by Jack Mayne After a split vote reelecting Lucy Krakowiak to remain Mayor, the Burien City Council heard Highline Public Schools superintendent say over 70 percent of seniors now graduate and that fewer students are suspended for behavior. In a meeting Monday (Jan. 4) that lasted well over three hours, the Council also heard presentations on the future expansion of Sound Transit light rail and express bus service. A resident also proposed the Council put on the next election ballot a measure to increase taxes to pay for more city police officers. Highline graduation up In an annual report to the City Council, Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield said the district was in the third year “of a bold four year plan” that has “made really considerable progress.” She said for the first time, the Highline graduation rate has been over 70 percent of its students. “We went from 62.9 (percent) to 70.3 (percent) between 2013 and 2014,” she said. “I will not stand here and tell you that a 70 percent graduation rate is acceptable but I also cannot ignore the fact that that is a significant jump and a testament of the hard work that the staff and our students are doing and we are proud of that. “Our goal is 80 percent at the end of this (school) year and 90 to 95 percent next year,” Enfield told the Council along with School Board Chairman Bernie Dorsey. “We really won’t rest until we get as many if not all of our students across that stage,” she said. Suspensions down Suspensions from the district’s school are also falling, from 1,628 in the 2012-2013 school year to 685 in the 2015-2015 year. Suspensions for the safety of the students and staff will always be necessary she said, but a differentiation should be made between “making a bad choice” and “being a danger to a threat.” “We want to make that distinction very, very clear,” Enfield said, by making defiance not a suspendable “for the first time,” and defiance had been the biggest suspension offence. Now offenders are directed from their regular classes to an “in-school suspension,” to keep up with their schoolwork but get “necessary intervention and counseling.” Enfield said at every high school campus students are being given a “more rigorous course work offering,” adding that there had not been priority across all high schools in the past. “For this year (students) would be guaranteed a certain level of courses,” no matter which high school campus they were attending. Students are capable of “extraordinary work if we challenge them.” Advance Placement enrollment has increased over the past three years, she said, noting that computer programs now include 539 students. “Given the region where we live, I believe it is irresponsible for us to not make sure that our students have access to good computer science education given the jobs that are available in this region.” Councilmember Nancy Tosta asked Enfield “what can we do more as a city, as a Council to help you.” Enfield said everyone likes to hear the praise, but if people hear things that are “concerning to you,” call or email her or meet with her and Dorsey “at any time. Let me know what you are hearing that isn’t working” along with “sharing the good news because I still encounter this misperception of our students …” Why ‘rebrand’? The Council also heard a presentation on the “rebranding” program it approved last year in order to change people’s minds about how they think about Burien. The city hired a Tacoma firm, JayRay, which says in its literature that “successful branding can turn a city into a place where people want to live, work and visit.” Burien Economic Development Manager Dan Trimble introduced Kathleen Deakins, president and co-owner of JayRay. So, why does the city need a brand or a new one, anyway, Deakins said. “We know that cities aren’t successful on their own,” she said. “They compete for people, they compete for resources and they compete with a lot of cities in Washington state – there are actually 211 other cities in Washington state. “In this highly competitive environment, it is important for Burien to stand out. What do people think of when they think of Burien? What is different about the city and what is relevant and valued?” “That is what branding is about,” Deakins told the Council. What is rebranding? A “brand” supports economic development by differentiating it from competitor cities and tells of its vision and values. Branding also permits retention of existing business and helps recruit new businesses, while driving sales and increases tax revenues. The brand also guides strategic marketing efforts and builds awareness and enhances community pride, Deakins said. Her company will work to develop Burien into a strong brand, which describes and distinguishes it, driving awareness, credibility and results, Deakins said, perhaps altering views of the city people have held in the past. The consultant’s work will be guided by an advisory committee comprised of insiders and some outsiders to give both up close views as well as general views, including interviews of Councilmembers and various other individuals and groups in and around Burien. Deakins said 400 residents and businesses have already commented by online surveys and plan to have three discussion groups with residents and one with businesses over the next several weeks. All of this to construct what the general view of Burien is now. Then JayRay will look at other cities and how they are viewed by people and businesses with the intent to “carve out something that is distinct” about Burien. More consultation will follow as a “brand platform” for Burien is developed. Light rail extension The Council directed the city staff to push for a light rail connection extending the proposed light rail line from Burien to West Seattle on to Sea-Tac Airport instead of terminating it in Burien. The city has just a few days to make comments on the Sound Transit proposal for what is known as ST3, or the third major light rail project that financing would have to be approved by voters The Burien staff said the Sound Transit proposal to terminate the light rail in Burien falls “short of Burien’s needs because” because it does not provide a direct and reliable high capacity transit light rail connection between Burien and Sea-Tac Airport and does not reflect the “significant growth planned and occurring now at the airport.” More cops needed North Burien resident Dick West said he recently canvassed 82 people in his neighborhood and 75 said they would sign a petition seeking a public vote on public safety bond issue that would expand the Burien Police Department. West said the signors “are willing to pay for this” because they know the money will “stay supporting activities in the city.” He said he wants the Council to put a public safety bond issue on its business agenda for consideration (read more in West’s Letter to the Editor on this topic here).]]>