Voters should endorse smart school leadership

Trust, like most things of value, has to be earned. The only way public institutions win the faith of citizens is to demonstrate trustworthiness, time after time.

The Marysville School District, under the leadership of second-year Superintendent Larry Nyland, has worked diligently and intelligently to regain the public trust that was shattered two years ago, when a 49-day teacher strike led to the ouster of the former superintendent and a school board recall campaign.

Part of Nyland’s success has been his openness. He started by listening to stakeholders – teachers and other staff, parents, students, citizens. For months, it seemed that not a night went by without Nyland meeting with one group or another. That’s how strong relationships, and trust, are built.

An impressive result was the quick and amicable conclusion of teacher contract talks, with union membership set to vote on a new three-year deal next month. The early agreement will allow the district and its teachers to get a head start on the school year – where their attention should be directed.

Solid financial stewardship also sows the seeds of trust, and Nyland and the school board have turned a corner there, as well. A recent example is the board’s decision to appropriate up to $150,000 from the capital improvement fund to start preliminary design work on a new elementary school and replacements for two more.

Those projects are part of the $170 million bond measure that goes before voters Sept. 20. It’s identical to the one that fell agonizingly short of approval in May – just 156 more yes votes would have given the measure the 60 percent approval it needed.

Starting the design work now for these badly needed projects could save $1 million and move up the opening of the new school by a year. The savings come mostly from avoiding construction inflation.

That’s good planning, and voters should endorse it by approving the bond measure. Marysville hasn’t passed one since 1990, the longest such dry spell in Snohomish County. Schools throughout the district are overcrowded – 30 percent of the district’s students sit in portable classrooms – and many aging buildings need to be updated or replaced.

No supporter of Marysville schools, or the community’s future, can afford to sit this one out. The May result showed just how much individual votes count. If you’re not registered to vote, you have until Aug. 20 to do so. Call the Snohomish County Elections Department at 425-388-3444 for information.

District leaders have done their part to earn the voters’ trust. Now it’s the voters’ turn to do theirs.

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