1 year, 6 months ago

They should have announced the plan for this phone survey before starting it. Twice I've ignored the call because callerid showed WSU and there wasn't a reason they should be calling me.

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Myinput 1 year, 6 months ago

It won't matter what the survey says, because the Board will do what they want anyway. Smoke screen to cover for what they already have planned. It won't matter. What they really need to do is let it go already - give it a couple years and circle back.

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wallyworldguy 1 year, 6 months ago

There should be a law against being able to propose a school levy over and over. Maybe once every three years after failing.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

The district waited seven years between the last Wa-Hi bond proposal, made significant adjustments, and garnered 53% support in February. The list of accumulated problems over 50 years is not shrinking or going away. To wait another three years is to condemn another 1,500 students to inadequate science rooms, limited temperature controls, small classrooms, an unusable track, and so on.

It appears from this editorial that the district is trying to listen to the majority of voters, who voted "yes," and also to learn from those who voted "no," as to what modifications should be made to the next bond proposal. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

Note that the Board did NOT just come back in April with another try with the same proposal and that the next bond date hasn't even been set yet, which pretty much rules out August and probably November, too. They are conducting the professional survey that critics suggested they do, and yet the first three comments here are criticisms.

There are a lot of kids in this district who will benefit from the persistent, yet measured approach taken by the district on their behalf. You are asking the district to quit advocating for our kids for three years before trying again. That doesn't make sense.

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ImJustSayin 1 year, 6 months ago

Get it straight. Criticizing that they didn't announce the phone survey ahead of time....not the survey itself.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Still a criticism, justsayin. With whose money should they have advertised the phone survey? If they had spent any money getting the word out I'm sure there would have been letters in the U-B complaining about how they are wasting taxpayer dollars promoting a survey. The district could do 1000 things well and never hear a peep from the group of critics lurking here in the U-B blogosphere.

Still, the impetus of my reply was primarily to Wallyworld's 3-year waiting period suggestion, not you.

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Myinput 1 year, 6 months ago

No one is asking for the district to quit advocating for the kids. It's clear the community has said no (for now). And the more they keep beating this horse the more the answer will be no.

If they really want us to get behind them then they need to start using the money they have and make some improvements. Better yet - do what Lincoln did and apply for some grants and fix some things. Work for getting some money instead of the free money from the tax payers.

No student is condemned at Wa-Hi - come on. The kids get a fine education - it may not be state of the art, but it's not a prison sentence to attend Wa-Hi the way it is. Ridiculous statement.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually, it is clear that a majority have said "yes" to the full bond. We have yet to see what it will take to achieve a super-majority. It's safe to say this isn't a dead horse.

And as for my use of the word "condemn," have you been in the science rooms???

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Jo99362 1 year, 6 months ago

I fully support a complete new science/math building because those classrooms are deplorable. The other stuff added on is what makes me hesitate, like the track issue. Then there are all the school bonds in Tri-Cities and they report their bonds are much cheaper and were for 5 NEW elementary schools, so it makes you wonder.

I will also completely support any stand-alone Lincoln bond. We have to face the facts that not every student is on the college track, students are dealing with tragic family situations where traditional means is not helping them graduate and be productive members of society.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Jo, I agree with you about Lincoln. It's pretty clear they are doing a really good job in a poor facility with some kids facing significant challenges in their lives.

As for the Wa-Hi bond, while no one knows what it will look like next time, there were some pretty good reasons for each component. The track, for example, is uninsurable not only for track meets, but often can't be used by P.E. classes either. In order to field a track team then, the district spends $20,000 per year transporting kids and equipment daily to and from Martin Field on a track there that is still the worst in the league. The waste of time and money is staggering.

I could go on about the track, the drama department's lack of storage or classrooms, or any of the other components on the previous bond, but based on what I've seen, none of these were arbitrarily added on as frosting.

Finally, it is worth noting that Richland's $98 million bond had another $30 million in state money, so it wasn't cheap....and to note that the Academic Building, which is just one of several Wa-Hi buildings, houses MORE students by itself than an entire elementary school. Sometimes it is easy to forget how big Wa-Hi is when we are comparing projects.

