Superintendent's Message

May 2015


Dr. Gary Plano Dear Mercer Island district staff, parents, and patrons,

 

Over the next few weeks many events will culminate in the celebration of all of our students, including our soon-to-be high school graduates, the Class of 2015. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and our incredible PTA’s have been recognizing our talented and dedicated teaching corps. I invite the entire community to take part in our end-of-year celebrations at all levels. Our students’ achievements at all levels are a testament to not only their individual work, but also to the dedication of this community to our entire public education system.

 

This community cares deeply about the education our students receive. Such caring is demonstrated in many ways, such as volunteering in our schools, to financial support through our PTA’s, booster clubs and the Mercer Island Schools Foundation. I cannot thank you enough for the generosity you have shown to our students and staff through Bridge 2015. As of May 22, the campaign has raised $757,000 of a $1.2 million goal. These funds are critical to supporting our educational model that is focused on personalization and supplying the necessary coaching, supervision, and professional training, as well as having enough quality teachers to maintain lower class sizes than is funded by the state.

 

Public funds received by the Mercer Island School District do not cover the cost of providing the education that you expect on Mercer Island. The state’s portion of providing public-revenue-per-student ranks us 282nd in Washington state's 295 school districts. It is our local levy and your generous giving that puts us at roughly the mid-range of all districts in the state. As of this writing, the Washington State Legislature has not reached an agreement on a biennial budget to address education funding.

 

On a brighter note, those who have walked by the high school, middle school, or site of Elementary No. 4 can see that our new facilities are well on their way. Each project remains on time and on budget. The high school addition will be ready for the start of the 2015-16 school year with the addition of 10 new classrooms, including four science classrooms, while the Islander Middle School expansion and Elementary No. 4 projects will be ready for the 2016-17 school year.

 

Moody's Investor Service recently reaffirmed the district's "Aaa" bond rating prior to the final bond sales for our construction projects. Last year the Mercer Island School District was one of only 65 school districts throughout the country with that stellar rating, which allows the district to get far more favorable interest rates, such as in paying lower interest on retiring those bonds over time.

 

Last week, the High School Start-Time Committee, a joint committee with the Bellevue School District, released an online survey of students, parents, and community members about shifting back the start time of high school classes. The committee will now review the results of that survey.

 

The administrative team and staff continue to study the possibility of adding an elementary world language program beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. A group of teachers recently joined me on a field-trip to Annie Wright Schools in Tacoma to observe their program and learn from their example and experience.

 

These final weeks of the school year represent the culmination of another year of hard-earned and successful learning. Please enjoy these celebrations with your students and our amazing community.

Thank you and best regards,

Gary Plano, Ed. D.
Superintendent