I want to thank everyone who participated in the April 22 school construction bond election. This decision would have an impact on all of us who live here in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, so it’s important we speak in a single, collective voice.
However, though voter turnout for an April election was good, we need more people to vote. It’s difficult to create a collective voice when less than half of our community participates in an election.
I can’t say I was surprised the bond was rejected. We were asking for a lot and achieving 60 percent approval is always a difficult task. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the bond had passed. It is an important issue and some great people dedicated themselves to this process and invested their time, energy and passion in putting this question to our community.
I was surprised by the margin of defeat. All indicators implied this was going to be a close race and many folks on both sides of the issue thought the same.
Where do we go from here? First, we all need to step back and take a breath. This has been a grueling marathon for some, yet a fast and furious sprint for others. It all depends on when you jumped into the race. Either way, let’s rest for now. We have a lot of work ahead of us. The facility issues still exist and will not improve unless we create a solution to address them.
In the meantime, we will regroup and go back to the drawing board.
From this experience I was reminded of a lesson I learned from Mr. Lowden in ninth grade woodshop: “When you think you’re done sanding, you’re only half-done sanding.” The essence of the lesson is that we can never be done listening. In the final month prior to the election, we were finally engaging people with very different perspectives than ours.
Unfortunately, the suggestions and concerns being expressed were too late. The bond question was already on the ballot and we couldn’t change it or pull it back.
What we needed was this turnout when our Facilities Committee was first formed, or when we held our community forums in the fall before making the final recommendation to the school board or when the school board was vetting each project in January to make its final decision.
The point is that we need to be proactive and not reactive. However, with the bond being rejected, we now have the opportunity to continue to talk with and listen to more people. We are not done “sanding.”
For this to work, we all have to be willing to make the commitment to participate: serve on a committee, attend forums, speak at board meetings or host your own neighborhood coffee chat.
We have to continue the conversation until we find the right solution for our school district and our community.
Very few people have argued against improving our schools and facilities, but there are different perspectives on what can and should be done.
If we want a solution to meet our needs for today and well into the future, but in a way that works best for our community, then we all need to be part of the solution.
Kelly Shea is superintendent of the Sequim School District.