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VinoTinto 1 year, 6 months ago

Nobody likes taxes, but I've had a change of heart regarding WA-HI.

While I don't have any children of my own, I feel that the kids of Walla Walla are nice, well-behaved young people who deserve an updated facility where they can learn and grow.

I went to an amazing public high school which prepared me to go to an amazing public university. My life is so much better because I was able to go to good public institutions. I thank the generations before me who valued education enough to invest in it ... now it's our turn to return the favor.

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namvet60 1 year, 6 months ago

With the money that the School District accumulates (I'm not talking about education funds) where is the money that funds maintenance and upkeep? Are these people so naive that they think these properties magically revamp themselves over time? A lot of money goes to the District which seems to have this vanishing effect without accomplishing much. Questions - Questions - Questions???

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

It's a good question, namvet.

The monies designated for maintenance and upkeep have been properly used to keep this facility functioning for 50 years, which is a long time when you think about the 75,000 kids who have used it. The campus remains clean. The grass is mowed. Broken stuff gets fixed. That's what the budget allows for, and it is done very well.

No amount of maintenance, though, will turn a small science room into a large one, or turn 50 year-old boilers into a modern H-VAC system, or provide a bustling drama program with a classroom, or turn single-paned windows into double-paned windows, and so on. Those are expensive projects that require extra monies.

The bond wasn't about fixing things that had fallen into disrepair. It was about adding or enhancing things that could not have been foreseen in 1963. So, no, "these people" do not think the school will magically revamp itself over time. That's why they came to the public with a bond request.

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namvet60 1 year, 6 months ago

fatherof5 - lets try to stay focused. I'm talking since this campus was built they have had a maintenance department. Those maintenance departments have daily or monthly logs on all large equipment (every company and even households(yearly)) to evaluate inspections on that large equipment. After a period of time those logs should determine the wear and tear on that equipment. When it gets to a certain point a request or notice should be made to either rebuild or replace that piece of equipment. At this point monies should have been set aside for either or rebuild - replace. If this criteria is not in place that shows a total lack of leadership.

Now if you want to talk about a new Science building? Why not try to pass a bond for that project instead of the whole campus. Just because my bride (of multiple years) wants an add-on to a kitchen or living room I'm not going to rebuild the whole house. When will common sense prevail?

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Namvet, please name the specific items on the recent bond for which monies should have been set aside to replace.

Then, please name which maintenance jobs over the years should not have been done and/or which employees should have been laid off in order to come up with these extra funds to set aside.

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namvet60 1 year, 6 months ago

You were stating taking 50 yr old boilers and turning them into new ones. Proper maintenance (I'm not talking about maintenance personnel that mow the lawn - I'm talking large equipment techs) would have them replaced. This is done through daily and monthly maintenance. I've been there and done that. This is money that is accrued over the years from the day it was built.

Your not sticking to the issue of why not start off with a new Science building? Why does the District have to have a whole new complex? Your jumping around on me and now running over the context of my post. I guess this subject is way to difficult to try and get a clear answer.

I was taking into consideration any entity that has the overseers (example: a Corporation such as Key Tech which has high tech equipment does not bulldoze the entire machine shop when one piece of equipment gets wore out they replace it) and there are plenty in the school district to monitor and a lot of this should have been taken care of years ago as the complex deteriorated. I don't see the complexity of my questions other than the fact that people don't want to take one project at a time.

You were asking which people to lay off - try a few in the upper echelon and in a few short years you would have a healthy maintenance fund. :)

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barracuda 1 year, 6 months ago

Namvet60... You haven't learned by now? He try's to have an answer for every ones entry. It is just not worth the effort, we campaigned, got our point across and cancelled out the vote, and maybe, we can do it again. I know for a fact that his "helpfulness" got us some votes last go around....

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Myinput 1 year, 6 months ago

I agree. I am quite certain fatherof5 works for the district office or is on the board. Either way, pointless conversations.

