Newspaper Archive of
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, Washington
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March 9, 1994     Mercer Island Reporter
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March 9, 1994
 

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. on controversy, llu— a! cam; Mercer lslzmd land Arts Council. everyone in the family. true. our community. Deadline is noon on 1339‘? ifimflmi They may not be as reliable a gauge as conversations in the latte line at the QFC, but from where I sit, letters to the editor are a pretty good barometer of the Mercer Island community. Some months, when there are few burning issues and little con- troversy in the community, the letters are few. Other times, they come flooding in. It takes time and effort to sit down and write a letter on an is— sue of community concern — and when a number of people do so on the same subject, it’s significant.“ I know that for every letter we re- ceive, there are plenty of people who share the same opinion, but just haven’t taken the time to write. What sparked controversy re- cently was the response to school board member El Jahncke’s col- umn on Feb. 16, in which he dis- cussed his belief that the Island schools aren’t challenging stu- dents. On its own, that might have brought in a few letters. But what really did, it was the editorial which discussed the fact that the letter had caused a heated discus- sion at the school board meeting. As the letters andcalis started coming in, I realized the Reporter should have run a news story on that school board meeting. Of course, anybody reading El Jahncke’s column would wonder “I used to be a walker after dark ~ I don’t do that any more. I’m careful to keep my car door , locked whether I’m driving or not. I’m cautious about stopping to help people who are in a car , or walking - I‘ll call 911 for them. At home I keep the doors locked at all times, and I have a security system.” ‘ Patty Nelson MI senior adult REPORTER Jane A. Meyer Editor and General Manager Linda Morgan Associate Editor R0. Box 38 ' Mercer Island, WA 98040 7845 SE. 30th St. 0 Mercer Island, WA 98040 232v1215; fax: 2324284 Corninunity theater deserves support of whole community his may not be Broadway, but there’s an important theater opening on Mercer Island. “A Thurber Carnival,” a series of vignettes by noted humorist James G. Thurber, will be playing this week- end and next at The Connection. It’s a special debut, the first production of a new theater started by the Performing Arts Committee of the Mercer Is- It’s the essence of community theater. It taps the wealth of talent in the community and brings together a diverse group of dedicated people in a production that will be enjoyed by Over the years, a number of people have had the dream of starting a community theater here. We congratulate those who’ve had the vision and energy to make the dream come Producer Bonnie Banks has described the production as a “feasibility study” to assess the interest of people in enjoying and supporting a community theater. We encourage Mercer Islanders “A Thurber Carnival” to demonstrate that community thea- ter is not merely feasible, but a highly successful addition to Letters are welcome The Mercer Island Reporter welcomes letters from mem- bers of the community on issues of concern to residents. Let- ters should be a maximum of two spaced, and may be edited for style and length. Monday. Letters should be sent to the Reporter at PO. Box 38, Mercer Island, 98040, or dropped at the Reporter office, 7845 SE. 30th Street. Letters may also be to make plans to attend pages in length, double- ]ane Meyer what the other members of the school board were getting so up- set about. There was nothing he— retical about his column; he was making thoughtf'd observations about education on Mercer Is- land, and pointing out areas where he believes the schools aren’t challenging students. And the implication was, if this is enough because a heated discus- sion at the school board meeting, there’s something very wrong with the way the school board is operating. . Instead of clarifying and pro- viding information, we caused “I’ve g’wen a, lot of thought to violence issues, but I’d have to say no to changing my routine. I feel very safe on Mercer Is- land.” Pam Boeck real estate sales flight attendant services supervisor * Happy water bill stalled I was happy to see that Jim Horn’s water bill did not pass. Mercer Island and the entire Eastside would be better served if Rep. Horn would spend his time on a bill that would claim excess fresh water from Lake Washing- ton and pump it to storage reser- voirs in the area. It would be simi- lar to the irrigation reservoir op- eration at Grand Coulee Dam. In addition to the water used at the locks, much water is wasted when the gates alongside the locks are opened to reduce the lake level. Rather than talk only conserva- tion, an effort