We all have an origin story – a point in our life that explains much of how our future unfolded. For me, that story started when I took a job teaching Senior English at Puyallup High School, with the ink barely dry on my diploma from Washington State University. There had never been a teacher in my family, and I thought education was something I would do for a few years. That was more than four decades ago. I fell in love with the opportunity to work with young people as they grappled to figure out their next steps. I fell in love with the promises of this incredible – albeit not perfect – institution of public education. As I write this letter, I can tell you that I remain just as passionate about education today as I was the day I watched my first class of seniors graduate.
I spent much of my career in Puyallup – a large school district with a similar legacy to Ferndale. Deeply rooted in agriculture, many families had been in the Puyallup area for generations. My husband, Ken, and I raised our two children there, and we remain connected to the community we were a part of for so many years.
When we moved to Ferndale in 2009, we came to become a part of a new community. We bought a house, and we began the process of becoming neighbors and friends with so many of you. After ten years, Ferndale has stolen our hearts. It has become our home.
As many of you know, I accepted the job as Superintendent of the Ferndale School District during one of the worst recessions in modern history – a time when we were faced with the decision to close a school or cut staff and programs. Those were challenging days, but I can tell you that kids were always first, and we emerged from the recession with staff and programs intact. The decision to stay laser-focused on students during hard financial times is bearing fruit in meaningful ways today. At FHS, for instance, we still have CTE programs, music and drama programs, and world language programs that are the envy of the region. And last year our graduation rate reached 85.7% — the highest it has ever been. These are things we can all celebrate.
I am writing to you on the eve of another decision that will impact the future of Ferndale for many generations to come. I have visited districts in all areas of our country. Big, small, rural, urban and every shape and size in-between. Buildings in each of those districts vary widely and, in almost all cases, reflect the personality of their community. I say, in almost all cases, because I know from personal experience there are some buildings that do not do justice to the communities they serve. One example is our own Ferndale High School.
The current Ferndale High School facility is not a good reflection of the spirit and vibrancy I see in this community every day. You may have heard reports from FHS students that the heating systems are often malfunctioning. That the pipes leak through ceiling tiles in the hallways. That they cannot have home track meets or home soccer games at their own school. You may have heard that some of their science classrooms have only one sink to serve the entire class. These things make me sad. Not because our kids are entitled to what neighboring districts provide, but because our kids are not inheriting Ferndale Pride like generations before.
Time is not on our side when it comes to our buildings. If this current bond does not pass and the District brings you another proposal in future years, rising costs will have carved away at your valuable dollar. Building costs do not go down. We will still need the same building in future years, but waiting will make it more expensive. The best time to fund a new building in terms of cost is yesterday. The second best is right now.
I am asking you to give students a school they can be proud of. I am asking you to help plant seeds for the future. I am asking you to watch those seeds grow and to be part of what comes next in Ferndale.
Please mail your ballot or drop it in the ballot box by February 12.
Superintendent, Ferndale School District
Letters to the Editor submitted to My Ferndale News are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of My Ferndale News.