School Board eyes 2020 election date for technology levy

The Tahoma School Board decided to wait until 2020 to place a technology levy before voters, opting to allow time for a full review of classroom technology needs before asking the community for funding.

In a 4-0 vote (one board member was absent), the School Board decided to wait at least until the February 2020 election to propose a technology support levy. The timing also would allow the School Board to run the technology levy at the same time it asks voters to renew the district’s Educational Programs and Operations levy (EP&O).

The School Board decision came after it reviewed information from staff and the public that was provided at the Oct. 9 meeting, including a recommendation to wait until 2020 from the Voice of Tahoma Education Committee (VOTE), the independent volunteer organization that markets levy and bond measures on behalf of the school district.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, VOTE co-president, Angela Stewart, asked the School Board to set an election date so that the VOTE committee can begin to prepare for a campaign. She also asked the Board to clarify erroneous information that was circulating on social media regarding the need for local school levy money. Board President Mary Jane Glaser asked Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud to clarify. Cloud said the EP&O levy approved by voters last April is essential to fund school district operations. Cloud said that local levy support is still necessary, despite changes to state funding as a result of the McCleary lawsuit that increased state support of schools while reducing funding from local levies.

Though voters approved a two-year EP&O levy last April, a technology levy renewal was defeated in the February election. The School Board has approved using reserve funds to maintain a reduced level of classroom technology and support until a full review of educational technology is completed and funding needs are identified. A committee of parents, community members, staff, students and technology professionals is reviewing classroom technology and will report to the School Board next spring.

In other activity during October, the School Board:

  • Received an update on the $280,000 SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral) grant from King County. The grant is paying for two mental health and wellness coordinators, who are assigned to Maple View and Summit Trail middle schools.
  • Approved going ahead with security improvements at Shadow Lake Elementary School. In addition to security upgrades throughout the school, there will be changes made to the main office, library and kindergarten classrooms to modernize the rooms. Parking and traffic circulation changes also will be made. Work will begin in the spring.
  • Accepted final completion of the Lake Wilderness Elementary School construction project.
  • Approved the annual Perkins Grant, a $27,764 federal funding source for Career and Technical Education. Grant funds will be used for computer upgrades in the business and marketing lab atTahoma High School.
  • Heard a report about Career and Technical Education programs at Tahoma High School from Martin Barber, associate principal and CTE director. Barber shared with the Board a student-produced video about the new mill in the robotics program.
  • Received a follow-up report on attendance and school discipline.
  •  Approved requests to recycle or surplus non-functioning or outdated furniture and equipment.

Further information about each of those topics can be found on BoardDocs, the website link from the main Tahoma web page that provides access to School Board agendas, background materials, minutes, and policies.

The School Board also met in a work-study session Oct. 30 to participate in a presentation by John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, regarding school board roles and responsibilities.

Earlier in October, the Board met with the Maple Valley City Council in a joint work-study session to discuss common concerns.