The Museum's side of the story

Sunday, July 11, 2010

When the school district released information that it intended to move back to previous plans for the Ronald School (see Evan Smith's article) because the Museum had not fulfilled its agreements, I sent Henry Reed a set of very blunt questions, which he answers in the following article. Diane Hettrick, Editor

From Henry Reed, President, Board of Trustees, Shoreline Historical Museum

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to present the facts about the Museum’s present situation regarding the “Agreement in Principle” with the Shoreline School District. The answers below follow the four questions that you posed.

In your first question, (“. . . what made you file suit against the school?”), the Museum did not file a suit – this is a mischaracterization of the process.  [My error -Editor] The Museum simply appealed the School District’s decision under the State Environmental Policy Act (“SEPA”) to issue a determination of non-significance with regard to the District’s SEPA checklist. The problem with the District’s determination was that the District had declared the effect of taking over the Ronald School for instructional purposes to be “non-significant.” The Museum did not agree with this assessment because our program has been built, since 1976, around the restoration and utilization of the Shoreline community’s most historic asset – Ronald School. The potential impacts to the Ronald School Building and the Museum’s programming are significant and should be treated as such in the final determination. For this reason, we appealed the District’s determination of non-significance. The heritage of a community is important. If our efforts to acquire property to which we could move our Museum were to fail, and if the District were to convert Ronald School to instructional use, the Shoreline community (with Lake Forest Park and North Seattle) would lose a very essential asset. Our appeal seeks recognition of this fact. We do not want it hidden as “non-significant.”.We want to know how the District would mitigate this loss. This is the reason for our appeal.

However, our appeal in no way detracts on the Museum’s commitment to honor the Agreement in Principle. In fact, it demonstrates our commitment to the historical nature of the building, and our mission and goal to make sure it is preserved, consistent with the Agreement in Principle.

The second part of your first question asks if there is a problem securing property for the new location of the Museum. The answer to that is a clear “yes.” We made an offer that was above the appraised price for the parcel in question, and our offer was the highest that our Board of Trustees could allow for prudent management. After nearly five months of appraisals, discussions and negotiations, the property of first choice is now likely to be sold to someone else. The Museum had already had pre-application meetings at the City planning department, and spent several thousand dollars on architect’s fees for the design of that property. However, the Museum Board is still committed to finding a solution to this challenge and is actively working toward this end.

You ask, what is our response, now that the District is planning to incorporate Ronald School into the (new) school design? We do not control what the District decides to design; in fact, months ago they showed us renderings of Ronald School as a part of the new High School. We are continuing our efforts to find a suitable site for our Museum, while the District continues its design alternatives.

As for the “Agreement in Principle”: we take that agreement very seriously. We are working to make it happen. Nowhere in that agreement is there mention of deadline dates, such as July 1, 2010 or October 1, 2010. Those dates are the District’s subsequent proposals, but they were not adopted by our Board, nor by the School Board. We have worked hard to pass the Bond Election for the District, and the final passage by 426 votes was clearly due to the work of our Museum members and supporters. We are still working to make the “Agreement in Principle” succeed.

And finally, you ask if we think that the controversy will affect our funding sources? While the impacts of the School District’s proposal could complicate our fundraising efforts, we believe that our funding sources are firm; we have heard nothing to refute that. To the extent that the future of the Museum is threatened, one would think that Museum supporters, including funding sources, would rally rather than surrender. That has been our experience so far.


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