Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mixed messages, part 8: School closures

In my last post, I wrote about the mixed messages the public received from the district about whether passage of the bond would “lock in” the plan. The district also sent—and continues to send—that kind of mixed message on the particular issue of school closures. In April, the district’s materials stated:
Q: Will more schools close if the bond is approved?

A: No. It is the total opposite. A GO bond locks in the plan! Investing millions of dollars in your school is a good reason to keep it open.
Yet, at the April meeting where the board approved the ballot language, the following exchange occurred:
Director Liebig: We also had a community commenter who said that passage of the bond would be “a guarantee of no more school closures.” Is it a guarantee of no more school closures?

Superintendent Murley: This is—from that standpoint, that’s a board action, so, no, it’s not a guarantee of anything in the future from a school closure standpoint.
The superintendent’s statement is plainly correct, regardless of the legal effect of the ballot language, since some schools (e.g., Hills Elementary) are not in the ballot language at all. Yet even today, the district’s bond FAQ contains the following:
Q: Will more schools close if the bond is approved?

A: No. If the bond passes, the District can fully fund the Facilities Master Plan that allocates millions of dollars to renovate schools that are otherwise vulnerable to closure. With the exception of Hoover Elementary School, the Facilities Master Plan commits to keeping all schools open. Hoover ES is the exception based on its location in proximity to City High School. The Facilities Master Planning Steering Committee determined that the additions needed at City HS required the acquisition of additional property.
The district thus states as a fact that no more schools will close if the bond passes—contradicting the superintendent’s own statement—and that the facilities plan “commits” to keeping all schools open. This is one more example of the district’s inability to give a consistent answer to questions about the effect of bond passage.

Continued in part 9.


amy said...

That's very carefully worded. This FMP commits to keeping all schools open (in the sense that it doesn't provide for school closures), okay. But the FMP does not commit the Board to keeping all schools open, and it sounds as though the Board can change the FMP after the vote.

Chris said...

As for "Investing millions of dollars in your school is a good reason to keep it open," please keep in mind that in 2014 the district invested almost $1 million in Hoover to give it air conditioning and building upgrades--a decision the school board made after it decided to close the school.

Anonymous said...

And the FMP changes just about every year!

So passing the bond really gives permission to fund whatever FMP the board has approved just before it is time to issue one of the four bonds.

There could be a lot of changes to the FMP by the time of even the second bond issuance, much less the third or the fourth. Do we really want to give that much broad and changeable spending power to a future school board whose members we do not know at this time?

We don't even know the makeup of the board that will be in place for the first bond issuance out of four. This is scary!