May 25, 2024 5:12 pm

The premier news source for Snohomish County

Council discusses appropriating at least $220,000 to Edmonds School District

LYNNWOOD, Wash., May 4, 2023—The Lynnwood City Council discussed a proposal for a mental and behavioral health program for Edmonds schools during their work session on Monday. The council also received an introduction on possible annexation options and covered potential changes to council rules regarding attendance to meetings via Zoom.

The proposal from the Center for Human Services (CHS) requests the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the City of Lynnwood to hire two full-time, master-level clinicians for the Edmonds School District. This request was mentioned by Councilmember George Hurst back in February when the council considered uses for the remainder of the city’s ARPA funding.

“CHS provides mental health services for the purpose of providing underprivileged children and adolescents who would otherwise be unable to obtain mental health services,” Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Director Lynn Sordel said. “Their counseling offers students an opportunity to work with trained therapists in the school. The proposal we have submitted to you tonight will allow the placement of two mental health therapists who would be capable of providing mental health services at varying levels of intensity — based on the individual needs of the student.”

The additional clinicians would primarily coordinate referrals through the new School Based Clinic at Meadowvale High School, but would also support Meadowvale Middle School, Meadowvale Elementary School and Lynndale Elementary school. 

“It’s a dire need,” Hurst said. “It’s a great proposal. It’s Lynnwood-centric. It fits everything we talk about here. For me, it was important to bring this forward again, because it is a need that’s not going away.”

Edmonds School District Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Miner cited an online article posted to the International Journal of Mental Health Systems:

“In this regard, early childhood years are highly important, in light of the greater sensitivity and vulnerability of early brain development, which may have long-lasting effects on academic, social, emotional, and behavioral achievements in adulthood.”

“So if we can intervene with kids and support them when they’re younger… we can actually help them plan for their future and help them to be better prepared to be adults,” Miner said.

Along with Hurst, Councilmembers Shirley Sutton and Joshua Binda voiced their support for the proposal. 

While not directly opposed to the proposal, Council President Shannon Sessions had several questions and expressed frustration over the request while the Edmonds School Board is addressing a massive $15 million in cuts.

“I would think that because mental health is such a top priority for you, you would not cut music and drama,” Sessions said. “That’s really what everybody was coming to share with you about — was how important drama and music is to their mental health.”

Councilmember Patrict Decker did not comment directly on the proposal, but made his grievances with the school board clear.

“I cannot support increasing staff at the school while we’re cutting music and art,” Decker said. “There were so many people angry about this, they had to literally create a lottery and limit the number of people that they would allow to come and testify about their outrage over these cuts.”

Decker spoke of testimony from Edmonds students and parents who spoke to KIRO 7 News.

“I was not in a good space mentally and the band program at the middle school especially gave me all my close friends. I’m still close friends with all of them. That’s what got me through those tough times,” Ryan, a senior who plays woodwinds, said to KIRO. “I’ve been able to live through these programs.”

The proposed cuts would eliminate two or more music classes at every high school in Edmonds School District. It would specifically cut two band classes, a drama class, and the only choir at Mountlake Terrace High School.

“Coming out of the pandemic, these kids were in really rough shape. We heard kids saying they didn’t want to be here anymore,” Lori Reese, a parent of a Mountlake Terrace High School student, said to KIRO. “It’s the music that saved them. These kids need this program.”

While the Edmonds board did restore 14.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions using the unassigned fund balance during their board meeting on April 25, it is only a fraction of the 46.5 FTE cuts in the original budget. It is also unclear how the changes will impact the music and art programs.

“If you talk about the future of these kids, it is proven that music and art benefit across academics, benefit across mental health, benefit across emotional health,” Decker said. “And not only all of that, but they bring a community together.”

The Lynnwood City Council also plans to vote on updating council rules in regards to Zoom/online attendance during their next meeting. However, there was a general consensus that potential rules changes needed to be vetted by the city attorney, which may delay action. There is a push to limit how often council members can attend council meetings via Zoom now that the pandemic has largely subsided.

“The reason this has come up is because it’s been abused, unfortunately,” Councilmember Jim Smith said. “We have a council member that, I believe, has more Zoom meetings than live meetings.”

Smith continued speaking of the increased efficiency of in-person council meetings and the need to demonstrate to the public their dedication to their elected positions.

“We have other council members who travel for work, but they plan their travel around their council meetings because that is a priority. Because that is what you’ve been elected to do,” Sessions said. “Councilmember Binda, like it’s been said, has been on remote and/or absent more than half of the meetings from last year and this year.”

While the council believes they should limit Zoom attendance for council members, the specifics of those limitations has yet to be determined.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tell Us What You Think.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Which Washington state elected official do you feel is more ethical regarding "ballot-gate?"

Join Our Mailing List

Verified by MonsterInsights