Our Voice: Thumbs up to Pasco schools for innovative thinking

December 9, 2013 

Be bold

Pasco school administrators thinking about some creative ways to improve the district's underperforming schools.

Administrators are suggesting making the school year up to a month longer at six schools -- Rowena Chess, Emerson, Longfellow, Virgie Robinson and Whittier elementary schools and Captain Gray Early Learning Center.

All the schools have more than 90 percent of their students receiving free or reduced price meals because of their families' economic status. As many as three of every four students at several of the schools are English language learners.

Administrators hope the extra time will help students at those schools catch up with their peers in the rest of the district.

"They're learning English and not necessarily learning math or how to read," Assistant Superintendent Liz Flynn said at a recent school board meeting.

The idea might not work. Board members have yet to vote on it and lots of questions remain unanswered, such as how to pay for an extra month of instruction.

But we're encouraged by the district's willingness to consider bold moves to help Pasco's children succeed. If this doesn't work, keep trying. They're worth it.

Spotlight's glare

Thumbs down to officials with BW Land LLC for playing their cards too close to the vest. The company plans to develop 22 acres of riverfront land on the Kennewick side of the blue bridge and have decided to remain mum on the progress of their project.

Company officials initially announced plans to turn the land -- which they bought from the Jesernig family in February for $3.02 million -- into a retail hub with hotels and condos.

BW Land officials have said they hope to attract restaurants, a high-end hotel and buildings with retail shops on the first floor and condos on top. They plan to model the area after neighborhoods in Portland and Seattle.

But it wasn't long before residents of a mobile home park on the property began to complain that their rights were being violated in the effort to get them to leave quickly.

The owners and the residents have since reached a confidential settlement agreement, officials said. Both sides have declined to talk about it.

Majority partner Steve West of Pasco said he's frustrated with how the company has been represented to the public in the media.

No doubt it's frustrating to be thrust into the limelight, particularly when so much publicity is focused on the complaints of some disgruntled tenants. But BW Land better get used to public scrutiny.

The parcel the partners purchased at the base of the blue bridge is one of the most visible properties in the Tri-Cities, and the entire community recognizes the tremendous potential of the prime riverfront acreage.

Certainly, the developers are assuming the financial risk and sinking much -- probably most -- of their energy into the project. The degree of uninvited oversight must be annoying.

But they'd do themselves a favor to recognize the community's interest in the property. It is one of the most visible spots for visitors traveling through the Tri-Cities. What happens there will reflect on us all.

And people are just plain excited about the public amenities promised for the site. Our riverfront is underused and BW Land's plans will go a long way toward the vision many have for the stretch between the two bridges in Kennewick.

The company ought to embrace the high community interest in their project. Officials have a perfect opportunity to frame the message they want to deliver to the community. Everyone is already watching.

By staying quiet, they're leaving it to others to shape the way their story is told.

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