should be made to find additional sources of water supply. David L. Soracco Expectations too low As a recent graduate of Mercer Island High School, I would like to respond to the M1 Forum written by school board member E1 Jahncke. In his article he stated his belief in “having high expec- tations for...challenging...and de- manding accomplishment from all our students.” He then sug- gested that many on Mercer Is- land consider such convictions “heretical” and “politically incor- rect.” It is frightening to me that these values, central to intellectu- al growth, are perceived so nega- tively by the community and the school board. As a graduate of Mercer Island High School, I can attest to the low standards and low expecta- tions in the mainstream classes. The fact that I received more rig— orous training in photography classes taught by a teacher mind- ful of J ahncke’s convictions, than in mainstream math and chemis- try classes, is evidence of this problem. In contrast, the pro- grams that demand accomplish- ment and include challenging course work, such as American Studies, the Humanities Program and Bio-Med, provide a well- rounded and comprehensive edu- cation. Such programs are abso- lutely essential to student’s ac- ‘ "ceptance into and, performance; at r institutions of higher education. c0ntext’,and catalyst for confusion because we did not run a news story on the school board discussion. We didn’t provide background and a context for the “rift” discussed in the editorial. The other members of the school board felt the PTA newslet- ter was the wrong forum for Jahncke’s comments, and that many of his points were based on hearsay since he had not visited classrooms to get firsthand knowledge himself. They felt his column raised issues as though nothing were being done about them. And they felt some of the points in his essay were in error and they didn’t want their names to be associated with it. The dis- cussion brought to a head differ- ences in personality and approach that had been brewing for months. But without a news story pro- viding context, the situation seemed to suggest that El Jahncke wants to reform educa- tion, to challenge students, to im- prove our schools — and that the other board members want to maintain the status quo, and whitewash controversy or criti- cism. That’s simply not true. ONE COMMON thread in many letters to the editor was out- raged response to a fact J ahncke pointed out in his column: that Mercer Island High School’s mini- "‘How have all of the recent stories of crime and Wednesday, March 9, 1994 The absence of challenging course work in mainstream class- es does not prepare students ade- quately for post-graduate studies. The high standards and expec- tations present in honors classes need not be limited to a select group of students, but should be mandatory for the entire school. The value of excellence in educa- tion needs to be reintegrated into the Mercer Island school system. While perhaps not representing the opinions of the entire school board, Ed J ahncke voiced a very valid criticism of our schools and should be praised, not censured. Sarah E. Mack Shocked and distressed I am shocked and distressed that the ideas expressed in El J ahncke’s letter could possibly be considered heretical and/or politi- cally incorrect. Since when has challenging students to excel, or suggesting that they engage in several hours of homework each evening, become provocative? More important, who could possi- bly be provoked by these ideas? ‘: I am also shocked that Mercer,- Island High School has a mini, mum graduation requirements are lower than any other school district in the area. That fact pushed a button with a number of readers, several of whom address the issue in letters included on this page today. But graduation requirements should be seen in context of what’s been happening in the dis— trict regarding this issue. This winter, the school board had a study session on graduation re- quirements, and they heard a re- port on it from a subcommittee of the high school site-based council, made up of teachers, administra- tors, students and parents. In a story on Jan. 19, we re- ported on the subcommittee’s findings: that for the vast major- ity of students, admission require- ments to college, not minimum graduation requirements, are what matter. Ninety-three per- cent of the class of 1993 went on to college. Only 5 percent of the class graduated with the mini- mum graduation requirements. So why not raise them? The committee recommended that no change be made for the time being, for two reasons. Rais- ing the minimum requirement would have little effect on aca- demic standards at the high school. Since 1983, when the na- tionwide study on American edu- cation, “A Nation at Risk” was safety here on Mercer Island?” “I don’t feel affected at all. It’s a pretty safe place to be. I think about it more when I’m off-Is: land.” Kristin Ferguson marketing/sales