Support our schools to meet standards of excellence


In February, our community will vote on a bond issue that would fund a very important renovation and upgrade of Walla Walla High School. If voters approve the bond issue, school officials will renovate a facility in desperate need of repair and modernization.

Designed and built nearly 50 years ago, many of Wa-Hi’s classrooms, science labs and aspects of the building infrastructure have fallen into disrepair.

To voters who oppose the proposed renovations believing that current students should learn in the same classroom spaces, labs and facilities as they themselves did years ago, I offer an alternative perspective drawing an analogy between changes in medicine over the past 50 years and the transformation of teaching and learning during the same period.

My father was a cardiologist who practiced in the 1960s, an era when portable defibrillators, stints, angioplasties and bypass operations did not exist. Open-heart surgery was in its earliest stages of development and was extremely risky.

Sadly, many of my father’s patients either died suddenly from heart attacks or never fully recovered from their heart disease. The tools and procedures of modern cardiology and cardiac care that now save thousands of lives each year and are accepted standards of medical care could have saved many of my father’s patients had they been available.

Would any of us with heart disease now be satisfied if our attending physicians relied on the tools of cardiac care available to my father’s patients in the 1960s?

No, of course not. Why then would any of us be satisfied with the technology, labs, facilities and learning spaces of the 1960s for the education of our children or grandchildren? We mustn’t.

In 1963, Wa-Hi’s buildings and classrooms met the highest standards of secondary education for school facilities across the country.

Since that time, funding for facility improvements has lapsed and we have witnessed profound changes in the ways educators teach and the manner in which students learn. Advances in technology have changed teaching in many fields as access to information on almost any subject can be obtained with a few clicks on a computer.

Further, knowledge in many fields, particularly the sciences, has advanced dramatically with the advent of new approaches and tools for study in fields like biology, chemistry, and physics.

Student learning in our high schools and colleges is also shifting from simply acquiring knowledge in subject areas to applying this knowledge in identifying and solving problems that range from reducing environmental pollution to developing alternative sources of energy. Active, engaged learning focusing on problems is replacing the passive learning that many older adults experienced in their high school years.

As teaching and learning advances, so must our schools and teaching facilities.

Wa-Hi students need learning environments that enable them to prepare effectively for college and the futures they face in the workforce. Many Wa-Hi graduates will seek jobs and careers that require the ability to understand and use technology effectively, to learn in science labs where the equipment and spaces meet the current standards of disciplines like biology, chemistry, physics and computer science.

This bond issue bears careful consideration by voters for these and other reasons.

Much more is at stake than simply renovating the school’s learning spaces, classrooms and facilities. Investing in our schools and their infrastructure will pay dividends that extend across our community. Strong, well-funded schools attract businesses and talented workers. Employers move to communities with excellent schools largely because the schools enable them to recruit exceptional employees and their families.

By investing in Wa-Hi’s campus and the planned renovations, we will significantly improve Walla Walla’s reputation as a community where talented people and employers want to reside.

Our vote on the bond issue also represents a very powerful demonstration of our support for the teachers in our public schools and the strength of our commitment to their important work with our children and grandchildren. As a parent whose son and daughter recently graduated from Wa-Hi, I can attest to the remarkable and dedicated efforts of the teachers despite the difficult classroom conditions in which many currently work.

One of the most powerful ways to strengthen and advance a community is to invest in its children and their education.

I understand the pressing needs for improving Wa-Hi’s facilities given the profoundly positive effects that strong schools and modern facilities have on entire communities.

We would not expect anyone in our community to seek or accept the standards of medical care practiced the 1960s. We shouldn’t accept school facilities that were built according to equally antiquated standards of teaching and learning.

George Bridges is president of Whitman College. He can be reached at



fatherof5 says...

Mr. Bridges' analogy of 1960's medical technology is right on target. We wouldn't tolerate this if our lives were at stake, so why would we permit it when our children's education is imperiled? Considering the scientific and technological developments of the past 50 years, our schools need to be equipped with 21st century tools and classrooms.

As Mr. Bridges points out, it is also a good investment that will pay dividends. My sense is that our community will respond positively to this challenge and vote "yes."

Posted 14 January 2013, 11:20 a.m. Suggest removal

wallyworldguy says...

so your saying that you are using the same books and learning techniques used in the 60's. As far as i can tell, the buildings don't teach, the teachers do. and i believe i read where we are now ranked 25th in the world???? Go Teachers union
If you were concerned about the kids, you would be overhauling the unions, putting common sense back into teaching, not putting up new buildings.

Posted 16 January 2013, 5 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

On the other hand....One can look at it this way....
"Walla Walla would be a wonderful place to raise a family, but, it is just too costly to do so! We will look to another place that the School Boards use the tax payers money more efficiently. "........Please realize there is a time and a place for this.... And now is not the time...

Posted 14 January 2013, 6:35 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

barracuda, you think people will want to move to another place that "uses money more efficiently"? Walla Walla has gotten 50 years out of Wa-Hi. No place in the region is more efficient than that. Do you want to go to a place without school bonds? In February, Pasco SD has a $47 million bond on the ballot, Richland has a $98 million bond, and Kennewick just passed a $68 million bond.

Walla Walla is not out of line, and if anything, it has been remarkably conservative when it comes to Wa-Hi. But now it is time.

