In Mr. Jon Lane’s recent guest column “Voters approved a second high school, not academy,” there were some fundamental inaccuracies that need to be corrected. It’s true that for many years this community has struggled to come to a definitive position on what’s next for our district. While I respect people may have differing opinions on the future for the Moses Lake School District, my hope is that people are basing their views on facts and accurate information.
Mr. Lane’s column begins with a list of his concerns about the critical areas missing from the school district’s plan for the Real World Academy. He says the plan lacks “faculty, staff and student parking, bus drop-off and pick-up routes, a student common area, a library and outside physical education areas.” This is not correct. In fact, the design work for this school is currently in progress and not only are all of these specifications included in the plan, but the school is being designed to make maximum use of the very large parcel already owned by the Moses Lake School District.
The column also indicates that Moses Lake High School is currently running a pilot of the Real World Academy with a single teacher and eight students. This statement is not accurate. Moses Lake High School is piloting a Big Picture School, which is a dynamic approach to learning, doing and thinking that has been changing the lives of students, educators and communities for over two decades. And while there are some similar aspects of this pilot program and the Real World Academy, the 21st-century learning opportunities that will be available through the Real World Academy will be far greater than anything currently available within our district and will appeal to a wide range of students.
Mr. Lane uses the dictionary as his reference to define what the word “academy” will mean for the education model at our new high school. I respectfully disagree with his literal characterization. Real World Academy is simply a project name for the district’s second high school, not the actual school name. A school name will be selected in the future. We used the word “academy” as the project name to highlight the creativity, innovation and vision that our program team will bring in preparing our students for the world they are about to enter. The reality is our traditional K–12 educational systems largely adhere to a century-old, industrial-age factory model of education. In referring to this school as an academy we wanted to acknowledge there is room for improvement in our education model, and in this school, we will continue to look at ways we can do it better.
Finally, Mr. Lane claims that spending bond dollars on the Real World Academy is illegal. He cites the February 2017 bond election language as a requirement for expenditure. This is absolutely false. Mr. Lane was part of two different staff- and community-based committees that ultimately recommended the School Board pass a bond change resolution, allowable by law, to better meet the needs of our community and school district. While Mr. Lane may have strong opinions about the action the Board took, to make claims of misuse of taxpayer resources and mismanagement of funds is deceptive.
As the leader of our school district, I fully recognize our need to gain and grow community support and trust. I believe much trust can be built as we bring to life a second high school for our community. A school that is realistically aligned with our community’s needs and opportunity for growth, one that is prepared for the changing school funding model in our state, and one that offers students the highest quality learning opportunities to support a wide range of post-high school goals.
Dr. Joshua Meek is the superintendent of the Moses Lake School District.