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Vision Newsletter Article from Dr. McCammon

posted Mar 16, 2012, 11:34 AM by Kevin Johnson   [ updated Mar 17, 2012, 7:47 PM by Elaine Smith ]
Dr. McCammon
Vision Article
March 7, 2012

Dear Fife School District Community,

It is truly difficult to believe that spring is just around the corner. You know that this is about to happen when it is time for the annual FHS Booster Club Auction which is being held this Saturday at the Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino. The auction begins at 5:00 p.m. and more information can be found on our website.  While some of you may not receive this paper until after the event has occurred, it has caused me to reflect at this time about our good fortune in this district when it comes to community support.

Each month at our school board meeting we formally accept donations from the community. This past year we did a calculation of how much money is donated to the district on average per year. That figure alone is nearly $70,000. We are also blessed with tens of thousands of dollars of money raised by our parent organizations such as our FHS and CJHS Booster Clubs, Partners in Education (PIE), and our Parent Teacher Associations (PTA).  We also receive great support for our schools from organizations such as Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the Fife Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fife Community Coalition, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and the Fife-Milton Rotary. We are truly blessed to have such gifts of monetary support and, of course, volunteer time in our district.

Over the past several years, when we have faced very difficult annual budget cuts, this support has been vital to our efforts to protect fine arts, athletics, extra-curricular activities, and, of course, the classroom and our academic programs. We feel so gratified with the fact that we have been able to protect the programs for our students in such a manner.

Support is also found each and every time our district goes out to pass an educational program or technology levy. In fact, over the past ten years we have set records for the percentage of voters that have approved our ballot measures. We can never say thank you enough.

Just this past week, I also reflected on what a great relationship we have with our communities in Fife, Milton, and Edgewood. If you think about it, the school district is the one entity that unifies these three distinct areas into one incredible community. We are proud of that fact.

I recently was driving on Milton Way by the turf field at SLMS and was reminded of what a great example this field is of partnerships and community relationships. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians helped us build the field at limited cost to the local citizenry when we needed to find a location to build somewhere other than at the CJHS site. They donated $700,000 toward the $1.2 million needed to convert the grass field to turf and to add the lights that are so vital to have extended play time on the field. I personally negotiated having that field built there.  So I have some real ownership and pride along with our school board in this community resource. We so drastically needed a place in Milton for kids to congregate and to play sports in wet weather and certainly beyond the limitations of daylight in the winter months. This field and our decision to place it in Milton was a way for the district to give back to the community.  It truly warms my heart when I see all of the young people having a place to play and, of course, all of our seniors and other community members walking the track late into the evening. It has been a crown jewel in our community and, in fact, we have had trouble scheduling the use of this field as it is in such great demand. While we do have a shared field with the City of Fife at CJHS, this is our only real resource in Milton that serves our student/athlete sports needs, youth football, FME Soccer, and many other organizations in need of facilities that can be used beyond daylight hours.

I know that many of you are becoming aware of our ongoing struggles to keep the field as accessible as possible to the community as we were originally permitted to do. We have consistently had to defend our permit to have lights on this field which make it such an asset. Recently, Milton city administration has informed me, as well as local youth athletics leaders, that they indeed may consider a Bainbridge Island type of light ordinance that would severely limit our ability to have lights on the field in the future. To quote a recent communication to a community leader from the City of Milton administration, “If reasonable efforts are not made by the school district to resolve the light trespass issue, the executive department could propose a light pollution ordinance to the city council.”

I would like to be very clear that this is a communication from city administration in the executive branch. It is not the official position of the Milton City Council to the best of my knowledge. We surely hope that this does not become the official position of the city as we would contend, and it has been verified, throughout a series of challenges that we have been in full compliance and have been responsible in our use of the field lights. These are the best lights we could install that limit light spillage but that are still competitive lights for football and soccer use.  We have even retuned them to the most limited spillage we can and have met the conditions for use of our field lights for the past three years.  We are allowed within our permit to have the field lights on until 10:00 at night on weeknights and until 11:00 on weekends. We have stayed within those limits and have been good and faithful neighbors in shutting them down when our usage is done for the night.  In fact, we have never gone over the allowed time within our permit. We have even created a call-in system, to go beyond the minimum requirement of a manual cutoff switch on the pole, so that coaches and neighbors can even call and have the lights automatically shut down within minutes of the field not being used. I commit to you that I will bring you more information about that in the coming weeks and that the district will do everything within its power and monetary ability to continue to provide this precious resource to our community.

My goal is not be negative or accusatory here, but my role is indeed to advocate for a resource needed by thousands of local children and the community at large. We are in such great need of a place for kids as well as the community and again you can see as you drive by what a great resource we have built here. It is unfortunate that we are fighting so very hard and spending so many precious dollars to simply defend a resource that we brought into the community. I hope that the city administration reconsiders the position that they seem to be taking here and have officially put into writing to myself and other community leaders. We only want to be a good partner and serve the greater good of the community at limited cost to the communities of Fife, Milton, and Edgewood.  We went through appropriate legal channels to have our permit approved in the first place and are simply trying to protect our resource and the time and effort we have put behind maintaining it as such.

In closing, I simply would like to say thank you once again for all of your support. It does look like there might be a light at the end of the funding tunnel and for once in the past several years we will not be laying off any staff. Spring is indeed bringing with it the hope of a continued bright future in Fife School District.