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Thank You, Jeeves

What? You say your school doesn't offer valet car-repair service? How do you cope?

It's true: At Islander Middle School on Mercer Island, Wash., staff members need only drop their keys at the school's front office in the morning to have their cars worked on during the day. Someone from nearby South Mercer Chevron will pick up the cars, do the repairs at the station, and return the cars to the school's parking lot—often by the closing bell.

Bruce Dearborn, an associate principal at the 1,065-student school, said a committee of parents and staff members that studied the issue of teacher recruitment came up with the perk to show staff members they were valued.

"That's one of my go- buttons: to show teachers how much we appreciate the work that they do," said Mr. Dearborn.

Launched last spring, the service has been a win-win deal for the school and the repair shop, both parties say. The arrangement costs the school nothing, while the shop has gained ready access to a large pool of potential customers. All 90 staff members at the school can use the service.

Peter Caldwell, the owner of South Mercer Chevron and a 1972 graduate of the school, said he also discounts most repairs done for school staff members by at least 10 percent, helping to build positive feelings about his business.

"It's so much more effective to have goodwill with the community than to just throw an ad in the paper or put out a coupon in the mail," he said.

Such convenience is particularly welcome for educators in the 4,100-student Mercer Island district, many of whom endure a traffic- jammed commute onto the island each day. Home to such well-heeled residents as Microsoft mogul Paul Allen, the island sits on prime real estate in Lake Washington, and few teachers can afford to live there.

The time-saving repair service has proved so popular that Mr. Dearborn now is sending out letters inviting other local businesses to create similar partnerships. He'd especially like to set up a service that would allow staff members to drop off and pick up their dry cleaning at the school.

Other ideas under consideration include deals on shoe repairs, movies, and drugstore items.

"We know how busy and hectic their lives are," he said. "We want to help."

—Jeff Archer

Vol. 22, Issue 15, Page 3

Published in Print: December 11, 2002, as Take Note

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