Call To Order:
School Board President Adair Dingle called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm in the Board Room at 4160 86th Avenue SE, Mercer Island, Washington.
Councilmembers Bruce Bassett, Mike Cero, Mike Grady, Dan Grausz, Steve Litzow, Deputy Mayor El Jahncke and Mayor Jim Pearman were present.
School Board Directors Pat Braman, Janet Frohnmayer, David Myerson (participated through a SKYPE session), Vice President Lisa Strauch Eggers and President Adiar Dingle were present.
City Manager Rich Conrad, Superintendent Gary Plano and facilitator Sue Bennett were present.
The purpose of the special meeting is to think strategically and discuss whether there is a mutual interest in long-term partnerships between the Mercer Island School District and the City of Mercer Island.
Facilitator Bennett said tonightís goal is pursuing whether there is interest in some possible joint ventures that have emerged since the district has embarked on its 21st Century Facilities Long-Range Planning process and during that conversation try to clarify roles and responsibilities. (Ms. Bennett stated that as part of the P.E.A.K. agreement the district is obligated to have a long-range master facilities plan initiated by June, 2010, specifically for the north mercer campus.) The intent of the joint discussion is to start the discussions early, be transparent with the community and set the norms for the future. There will be many other opportunities to meet together to talk about the considerations.
Three components to be considered as part of the 21st Facility Planning process are the P.E.A.K. requirement that the district needs to address the north mercer campus educational needs. Additionally, a facilities audit was performed that estimated the cost of remodeling or replacing schools and the estimated life of a facility. Lastly, the changing student demographics in the long-term need to be considered before any kind of a proposal can be made.
Ms. Bennett shared the district is hosting two Town Hall meetings with community members to get input on their thoughts/concerns for the next steps in the facilities planning process. A Citizens Advisory Committee will be formed in the fall to guide the district to the next phase.
The Joint Planning Team which consisted of Superintendent Plano, Board President Dingle, Mayor Pearman, City Manager Conrad and Bennett met several times to review possible agenda items for this evening. The decision was made to have the joint meeting to discuss three items early and see if there is interest by both entities before there are any further discussions. Ms. Bennett said the focus tonight is talk about the non-school facilities that are impacted by the north mercer campus:
1. Mary Wayte Pool
2. Youth Theatre Northwest
3. City/School Facilities Ė what might be jointly shared
Mary Wayte Pool
The history of the pool was reviewed: originally a King County (forward thrust) pool, the district owns the land and uses the pool for after school programs. When King County got out of the pool business about 7 years ago communities had to look at other options to maintain their pools. Non-profit NW Center stepped up to operate the pool and the City of Mercer Island provides $100,000 in support annually. The original 40-year lease expires in 2012 or whenever the life of the pool is reached.
The group discussed the need to provide a pool for Mercer Island students and community members. Aquatics have evolved in the last 40 years and the possibility of an aquatics center on the island would be a future consideration. Mayor Pearman stated the joint group should scope the islandís interest and go from there. City Manager Conrad recently met with the new executive director of JCC and they are very interested in a possible three-way partnership with the city and school district. Deputy Mayor Jahncke commented he felt the school districtís number one priority should be schools, not necessarily a pool, just because the district feels the community would benefit by having an aquatic facility. By a straw vote, both entities indicate they support pursuing the possibility of a new pool on the island.
Youth Theatre Northwest
Superintendent Plano stated Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) has been a tenant of the school district for almost 20 years. They are a non-profit that offers drama opportunities to all of the students of Mercer Island and the neighboring vicinity. Deputy Mayor Jahncke commented all of the facilities being discussed tonight are valuable assets to the community, but the issue of tenants should not be a driving force as the district prepares to make long-range facilities plans. The school buildings should be a priority that doesnít necessarily include the nonprofits groups.
Board and city council members discussed the revenue generated by leasing out the YTN property and the preschool sites on the north mercer campus. Superintendent Plano said the district has already begun preliminary discussions on whether to consider incorporating preschool facilities in each of the new elementary school architectural plans to help serve Mercer Island families. Board and City Council members agreed YTN provides services and memories that canít be replaced with money. All realized that community support would be an important consideration when the district and city ask voters to approve capital bonds.
The district intent when the long-range facilities plan begins to take shape will be to utilize the current Islander Middle School (IMS) as a transition school during the construction of the new elementary schools. There is ample room at IMS to house the C.H.I.L.D. program, as well. Superintendent Plano has had discussions with the various preschools on the north mercer campus as well as YTN alerting them that relocation will be necessary as the district moves forward with utilization of the north mercer campus.
Facilitator Bennett stated there isnít any doubt both entities value the services of the current tenants and down the road further discussions could take place regarding possible funding. Tonight the joint groups need to decide whether there is interest to further study possible options of a joint partnership with Youth Northwest Theatre. After considerable discussion, the group decided by a straw vote to move forward to pursue further conversation of the possible interest of a joint partnership with YTN.
City/School Facilities Ė what might be jointly shared?
Lastly, board directors and city council members discussed the possibility of joining forces to share a facility in downtown Mercer Island. With a new transit center scheduled for downtown in the future, it would be an opportunity for the two entities to work together in a shared administration building on multiple issues that have common interest and also enhance the Town Center. There is commercial real estate available now (even though this project would be part of Phase II and several years down the road), but cost and timing would be a crucial consideration as the two forces work together to educate the community of the advantages of this possible partnership. A comment was made concerning the complexity of the two organizations considering a merge into one facility.
Superintendent Plano stated the joint venture would not necessarily be just a shared administration building but also might include the bus area and other buildings on the current site.
By straw vote, the combined board and council members agreed to pursue interest in the possibility of joint facilities. Further review will determine if there is palpable savings that could be achieved in the future.
Facilitator Bennett stated leadership from both bodies consisting of Superintendent Plano, Board president Dingle, Mayor Pearman and City Manager Conrad will informally take a look at the resurfaced items from this evening, prepare a scope of work for proposed study group(s), consider next options and perhaps even prioritize the three items. After the subcommittees have reviewed the scope of work they will come back to the collective bodies to share what they have learned.
There was considerable discussion on the timeline and phasing of the district Facilities Master Plan. Council members stated they need to know the districtís schedule in a timely manner in case City Council decides to move ahead on the relocation of Mary Wayte Pool and Youth Theatre Northwest without the involvement of the school district. The subcommittee will share their findings the end of August or first part of September 2010.
Representing the Green Ribbon Commission council member Bassett asked members of the city council and board of directors to participate in the Mercer Island Energy Challenge. The purpose of the competition is to gain public attention and provide education about ways to reduce carbon emissions through home energy and transportation. The competition is in conjunction with the Green Ribbon Commission Home Committee campaign.
Adjournment: 9:08 pm