By Claire Baker
The Everett School District is asking its voters to reconsider the construction bond that garnered more than 50 percent approval on Feb. 11, but not the required 60 percent supermajority. The bond’s near-miss was the result of an extremely misleading campaign against the newly-opened Community Resource Center overlooking Memorial Stadium. Given that Snohomish County is a vibrant and growing community with a great deal to offer residents, visitors and businesses, I ask that you look at the Everett School District as one of the largest employers in the area. For a moment, think of it as your business.
To begin with, you operate 26 branches stretching from North Everett to Bothell; including support facilities, you have 31 locations. On a daily basis, you serve nearly 19,000 patrons and their families, and that number is expected to grow steadily over the next 10 years. Your northern branches are committed to quality service and continued improvement. Because of current and projected growth, your southern divisions are bursting at the seams and struggling to satisfactorily deliver the quality of service to which their clientele are accustomed and deserve. Your annual operating budget is over $202 million.
Your personnel department manages roughly 2,000 employees. Over half of those workers hold college degrees and are required by law to continue their education on a regular basis. Most of your workforce is covered by contracts negotiated by eight different bargaining units, and the monthly payroll averages around $14 million.
Production at your 26 branches requires a steady level of staffing, so a massive force of college-educated temporary workers is activated on a daily basis to fill in for sick employees. Those same substitutes manage to keep things running smoothly when the full-time forces are pulled away for collaborative meetings and required trainings.
State and federal laws heavily regulate your industry, determining the number of days you operate and the ways in which you evaluate productivity. There are strict certification requirements for most of your employees, and laws even dictate how you can raise funds to expand your business. While some operating decisions are made at individual sites, others are made by a board of directors. Recently the board consolidated most support departments into a central location, the CRC, eliminating the need for two outdated and inefficient buildings and a number of temporary and inadequate facilities. (Funding for this did not come from bonds or levies.) This new central office was built on an existing company property and brings together 150 employees in a beautiful and functional setting. It is also a welcoming site for professional development and community gatherings of all sizes.
Per state law, you recently went to your stockholders for approval of additional branches in the south end to handle overcrowding and projected growth, as well as much-needed updates to one of your older facilities on the north end. Your request was denied. While many reasons exist, two stand out. For some, their “no” vote was used to protest the CRC, not the needed expansion and upgrades. It’s also true that many voters who see the larger picture simply did not cast their ballots.
When your ballot arrives this time, I ask you to consider the entire Everett School District and what’s best for the students. If you look at our district as a business, this investment has a direct and positive impact on the health of our entire community.
Claire Baker of Everett has taught in the Everett School District for 23 years; her two sons attended Everett schools.