Opinion

Thanks to the Vashon community for supporting schools fundraiser

Today a school superintendent has to wear a number of different hats. The job requires a growing skill set that includes the administrative know-how of a CEO, the financial knowledge of an accountant, the empathy of a human resources manager, the negotiating acumen of a diplomat and the flexibility of an acrobat. In these times of state budget cuts and underfunding of public education, I would have to add fundraiser to that list.

After realizing that unprecedented cuts by the state would leave us with a considerable revenue shortfall, our choices were clear: either slash our own budget and sacrifice many programs valued both by educators and the Vashon community or raise $500,000 in one month.

I knew that raising the needed funds would be a challenging and difficult task, one that even the most seasoned fundraiser would say was unrealistic, but it was clear that we had no choice. It had to be done.

With the help and leadership of many volunteers who worked tirelessly to make it happen, the Vashon community came through, knowing that investing in our schools is an investment in our children as well as the health and well-being of our vibrant community. On behalf of the school board and the staff of the Vashon Island School District, I want to thank the business community, the families and the citizens of Vashon Island who contributed so generously to this effort.

As a result, we are able to fully restore in next year’s budget school programs that were identified for drastic cuts only 10 weeks ago.

Together, this community raised the funds necessary to ensure continuation of our 28-credit college preparatory curriculum (the state funds only 19 credits) and counseling services at our high school. Continuation of reasonable class sizes in grades K-8 is also assured.

These funds will also enable us to restore cuts to elementary arts education and to continue current athletic and activity programs, as well as to restore cuts to our custodial services.

I wish I could be more optimistic about state funding in the future. Though our state Constitution requires it, it is doubtful that our Legislature will step up in the near future to increase the funds required to fully fund basic education.

Consequently, we must create a local solution by sustaining our fundraising efforts over time. Our investment strategy is to create a schools foundation within the next six to 12 months to sustain our instructional and co-curricular programs and services no matter what happens. This is a proven strategy that has produced great results for other school districts. Investing in public education will earn dividends for our children and our community for generations to come.

Of all the roles I assume as superintendent, and I don’t pretend to have mastered them all, the one I relish the most is that of education leader. I am proud to represent the extraordinary principals, teachers and staff in the Vashon Island School District, and I salute them for their service.

Above all, the most important aspect of their job — and ultimately mine — is to make certain that we provide a healthy, safe and stimulating learning environment that enables each and every child to reach his or her potential and become creative, contributing citizens. I am deeply grateful for your support and trust.

— Michael Soltman is the superintendent of the Vashon Island School District.

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