Residents, alumni oppose Sumner School District name change

Mike Gregg, a Sumner School District alum, was unhappy that the district may change its historical name. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie.

A public hearing was held on April 12, where opinions were heard on a proposal to change the Sumner School District’s name to “Sumner-Bonney Lake.”

The hearing was held in compliance with state law, which requires the district to give the public a chance to voice their opinions on the proposal before it is voted on by the school board.

Several members of the community attended the hearing and opposition was the theme of the evening.

Eight different citizens spoke out against the proposal, many of whom were alumni from Sumner High School.

“I think to make a few people happy, you’re going to have 100-plus years of alumni that aren’t very happy. And I can see some of the reasons for it and it is a close-knit community but I think changing the name might be kind of a little extreme,” Sumner High alumnus Mike Gregg said.

Sumner School District Board Director Richard Hendricks proposed the name change, saying that Sumner owes a lot to the city of Bonney Lake.

“You know, there’s one constant in life and that’s change. Things change. And I think it’s about time that the citizens up on the hill get a little recognition for being a part of the school district,” Hendricks said, referring to the citizens of Bonney Lake.

According to their website, the district “serves a much different area than it did 100 years ago” and that a name change would “reflect the larger geographic area we serve.”

The district claims twice as many families live in Bonney Lake than in Sumner.

Bonney Lake currently has eight schools that are a part of the Sumner school district, compared to Sumner’s four.

Donald Eismann Elementary is technically a part of Bonney Lake, but is located in unincorporated Pierce County in Tehaleh.

Another Sumner School District elementary school is planned to open in Tehaleh in 2018 said American Newland Communities, a developer for the area.

The two cities have a lot of cooperation outside of sharing a district.

The district is planning propose an interlocal agreement with Bonney Lake, offering $6.6 million to help the city build a pool for both the community and athletes on the Spartans and Panthers swim and dive teams.

Hendricks also read a letter from Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson, stating that the city fully endorses the name change and encourages the board to make the district more inclusive.

Some people were worried about the cost for the name change.

Board President Erin Markquart said the preliminary numbers range between $39,000 and $100,000.

Board legislative representative Paul Williams added that taxes would likely not increase to pay for the changes.

“It would be a very gradual change, if we were to go that route,” Vice President Deb Norris said.

The board made it clear that everything would happen over time to help with costs, with things like business cards, letterheads and other similar items gradually being phased out as stock is depleted.

Another point made against the proposal had to do more with possible long term issues.

People asked what would happen if other small up-and-coming towns, like Tehaleh, also made up the majority of the district’s students – would they get their name in the district title too? Where would it end?

To this, Williams said, “Bonney Lake was incorporated in 1949, see how long it’s taken for us to get to the point where we include it in the name? …In 65 years, I’ll be long dead but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’re here today.”

No timeline has been announced because the board still wants public input before a decision is made, said Markquart.

Last Wednesday’s meeting was the only scheduled public meeting, but district officials said they’ll keep the record open for other residents and alumni to comment.