School officials are accountable for disrupted education

Public officials are accountable for their actions - or inactions.

This is not news to anyone. Except perhaps two higher-ups in the Seattle Public Schools.

One month ago, the Madison Park Times ran a story about Garfield High School’s roof capital project entitled “Garfield High School roof project on schedule.” Come mid-September and the orange scissor-lifts outside the high school still remain.

Projects run over (the roof project was scheduled to finish by Aug. 18, well before students were due back in school) and that’s just a fact of construction. Look no further than the Alaskan Way Viaduct project and Bertha to see Seattle’s favorite example of that.

In the article last month, the project is described as having some “hiccups,” including “a ten-day workers strike and the discovery of some unexpected asbestos.” Additionally, the project had already run over its budget of $962,000 after the delays. Western Ventures Construction Inc. was the contractor on the job, which began June 28.  It is funded by tax dollars through the $475.3 million “Buildings: Technology and Academics Capital Levy IV” that was approved by voters in February of 2016.

What’s less acceptable and understandable is when Garfield High School’s Principal, Ted Howard II, and Seattle Public Schools Project Manager Mark Emelko either refuse or forget to speak on the issue.

Several calls to both men went unanswered, either lost in the clutter of a new school year or willfully ignored. But when school employees call my office to complain about handicap-accessible ramps blocked by machinery which should no longer be there, necessitating some students to take circuitous routes just to get to the buses to take them home, something is clearly wrong.

When workers set off a fire alarm at the school, evacuating students back in their first week of the 2017-2018 school year while working on a project which was supposed to finish weeks before, something is clearly wrong.

Emelko spoke on the record when our publication ran the first story, giving us the timeline which has not been met. Why can’t he clarify after multiple calls directly to his office?

Again, a slight delay on construction is about as much a non-story as comes around in Seattle. That said, when disabled students are inconvenienced by administrative failures, and when those in charge simply pretend the issues do not exist, someone must be held accountable.

Mr. Howard, you oversee more than 1,900 children at Garfield High School and are responsible for their education and well-being. Mr. Emelko, you are the project manager responsible for this $1,030,000 project. You are both busy men. However, either one of you could have ended this story weeks ago. You chose not to.

Instead, this publication was stonewalled and students continue to be distracted by delayed construction, blocked ramps and accidents which disrupt class.

You’re accountable to more than just a nosy newspaper editor. You need to explain to the students, their parents and the community why this project has stalled or at the very least when students can expect to go to school in an environment conducive to learning.