Update for December 19, 2013
HISD bond election still pending
By Jeromy Kusch
After the December community meeting and an online survey, the school board remains undecided on how to proceed with bond election plans. Superintendent A’lann Truelock presented board members with figures from the online survey she conducted following November’s board meeting.
The survey revealed the 88% of respondents strongly agree that funding is needed for improvements, a number Truelock was happy to see, but results were somewhat inconclusive from there. While some programs gained strong approval, others did not.
The survey indicated strong support for a new band hall, with 72% of respondents “strongly agreeing”. Other renovations discussed included general campus repairs with 90% agreement, while the track and technology projects received far less community support.
School board president Michael Neuman pointed out the real confusion comes with what people were willing to spend. The survey showed the strongest support for a bond totalling between $10-$15 million. Approval dropped rapidly as the cost increased.
Neuman expressed some frustration with the results saying that people see the need for repairs and new facilities, but don’t want to pay for them. According to Neuman, a fine arts building or band hall could run about $10 million, which would take nearly all of the survey approved funds for just one project. Neuman went on to discuss costs associated with a new gym and track, suggesting more funds would be needed if projects were going to be completed.
Complicating matters further board member James Gonzales said a local cement supplier told him they were increasing rates come January, putting an even tighter squeeze on possible bond budgets.
In an effort to save money, Truelock met with a company that could help the school save money on utilities expenses. The idea centered around replacing old utility systems, at no up front cost to the district. The monthly utilities savings would be used to pay for the upgrades.
Truelock also presented plans from the architect that was divided into three tiers. The tiers represented suggested repairs, improvements, or new construction organized by priority and cost. The document was scrutinized by some board members for not taking into consideration HISD faculty, who were not consulted when the list was put together.
Neuman suggested allowing administrators a chance to review the architects’ proposal. The campus administrators would then reorganize the list based on their campus needs.
Truelock also discussed personal comments left by the survey participants. While wide support was given for certain projects, some respondents would not agree to any bond election that included fine arts improvements. Others said they would not support any bond that included a gym or track. According to Truelock, this type of feedback makes it difficult to evaluate the bond proposal.
Truelock intends on holding more community meetings as the board continues to discuss the bond proposal.
Other agenda items include:
•School board continuing education report. As of December all school board members were deficient, but plans are in place to complete required hours.
• HISD Director of Special Education Cynthia Gann gave a district dyslexia report. Board member Mark Matthews is a parent of a dyslectic student, and spearheaded the conversation. Matthews pressed Gann about the process the district uses to assess the reading disorder. He challenged Gann to find the students as early as possible so students have the best chance to succeed.
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