Trust lost when maintenance lags


Regarding my letter to the U-B prior to the recent school bond vote. I had questions about the maintenance and operations levy, now and in the past, and why the school is not kept in a better state of repair.

At the time, I didn’t know that the M&O levy is in one lump sum, with no set percentages to either side. So, it didn`t take long to know, in my opinion, that maintenance gets the short end of the stick year after year. Hence, routine maintenance, or more serious problems, is not given the time or money for necessary repairs.

Who is to blame for that? Keeping the M&O levy devoted to operations doesn’t work. Not repairing or replacing worn out equipment doesn’t work. Not adding items like electrical outlets, wall A/C`s, sink and counter installations, etc., doesn’t work. Not replacing flooring doesn’t work.

So, who is responsible? Who is in charge of the store, so to speak?

It looks to me that the school superintendent and School Board get the prize. They decide how, and where, the M&O levy money is used. Walla Walla High School has gotten to the condition it is in under the current and past leadership. These are the people who oversee the budget.

Has anybody out there ever been aware of the sorry state the school is in, cosmetically and anything else? I, myself, paid my taxes and trusted these leaders would be responsible and do their jobs.

Where is the line by line accounting of expenses? Where is the transparency in all of this?

Do the superintendent and School Board members wonder why they are not trusted by the public? I don`t think that the public has forgotten the Edison School misuse/diversion of funds.

The School Board’s and superintendent’s promises of returning all the excess funds is laughable after Edison School. And, regarding the school bond mess, they can pad every expense, create so-called unforeseen expenses and, just like that, the excess bond money is gone.

College Place is going to have a new high school, among other things. The Walla Walla school leaders are scrambling to get a school bond in place. They know all this so-called overcrowding at the high school will no longer be a problem as the reduction in students will be in the hundreds.

In addition, Walla Walla Community College has the career and technical program and Running Start. Online classes are available.

Families are leaving Walla Walla for better employment opportunities. Another school bond? Surely you jest!

Lee Johnson

Walla Walla



fatherof5 says...

This letter has two critical misunderstandings.

First, a "Maintenance and Operations Levy" is a misnomer. It is easy to infer that it is for the "maintaining" of buildings and grounds, but these levies are for the "maintenance" of existing programs, which would be eliminated were the levies to fail. This [LINK][1] to the 2012 district levy fact sheet shows how these dollars go toward elementary specialists, FFA programs, athletics, libraries, fine arts, safety programs, and so on. The M & O levies are not advertised to the voters as being about facilities upgrades.

Second, the very fact that Wa-Hi has lasted 50 years without a remodel is a testament to the great job the district does in maintaining those buildings. Remember, NONE of the issues on the bond had anything to do with a lack of maintenance or neglect. Here are some examples:

1) Classrooms are too small

2) Science rooms too small and lack ventilation, plumbing, etc. to conduct labs

3) Track measured in yards, not meters, and too old to be insured

4) No classrooms for drama classes; lack of practice rooms for music

5) Parking design is a mess

6) Library not designed for 21st century research

7) 50 year-old boilers on last legs; no air conditioning for the hot months

8) Single-pane windows massively inefficient for heating/cooling, as are exterior doors for most classrooms

None of these issues is a result of neglect. This is just how Wa-Hi was built 50 years ago, when double-pane windows didn't exist and science labs didn't require such special features. This is why no other comparable district in the region has gone more than 30 years without remodeling or rebuilding their high schools. We've gone 50 years. These are all capital projects that require special, voter-approved funding sources to address.

We can disagree about the bond as to whether or not we can afford it or whether it is necessary, but let's agree to be fact-based in our discussions.


Posted 10 March 2013, 11:22 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Well stated letter Mr. Johnson and very effective to this entire situation.

Posted 10 March 2013, 4:20 p.m. Suggest removal

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