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downhillracer 1 year, 6 months ago

Pointless, only if you have your minds made up, and do not wish to engage in thoughtful discussion of the facts.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

barracuda, I don't feel the need to respond to everyone's entr...wait...nevermind.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Namvet, if the district proposed a new Wa-Hi project every few years, instead of all at once as you are objecting to, then its critics would complain that "it's never enough for Wa-Hi.....they are always asking for more."

The advantages of doing it all at once are that Wa-Hi wouldn't become a construction zone indefinitely, and there are economies of scale that help the district save taxpayer money. There is also the matter of passing a well-coordinated master plan, instead of hoping that various piece of the puzzle will eventually fall into place.

For example, if the district were able to set aside money over the years to replace the boilers, as you proposed, my questions would be: 1) Can districts take money out of their budgets over the course of several years and set it aside for special projects? (maybe they can...I don't know those rules) and 2) What happens when the district installs a new H-VAC system with a new ducting system and then a few years later passes a bond to re-build the science and academic buildings? That's a lot of money wasted to undue the H-VAC work that had just been completed.

To me, it makes more financial sense to do it at one time so it is coordinated as part of a single master plan, not a hodge podge of projects that may or may not get approved.

But we'll see what gets proposed with the next bond. It may come in parts like you want.

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namvet60 1 year, 6 months ago

fatherof5: 1: If they had a generating building, maintenance budget they wouldn't be asking for a new bond every year. 2: If there is a new HVac replaced the ducting is not. 99.9% of the time the ducting outlasts the structure. 3: If the District is lacking in leadership to the point of replacing a large unit on a building and then turn around to replace the structure in a short time - the leadership had better be replaced instead of the structure. Have a nice day.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Namvet, I will stick to your three points:

  1. You write that the district wouldn't have to ask for a new bond every year if it had a "generating building, maintenance budget," which I'm guessing means setting aside monies each year for equipment replacement. What I tried to point out earlier in this thread is that very little of the previous bond was about replacement of equipment. The bond remodeled and enlarged all of the rooms in the science and academic buildings; it replaced the very old track; it added a new fitness room; it added new music rehearsal rooms (thus giving drama the old rooms); it totally revamped the parking fiasco; it modernized the commons and the library; and yes, it replaced the old boilers with a modern and efficient H-VAC system for year-round temperature controls with double-paned windows and far fewer outside doors. Your proposal to set aside money each year to replace equipment tackles about 2% of the costs of the projects listed above. So, if the district doesn't offer this as a comprehensive, coordinated proposal, then it has to ask for one item at a time every few years, as I stated earlier. Either that or it has to abandon some of these ideas, right? The district can't save up money for a new fitness center or for a new academic building without voter approval. That would cause an uproar. (The district could also never save up that much money.)

  2. You know, maybe you are right that the current ducting wouldn't have to be changed if a new H-VAC system were installed now before remodeling began. And maybe getting a new H-VAC system now and remodeling the rooms a few years later would not result in wasted money. I'm not a contractor (and sorry, myinput, but I don't work in the district office or serve on the Board, so I don't know about this). Maybe you are right, Namvet.

  3. You also write about the district's lack of leadership if it were to do one project and then have to undue that project a short time later. I would agree, which is why the district is trying to avoid that scenario. You want a one-piece-at-a-time approach, but some of these projects go hand-in-hand. For example, why put in a new H-VAC system when the windows need replacing and 100 doors are opened to the outside over and over all day long? It seems the windows need replacing first. But you can't replace the windows if soon you want to expand the classrooms. So the remodel needs to happen first. But you need a bond to remodel the classrooms. If the "classroom remodel bond" doesn't pass the first time, then do you go ahead and replace the HVAC without replacing the windows or addressing the doors? If so, what if the community decides in five years with a better economy to remodel and expand the classrooms? Is the window money wasted?

It's all related, which is why it makes sense to me to have a comprehensive plan that is implemented together at one time.

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fatherof5 1 year, 6 months ago

Namvet, I forgot to wish you a nice day also.

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