Preserve Mukilteo’s excellence

A week from today, Snohomish County voters from Edmonds to Granite Falls will weigh in on a range of school ballot measures. For voters, there’s a natural impulse to go with the better angels (who wants to limit a child’s education?) coupled with a visceral distaste for school-board politics.

Throughout Western Washington, school board meetings can resemble the Ukrainian parliament. Thankfully, most resemble the best in community engagement and public service. The key is to separate personalities from mission, determining district by district what is in the best interest of students.

The Mukilteo School District, where the politics are reassuringly tame, brings the capacity and need question into focus. In the 1960s, a sputtering, cash-starved district hoped to merge with Everett, but Everett wasn’t interested. Then in 1966, Boeing announced plans to build its 747 plant near Paine Field, and the Mukilteo School District was inundated with new students. New blood and imaginative leadership transformed a backwater into one of the most vital and impressive districts in the state.

Today, Mukilteo’s greatest obstacle is preserving its record of excellence as it absorbs a burgeoning student population. Over the past decade, for example, the district has added 939 elementary students, enough to fill two elementary schools.

Marcus Satterlee, a Mariner High School senior and an honorary director on the board, writes in a Herald letter today, “The only way to relieve the crowding is to build more elementary space.”

Last year the capacity challenge made headlines when it came to voluntary, full-day kindergarten. The Mukilteo School District was forced to decline state funding for five eligible schools because of a lack of classroom space. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 653 projected kindergarteners weren’t served. That placed Mukilteo first among the decliners.

“Our elementary schools are already overcrowded and one of the unfortunate consequences of overcrowding is that we simply don’t have the additional classrooms available to make full-day kindergarten happen,” said Mukilteo School District Superintendent Marci Larsen.

In addition to renewing an Educational Maintenance and Operations Levy that will expire at the end of 2014, Mukilteo voters are asked to approve a $119.12 million bond measure that would finance the construction of new school buildings and make other facility, technology and security improvements. It’s a pretty easy call.

Please do your homework and vote.