News from Patrick Flynn

Servicing Service

Editor’s note: for the first time in the storied history of this blog, this post is authored by someone other than yours truly.  Tessa Bay is a senior at Service high school in their Seminar program.  As part of that program she chose to mentor with me to learn more about local government.  Other than using questionable judgment in selecting mentors, Tessa is an outstanding young woman who will certainly accomplish great things in her life.  As a first step, here’s her perspective on the Service high school bond proposal, which will appear on the April 5 ballot.

Come April 5 voters will yet again face the question of whether or not to finally give the Service High School community a finished school.

The more conservative side of this issue makes the point that we are in a financial crisis and therefore should be extremely frugal with our money. As Bob Griffin of the Alaska Standard writes “…we need to be smarter with our precious public resources and focus on things the public really needs.” There are firm believers that the Anchorage area already has seven theatres, therefore making another theatre seem superfluous. Meanwhile the opposing side, made up of educators, parents and students, vehemently believe that the students of Service are worthy of a finished school.

I have heard this issue be presented as a matter of equity, which makes sense if you look at the situation closely. In short, over the past fifteen years almost all of the Anchorage high schools have undergone some sort of upgrade.  In 1999 the voters approved funding for the construction of a brand new high school, which was finished in 2004, only five years later. Through all this Service High School remains unfinished. Out of six high schools in Anchorage Service is the only one without its own auditorium and south of Tudor road Anchorage hosts no real theatre whatsoever.

The rationale has been presented against the bond proposition that we need to be sure not to “underutilize” our venues, surprisingly this argument can actually be used in support of the bonds. If Service is granted this bond, not only will thousands of cultured citizens in the community be able to utilize this theatre, for personal viewing pleasure and use, but Service will no longer need to use the “little gym” (a smaller gymnasium that is a separate building from Service) for sports activities. Instead this building would be turned into a vocational and technical school, essentially a smaller version of the King Career Center. This would allow students who wanted this training to be able to attend a closer to home version of this program, opening up more positions in the King Career Center and allowing more students to utilize this highly effective and valuable program.

One could also make the argument that Service has been waiting patiently to be truly finished for the past thirteen years. Although South was designed and built in five years, the main hallway in our school, which was started in 1998, has yet to be completed. If you talk to some of the school librarians, they will tell you that they have been promised a new library with up to date resources and more space for years and years. If you happen to have a locker in the most used hallway in our school it is quite possible you are using the same locker as your father did twenty years ago.

If you think that these facts do not proffer enough reason, and that this bond would not behoove the Anchorage community, do not despair, you have yet to see a much more crucial and poignant side of this matter.

The issue that has long been circumspect is that of pure student safety.  If you were to take a walk through the main hallway in our school you would see paint peeling off the sides and graphitized lockers lining the wall. Taking a trip down to the gym you might notice that a quarter of the equipment in the gym is so old that it is no longer viable for use. After a quick conversation with the gym teachers, who maintain the gym entirely on their own, you will learn that the much of the equipment in our workout rooms is borderline unusable. In some cases equipment has rotted so much that it is no longer safe to use. They may also mention that three years ago our weight rooms and gym had to be sealed off and fumigated with highly toxic chemicals due to a rodent and bug infestation, which resulted from Service’s general destitute condition.

Walking into the center of all arts for our school, the run down but dearly loved “little theater” (so named because it seats only 214 people), you may notice the tiny battered stage, the crumbling and peeling walls or maybe dubious looking stage lights. All that may mean nothing till you talk to the single drama teacher who, along with a couple other committed faculty and many devoted students, single handedly maintain the theatre. They will tell you that the ceiling of the theatre is not built to official building code, which technically makes it highly hazardous for use. The little theatre is also out of compliance with the fire department code, mostly because of ancient wiring, and has been written up and fined multiple times by the fire department. You might talk to a dancer who will tell you that the stage is almost completely impossible to perform on or maybe they will tell you about an incident two years ago, when an archaic curtain rod fell on a student while she was onstage, missing her head by inches, and seriously gouging her arm.

If you happen to bring up cost, the fact that for every 300,000 dollars spent on this project, the tax payer will only pay about 25 dollars will come to light.

Twenty five dollars. For you coffee drinkers that is about the cost five steaming cups of joe, which you would give to this project, a project which would truly and significantly benefit thousands of fellow citizens.

Sadly not be joining my fellow students at Service next year. I am a senior, and almost a finished product of this genuinely terrific school, consequently I will not be personally benefiting from this bond if it is approved by voters. However I am keenly aware of the fact that this bond will make an enormous difference to the hundreds and thousands of students that will come after me. I do not wish to recount to you the many legitimate points that have been made in favor of this bond, notably that we as students have waited so very long to attend a finished school, or that we deserve this because every other school has tended to or even that this is not just a school project-but in all honesty a community project as well. I wish to leave you with the revelation that you can give these students not just a new theatre or a finished school to be proud of but the priceless gift of education. You can give the community the priceless gift of the arts, the ability to enjoy performances and to be part of them as well. You can give a place that brings the community together as a whole. And all that for just twenty five dollars. You may not find a better deal in your lifetime!

This contribution was made on Thursday, 24. February 2011 at 10:40 and was published under the category Election matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Thanks Tessa.
    As someone who has worked as an architect/engineer on nearly a thousand School repair & replacement projects over the past 25 years, I can say that of all of the high schools, Service HS is the one that has seen the least amount of upgrades over the years. Yes there is still work to be done on East and Bartlett and long-term plans to replace most of Anchorage’s oldest HS, West, but other than the recent renovations in 3 of the 8 wings at Service, the original building from 1972 is still there!
    A little known fact is that Anchorage’s Fire Marshall stopped what had been a pretty successful pattern of doing renovations by phase, so that yearly costs could be controlled. That allowed ASD to renovate “bite-sized” chunks of the larger schools which minimized distruption to school programs and facilitated smaller projects that were spread across the district, making it more likely for voters in Girdwood or Chugiak to vote for bonds that benefitted the entire MOA, instead of just one or two neighborhoods.

    Yes, it is “Service’s Turn” to get updated and modern facilities!

    Comment: Bob – 24. February 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  2. […] on Assemblyman Patrick Flynn’s blog, Senior High student Tessa Bay makes a case for the proposition (and incidentally for public education in general) in terms of equal access. In […]

    Pingback: Municipal Taxpayer’s League of Anchorage Candidate Forum, Part I: School Board « the Alaska Commons – 14. March 2011 @ 12:41 am

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