Voters support schools

By Brian Beckley

The Courier-Herald

It was “yes” votes all the way across the Plateau as voters in the Sumner, White River and Dieringer school districts all approved propositions this past week.

In Sumner and White River, the districts' maintenance and operation levies appear to have passed, according to the Pierce County Auditor's office.

The Dieringer School District ran a bond for expansion, modernization and technology, that also passed.

All three districts also received the voter turnout necessary to validate the election.

After having to announce to a traditional election night party in February that the M and O levy, which makes up 20 percent of the district's budget, failed to get the required 60 percent approval rating, Sumner Superintendent Donald Eismann said there was a decision not to host a party this time around, but the excitement of the measure's passage was not lost.

“We are just overjoyed,” Eismann said.

Eismann attributed the win to the district's decision not to not take a “gloom and doom” approach to the levy. Instead of focusing on what could be lost, like many districts, Sumner focused on the positive things the district had done and recent studies by Standard and Poor's that indicate district residents are getting a good return for their money.

“Our approach for the election was very different from other school districts,” Eismann said. “[Theirs] just didn't seem the right strategy.”

Eismann and District Communications Director Ann Cook said the strategy is one the district hopes to use in the future to better engage residents on district matters.

Focusing on what was being done right also helped keep staff and faculty on message and not worry about the potential loss of revenue, which would have had dire consequences to programs and staff throughout the district.

“Staying on positive message also helped us to stay positive internally,” Eismann said.

In Dieringer, the district's levy passed in February, but a $10.2 million bond for expansion, modernization and technology failed to reach the necessary supermajority by eight votes. It previously failed by 79 votes in November.

This time around, voters approved the bond, which will allow the district to add classrooms and an auxiliary gym to North Tapps Middle School and classrooms to Dieringer Heights Elementary, as well as make additions and upgrades to technology throughout the K-8 district.

“The third time was the charm,” Superintendent Judy Neumeier-Martinson said. “We are delighted.”

Though the district originally hoped to have the new classrooms completed by September, but due to the bond's failure in February that dream disappeared. The district is currently in the permitting process with the county and hopes to begin construction this summer.

However, the technology money from the bond will immediately be put to use replacing old computers and adding smartboard technology to classrooms.

“It will really allow us to integrate technology in a useful manner,” Neumeier-Martinson said.

The Sumner and White River districts ran a mail-only maintenance and operation levy. The measures failed during traditional voting in February and this was the final opportunity this year for the districts to ask voters for approval of the levies.

The Dieringer bond was a regular election using polling places.

The election will be certified Friday.

The results as of Monday were:

€ Sumner School District

Proposition No. 1

Yes 5,614 64.42 percent

No 3,101 35.58 percent

€ Dieringer School District

Proposition No. 1

Yes 1,092 62.93 percent

No 642 37.07 percent

€ White River School District

Proposition No. 1

Yes 3,299 65.86 percent

No 1,710 34.14 percent

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