consultant “We’re very insulated on the Is- land do we’re not affected as much. I feel quite confident, but am always aware of locking doors. We had a security system installed five years ago after a burglary.” Jane Herman receptionist mum academic graduation re- quirement that is lower than any of the surrounding school dis- tricts. Can this possibly be true? This seems like a perfect opportu- nity for the Reporter to do some investigative reporting. Finally, I am disappointed in the editorial about Mr. J ahncke’s letter which appeared on the same day. The editorial stated that Mr. J ahncke was “out of line in writing his own personal opin— ions that are not reflective of the rest of the board.” I vote for peo- ple...their beliefs, standards, goals and promises...and I don’t expect them to change once they are elected. I applaud Mr. J ahncke’s resolve in saying what he believes, and I wholeheartedly concur with those beliefs. Lease A. Mayer Where can horses go? My name is Melissa Martin and I love horses. I love riding on the trails, and go as much as I can. Around July, 1993, Mercer Is— land repathed the trails of Pio- neer Park. Soon afterwards, they * ‘ closed all but one section to published, 47 states raised their graduation requirements — but it had little effect on the quality of education, according to William Daggett, educator and speaker on school reform. But it would proba- bly result in a higher .dropout rate. The committee cited re- search that has found that in- creasing graduation require- ments only works if the school also increases course offerings appropriate to students at risk. That has budget and curriculum implications for the district. The high school currently has few non- academic course offerings for stu- dents not going to college. Secondly, the committee felt that with pending education re- form, it would be a wasted effort to make changes now that would likely be modified again. Raising graduation requirements would be a quick fix that doesn’t get at the larger questions of academic standards and expectations, grad- ing and evaluation, and program and curriculum that are part of significant education reform. The school board didn’ttake a vote, but decided they need more information. Board members were asked to write down their thoughts and questions on the matter, since the issue will be tak- en up again. They rejected the band-aid approach for a more “I’m more concerned about peo- ple who are afraid of violence and are starting to carry weap- ons. That concerns me.” . , Ed Frimer student horses. I am very unhappy about this. Now I cannot ride on many‘ of my favorite trails. The few that are left are full of roots and holes- Also, workers put gravel on the, outer path, and that makes it hard to ride on. . Ten years ago, people could bring their horses to QFC. The owners left them tied up while, they went inside. Now it is not al-’ lowed to bring horses around there. Many of my friends feel the same way I do. We would be very grateful if some compromise. could be made. Thank you for your time. . Melissa Martin Breath of fresh air We are ecstatic that we voted for someone with a sincere desire to acknowledge a serious problem and suggest. solutions to solve it. Mr. J ahnke is doing exactly what we elected him to do as a member of the school board and we are dismayed by the reaction of the rest of this ‘feel good’ school’ board to his forum letter. If what Mr. Jahnke says is —— Please see ‘Lettersi on A9. comprehensive solution. WHATEVER ELSE IT did, El, Jahncke’s column touched a: nerve in this community. It raised? the question of whether low grad- uation requirements - even if they’re irrelevant to the vast ma- jority of 'Stzudents — send a mes- sage that says just sliding by is OK. It got to the heart of some dissatisfactions with the schools, about lack of rigor in classes, wa- tered-down curriculum, grade in-. flation. It raised the larger issue of where our schools are headed» —- and what’s the future for our children. It probed the deep-seat- ed fear that perhaps our students are not being well-prepared for, the demands of the let century, workplace. . That Mercer Island is a com-v munity that values education and. cares deeply about the quality of its schools has been a long-stand: ing principle. Perhaps we’ve be- come complacent, and a contro- versy stirs things up a bit. The volume and vehemence of the let, ters we’ve been receiving affirm the importance of education to 'Mercer Islanders. And they have been a catalyst for important dis- cussions in the community that . will doubtless result in positive changes in our schools. We can thank El J ahncke for that. ' violence in the news influenced your sense of personal “Recent? I don’t feel any huge, new change. Things haVe deteri- orated slowly, getting worse ev- ery year. I feel fairly safe on the Island. You have to be cognizant of where you are.” ‘ Peter Andonian Yardmaster . _ _.__,.. l