Friday, September 25, 2009

District to plan Lowell's reopening

The Bellingham School Board unanimously passed a motion Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, to direct Acting Superintendent Sherrie Brown to bring a "management action plan for the reopening of Lowell" to the next board meeting, Oct. 8, 2009.

The district sent out an e-blast immediately following the meeting, with more details. Read it here:

Enrollment and facilities update September 2009

This is great news, and the slide show of the work being done at Lowell shows the school will be remarkable when it does reopen.

Also at Thursday night's meeting, members of SEIU Local 925, the union representing custodians, food service and maintenance employees of the district, spoke during the public comment period, and submitted a letter to the district, requesting reinstatement of staff who had been cut during the budget process. They say they lost jobs, hours, reduced substitute support and agreed to no pay raise till 2011, but that the district is giving previously unbudgeted wage increases to other employees at the same time.

Their point: clean, healthy schools should be a priority, and they're asking for positions to be reinstated. Hopefully, the new administration will consider their request.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

School Board news

The next Bellingham School Board meeting is Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24. On the agenda are reports on summer maintenance and bond projects, which will include updates on Lowell and Larrabee elementaries. Minutes from the Sept. 10 school board meeting note that assistant superintendent Ron Cowan plans to talk about both neighborhood schools.

From the Sept. 10 minutes, here is the statement in context, under School Board Directors’ Reports:

"Ann Whitmyer reported the Board has held additional meetings to discuss releasing Dr. Vedra from his contract and appointing Sherrie Brown as acting superintendent.

During the first day of school, Ms. Whitmyer visited Transportations, Options High School, Fairhaven Middle School, and Happy Valley and Columbia elementary schools. Whitmyer asked how much of our higher enrollment can be attributed to students moving from private schools. She also requested an update on facilities, including the status of Lowell Elementary School, which remained closed for the 2009–10 school year as part of the budget reduction process. During the 2009–10 school year, additional work is scheduled at Lowell prior to reopening for the 2010–11 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Row Cowan confirmed that he will present a facilities update to the Board at the September 24 School Board meeting, including updates on Lowell and Larrabee elementary schools, Shuksan Middle Schools play fields, and the ongoing work at Whatcom Middle School."

Also on the agenda is a report on enrollment. Should be interesting!

The agenda, and documents that will be presented at the meeting are online. Go to, click on "district and school board," "school board meetings, agendas and minutes," then "enter public site" and at left agendas and attachments are listed by date.

Some new links

We've added some new links to the side panel of the blog. First, fall elections approach, and two positions are up for election on the Bellingham School Board, positions 4 and 5. As candidates get their web sites up and running, we will add links to their sites. We hope to set up a forum for candidates to shares their views with the public in the near future. Stay tuned ....

New media links are two articles that appeared this month in The Bellingham Herald. First, the announcement that Superintendent Vedra is leaving the district, and Sherrie Brown will be acting superintendent. That begins October 1. Hopefully, more change is in the air. Also, stay tuned ....

Second, an article in Sunday's edition lauds new programs in Bellingham schools. It does point out that the expense of these programs was questioned during the budget cutting process. What you can find out by reading closely, and also viewing the reader comments, is how these specialty programs at the elementary level are tearing apart neighborhoods, with parents choosing to move their kids to schools outside their area to either avoid programs, or to take advantage of special programs. Already, 80 families are driving to Wade King Elementary from outside the attendance area. This is not what Bellingham's Comprehensive Plan calls for -- the city values neighborhood schools, to give all kids in every neighborhood equal opportunity, and to strenghthen each neighborhood community.

Again, this is the time to speak up -- we have the opportunity to choose a new school board, a new superintendent, ask the city council to seek a new capital facilities plan and protect our Bellingham values!

Monday, September 21, 2009

City sets hearing on schools' facilities plan

Bellingham City Council will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. October 19, 2009, to hear your opinion of the Bellingham School District's request to add its new capital facilities plan to the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan.

The School District needs the city's OK on this six-year plan so it can collect impact fees from developers, and use that money to provide facilities for new housing. But the problem is, the six-year plan is riddled with inaccurate numbers class sizes at 22 students through fifth grade?), false assumptions (population growth of 14 percent, while enrollment the last six years was flat?) and a lack of necessary information (a re-opening date for Lowell Elementary, and a commitment to neighborhood schools, a component of the city's comprehensive plan).

This is it -- the City Council has said it supports neighborhood schools, and has encouraged the school district to keep its neighborhood schools open. This is the only time the city has a say in how the school district operates. The planning commission agreed that there were problems in the plan, but also made the assumption that the school board knows how to run its district. There was no public process before the school board passed this capital facilities plan ... the document was published online on a Tuesday in the summer, and passed two days later.

Tell the city you want these problems in the plan fixed -- if the district wants to collect money, it should have to follow the rules of the city it is in.
Read the documents ... the city has a great link to them through the planning commission's agenda packet: go to, under "public involvement" click on "Boards and Commissions," then "planning and development commission," then on the right look for "meeting materials." They're under the Aug. 20 meeting.

The information also will be posted and available as a City Council agenda packet. For more info, call Greg Aucutt, city senior planner, at 778-8344 or email

You can submit a written comment before Oct. 14, and it will be included in the council's packet; email