Sound Off: Much of school district’s excellence due to levy ‘yes’ vote

Four years ago, North Whidbey voters approved a maintenance and operations levy for the Oak Harbor School District. It has funded an exciting flourishing in our schools. That agreement is expiring soon, so we are now asking voters within school district boundaries to say “yes” to a follow-on levy, which will fund the next chapter in our schools’ continued excellence.

What voters need to know is that the state of Washington sends us only enough money to support the mandated basic education. Think of basic education as “reading, writing, arithmetic, and lots of kids in each classroom.” However, we want better for our kids, and a great deal of what makes up a truly excellent Oak Harbor education is above and beyond state funding.

Our award-winning athletics and other extra-curricular activities are funded from levy dollars, including our nationally-recognized DECA business club, robotics, culinary and NJROTC air-rifle teams, along with our state-champion cheer squad.

Our extensive advancement placement curricula, so important to students thinking about college, is funded by levy dollars, as is the majority of our impressive career and technical education (“shop classes”).

Levy funds also provide our breakfast and lunch programs, which help tremendously by eliminating on-campus “hangriness.”

In addition to these outstanding programs, we have used levy dollars to modernize some of our core curricula, including in math and science, while adding curricula for social and emotional growth in our kids.

Importantly, levy dollars allowed Oak Harbor schools to offer in-person preschool through sixth grade last fall. We are the largest district in Western Washington to have done this and it would have been impossible without a levy.

COVID-19 has presented extra costs, such as protective equipment and a weekly testing program. We funded new Chromebooks and on-line versions of curricula essential for hybrid learning. Many of our covid initiatives are leading the state right now, and the district did all of this without laying off any employees.

We have committed to overseeing your tax dollars with utmost stewardship as part of the trust you give us as elected school directors. We insist on high quality maintenance and energy efficiency in our buildings and vehicle fleets. We receive sparkling-clean audits most years; our staff turnover is very low.

We’re all proud of Oak Harbor schools and Wildcat culture. Our employees love coming to work; our superintendent has twice won the Community Leader of the Year award in the annual Best of Whidbey.

A lot of our district’s excellence is due to your “yes’ vote four years ago; thank you for that. We understand these are not flush times for many people, which is why we chose a responsible “middle path” figure to ask you to approve. There are programs we could fund with a higher levy amount, but we appreciate that today’s times require leaving some things on the table.

We are asking for a dollar amount that equates to roughly the same dollars per thousand as the soon-to-be-expiring levy.

Help us paint the town purple this month, with campaign signs courtesy of Citizens for Better Schools. Find answers about the levy at their Facebook site and at ohsd.net. Then please vote an enthusiastic YES to our Programs and Operations Levy, Feb. 9.

Submitted by the Oak Harbor School Board. Elected members of the Oak Harbor School Board are Jessica Aws, John Diamond, Lynn Goebel, Bob Hallahan and Erik Mann.

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