The Bridge that Keeps Mercer Island Schools Strong

April 27, 2015 | by Erin Sirianni

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Breakfast of Champions 2014

Breakfast of Champions 2014

Tomorrow the Mercer Island Schools Foundation hosts its annual “Breakfast of Champions,” the spring fundraising event for the organization’s Bridge campaign, which raises money to fund teachers in the Mercer Island School District (MISD).

This is the third year I’ve had a child in Mercer Island schools, and the third year I’ll be attending the breakfast. I’m still learning a lot about our district, but I’ve quickly learned how important the Mercer Island Schools Foundation and this campaign is to our schools.

History and Goals

The Bridge campaign, which recently changed its name from Bridge the Gap, originated in 2009 when MISD faced nearly $1.8 million in budget cuts from the state. The foundation’s goal is to retain the teachers (approximately 20) who would have been eliminated because of that shortfall.

The Bridge campaign goal is $1.2 million, and its goals are:

  • Fund enough teachers to maintain class sizes lower than state funding allows
  • Allow MISD to provide coaching, supervision, and professional training for teachers not funded by the state

Public Funding: How MISD Stacks Up

In terms of state and federal funding, Mercer Island ranks near the bottom of all state districts, ranking 282 of 295. To provide local comparisons, Seattle public school district receive $11,085 per student; the Bellevue school district receives $9,428 per student; and MISD receives just $9,218 per student in public funding.

“There’s a perception that Mercer Island is a rich school district,” said Dean Mack, MISD Executive Director of Business Services. “Really, we’re not.”

But thanks to our local levy and community contributions to MISF, PTAs, and boosters, Mercer Island students receive an additional $1,233 per student, bringing our ranking up to 143rd in the district. For similar contributions, Seattle Public Schools receives an additional $586 per student, and the Bellevue School District receives an additional $1,165 per student.

“One of the benefits we have as a small school district is that we can actually feel the difference from these contributions,” said MISD parent and volunteer Mary Kay Woolston. “In larger districts, those funds are spread more widely and students may not have the same experience of the positive impacts our donations create.”

Support Bridge 2015 – Attend the Breakfast of Champions

When I moved to Mercer Island, I was well-aware of the Mercer Island School District’s great reputation and the high performance of its students. But I didn’t know about the power of its PTAs and the foundation that helps boost those critical funds for maintaining smaller class sizes and supporting excellence in its teachers.

The Breakfast of Champions is a great opportunity to learn more about our school district, to contribute to the Bridge campaign, and to hear from MISD Superintendent Gary Plano.

“I look forward to this event each year and the chance to spend time with community members who care so deeply about Mercer Island public schools. It is a great opportunity to share some of the incredible work happening in every one of our classrooms, and to address the very real funding challenges our schools face,” Plano said. “Without your support we could not deliver the educational experiences so valued by our students and by you.”

The Mercer Island Schools Foundation “Breakfast of Champions” is tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28th, 7 – 8:30 am, at the Mercer Island High School Gym.  Learn more about the foundation and consider making a contribution at: