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Old 06-03-2016, 10:02 AM
 
1 posts, read 418 times
Reputation: 10

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Hi folks,

I know this is long, so fee free to just pick out one or two questions to reply to. My wife and I are teachers in Florida, but we are considering a move to the Pac Northwest. I'm wondering if there are any teachers or administrators on here who may be willing to let me pick their brains and answer some questions about the education system, preferably from an insider perspective.

THE BACKSTORY (context):

I was born in Bellevue but grew up in Florida. I moved around in the military and for college and grad school, so I've got a good deal of perspective on what I like and do not like, as does my wife. In my prior career, we lived in southern Illinois, Chicago, Tampa, upstate NY, Atlanta, and even Dallas-Ft. Worth! Today, we are teachers in a rural community in central Florida. Now that we have children, we are seriously and carefully trying to decide where we will settle permanently and raise our kids. We have some fairly big concerns about this area and want to find the right place for us.

Based on my many summers spent visiting family out west, I know the Pac Northwest is a good match for my personality and a place where I'd like to raise my kids, but Bellingham is a bit of an unknown. Yet, it does seem to be an attractive option.

MY TOP 10 QUESTIONS:
1. What is it like working for the Bellingham school district? Good, bad, and ugly please!

2. What is your impression of job security, strength of the union, pay (relative to cost of living), etc.?

3. What is the student body like? Diversity, languages, socioeconomic, parental support, etc.?

4. What is the general political atmosphere of the school system? I know Bellingham tends to lean left (which we prefer), but is leadership open and tolerant? Is there "notable" discrimination, bigotry, etc.? We wish to avoid the "deep South" mentality at all cost. I presume it is less pronounced there, but does anyone have any thoughts on this aspect of the school leadership?

5. How the heck does the TRI/PRS pay work? We don't have that here, so I am hoping someone can explain exactly what sort of extra work is required to receive this type of pay and if everyone gets it, etc.? Further, we both have advanced degrees (wife - masters / me - doctorate). Is this seen as a plus by the district? Here, it seems they discourage it...strange I know, but read up on Florida legislation and you'll see what's going on here with the anti-intellectual movement.

6. Are outside applicants (those not from the area) fairly competitive in hiring? I know this is tough to answer, but are you seeing out of state applicants hired regularly, or is it pretty much the "family and friends" approach?

7. I couldn't care less about test scores. They mean absolutely nothing in my opinion. I care about my children being exposed to art, music, culture, diversity, free exchange of thoughts, and an open and tolerant environment, as well as meaningful extra curricular endeavors (not just Friday night football, but outdoors activities, charities, volunteerism, community involvement, youth groups, etc). How does Bellingham stack up in this regard?

8. Overall, how do you feel about the school system? Does it do a good job, and are students happy as a general rule?

9. How educated is the public? Okay, someone is going to get snarky about this, but unless you have lived in the deep South (yes, rural Florida is super redneck) then you have no idea how much this matters! Basically, do you find that the general public is friendly and capable? With WWU, I would assume education level is relatively high. Do you find yourself struggling to deal with ordinary people on a regular basis, or are people fairly capable in day to day transactions? Here in my area, a simple interaction with a clerk can be exhausting, because literacy levels are low, drop outs are high, and aside from the countless retirees, many people you meet are a few steps up from Forest Gump. Not bad folks; just a bit frustrating to get things done. Anyhow, I just want to gauge the intellectual climate, if you will.

I suppose a good test may be: how many Trump stickers do you count in a given day? Sorry if this ticks anyone off, but we are proud liberals who are tired of hearing angry racist rants every time we go to breakfast or step into a post office. I've seen administrators force students to pledge allegiance against their religious beliefs and call transgendered students "it." We are sort of over it and want a better option for our kids.

10. Finally, if you moved from elsewhere to Bellingham and you have children, are you happy with your choice? Would you do it again? What are your biggest grievances? What are your biggest areas of satisfaction? Any final advice, especially from fellow educators?

Thanks for reading. I look forward to anything you care to share!
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:41 AM
 
Location: TOVCCA
8,452 posts, read 11,447,601 times
Reputation: 12308
Hi, you're new here, welcome. Suggest you post in the Washington forum since all your questions are state-specific:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/washington/
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Old 06-04-2016, 11:53 AM
 
Location: Bellingham, WA
1,090 posts, read 1,072,738 times
Reputation: 1941
I can't tell you much about the school system here, but as someone that grew up in Central Florida and lives in Bellingham, I can answer some of the questions for you. Well, actually just number 9, since my wife and I don't have any children.

I won't get too political, but I can tell you that Bellingham is more progressive than anywhere you're likely to encounter in FL or the rest of the south. The county, however, (what locals refer to as anything outside Bham) is libertarian to conservative. So, you may see a few Trump signs in Ferndale or Lynden or rural roads, but not in town. My wife and I just bought a house in the Sunnyland neighborhood and literally every other house has a Bernie sign in front of it, if that tells you anything. The college adds a freshness to the city, but it's not a college town like Gainesville, it's much more subtle. It's not just the college students that care about causes or issues, however. We moved here because of the the intellectual feel, and because I could see myself growing old in a nontraditional way. When you're out on the trails or walking around town (yes, public transit and a large trail system are actually popular here) it feels like you're surrounded by retired professors.

Last night we walked downtown, went to several of the six or seven breweries downtown: Wander Brewing Home - Wander Brewing https://www.facebook.com/structuresbrewing?_rdr , checked out a new tapas restaurant https://www.facebook.com/tascadeltinto/?fref=ts, went to the art crawl, an idea-generating concept startup party: https://www.facebook.com/bellinghamhatch/?fref=ts outdoor street festival- https://www.facebook.com/commercialstreetnightmarket/, and watched the annual World Naked Bike Ride go by: Bellingham Naked Bike Ride, if it gives you any indication of the feel of the place.

People are generally educated and very well read here- bookstores are popular and all over the place (we also have many "little free libraries" scattered throughout town), there's a very strong emphasis on local foods-grocery shopping is much better than other parts of the country, with several large health food stores (and a very large Whole Foods that opened two weeks ago). And with mountains, lakes, forests, and the sea in the same place, outdoor recreation is a huge deal here.

I'll quit cheerleading for now. But it sounds like you would really like Bellingham, and I can assure you that your kids would grow up in a climate that encourages intellectual curiosity- especially compared to FL. When my wife and I moved from CO, we wanted to find a place that was reminiscent of Asheville, Bend, Missoula, Eugene and Santa Fe, and we feel like we found it here. The only drawback that we've found is that jobs are hard to come by (also, people don't want to leave their current positions) and that the housing market is extremely tight. But.... those are inherent qualities to a small, desirable city.

If you have any other questions about the place, I'll be glad to answer them!

Last edited by bartonizer; 06-04-2016 at 12:01 PM..
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