Posted 15 January 2013, 11:34 a.m. Suggest removal

wallyworldguy says...

father of five, would you compare Pasco, Richland and Kennewick's average income to walla walla's. They are growing, working. walla walla is just a bunch of wineries and city, county and state employees. Let them pay for it.

Posted 16 January 2013, 4:49 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

wallyworldguy, how about Touchet? They have a $6.5 million bond next month. They note that it's been 37 years since work has been done on their high school. Well, it's been 50 years for Wa-Hi. Would you say Touchet's average income is better than Walla Walla's? My point is that no matter where you go, as a homeowner you will face the reality that schools occasionally need to be fixed. That's part of the deal when we buy into a community - but it is a good deal, because our home values and local economy get a boost from having strong schools.

Posted 17 January 2013, 2:30 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Here is a [link to a new video][1] where various staff members at Wa-Hi speak to their concerns about the current state of the facilities. They mirror what Mr. Bridges has written.


Posted 14 January 2013, 7:03 p.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

Come on, the video is faculty members talking about how bad things they're gonna talk about what's good.

Take that video camera and record what needs updating with commentary in the background.

Better yet, have a weekend open house where the public can come see first hand.

Posted 14 January 2013, 8:52 p.m. Suggest removal

Use.Wisdom says...

Great idea ImJustSayin! Come this Saturday (January 19) or next Saturday (January 26) at 3:00 and poke around and check out the inside of Wa-Hi and make an informed decision. Or, contact the district office for a guided tour on Wednesday, January 23rd. Whatever best meets your schedule. Wa-Hi belongs to all of us, and the very best voter -- is an informed voter.

Posted 15 January 2013, 12:59 a.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Not all people that are informed believe that this is a good idea...Some of us have looked into this remodel and have come to a sound conclusion that there is a better time to do this remodel...

Posted 15 January 2013, 10:35 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

It's the faculty that want to spread YOUR paycheck around so that they will have a legacy when they talk to there children! Wages are down, Healthcare costs are on the rise & Healthcare insurance is through the roof. I haven't really figured out who would benefit from the dividends if you have to move away so you can survive.

Posted 15 January 2013, 5:58 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

namvet, these Wa-Hi staff members clearly want to provide better educational opportunities for their students, and through that video they are helping us to understand the obstacles they currently face. That's all. My own kids have had some of the teachers in this video. These are solid, professional educators who genuinely care for their students. You can oppose the bond without maligning the motives of others.

Posted 15 January 2013, 11:05 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

To ImJustSayin, you are correct that [this][1] particular video is a testimonial from Wa-Hi staff without any visuals, and that the best thing would be for tours to be offered so people could see for themselves.

So, [here is a video][2] with visuals the district put out last month. It combines testimonials with diagrams and video evidence you were asking for.

And [here is a link][3] to the schedule for walking tours of the campus. Wa-Hi has already put on more than a dozen for the public and there are several more opportunities over the next few weeks. Ideally, everyone in the community should see for themselves the issues on which they are being asked to decide.


Posted 15 January 2013, 10:50 a.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

Okay......that was a very effective and informative video. I'm on the fence and would prefer this be paid via a new sales tax on certain purchases, but you can see the need.

School admin needs to get that link out to a larger audience. Same as promoting the open house for this upcoming weekend.

Posted 15 January 2013, 4:09 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Yeah, I'm afraid the district doesn't get to choose the funding vehicle (i.e. taxes vs. bonds), but I'm glad the video was helpful and that you are at least open to the idea. What first got me on board a couple of months ago was seeing Mick Miller's point by point presentation with charts, graphs, and photos clearly demonstrating the needs - and how this bond uses pragmatic ideas to address them. As a member of the public, it's hard to fully appreciate it until you've seen it for yourself. That's why the tours are being offered.

Posted 16 January 2013, 1:39 p.m. Suggest removal

goldlizard says...

Listen I am as conservative as they come and I hate to give my hard earned money to anyone, especially the government or any department they have under their control... Check my previous comments on this site and you'll see... I've been around WaHi for a couple years now. I have had family graduate from there and have family attending there. I have two boys 5 and 1. I've been in the classrooms and have worked inside the buildings. I'm telling you as honestly as I can that this school needs the remodel done... Period. It does not meet the needs of the students anymore, especially with the technology demands that are increasing every year. We are putting our kids in the hole. The heat and Air don't work, the technology is not up to snuff by a long shot, and the different departments are doing their best McGyvering to get the job done with really old facilities. The record of our teachers here in the valley is a good one. I have never worked with a more devoted group of people in my life. Drive by WaHi at night and see how many teachers are putting in extra hours. Ask a teacher how much of their own money they spend every year on their students. Our population is changing, needs are changing, Standards are changing and we are busting our rears to stay ahead and be the leaders we always have been in the state. If you want a comparison look at our school compared to Pasco or other schools with our population. The sad thing is... we could be sooo much better with the remodel and the proper facilities. We need this remodel to best serve the kids here. I don't rent, I pay a mortgage like most of you and I'm voting yes because I know the need is real. I also know that right now we get the best bang for our buck! If you come and see the school and really look at the issue... you'll do the same. JMHO.

Posted 17 January 2013, 9:43 a.m. Suggest removal

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