Another Interesting Board Meeting...

And I was only there for about an hour. This was the first time I can remember that I didn't stay through the end of the board meeting. I had made a commitment to play in a softball game at 8:20 but I went back by after the game, about 9:35 to catch the board members' statements from the hallway. I heard Dr. Viccarello explain that she had made a promise to the measure Z voters to build the sports complex and she was going to honor her commitment. Mr. Sanchez made some comment about people sneaking out of the meeting, I'm sure he didn't mean me. 

About two hours earlier, I made my request for an item to be added to the agenda at the next meeting to open a discussion about the district's projects. You can read my complete address in the post previous to this one. After I spoke, there was a parent, interested in the arts, who spoke about the district's promise to complete the theater project. He believed the theater should have already been completed. He was also concerned about the $12-15 million dollars to be spent on the sports complex. He suggested the district offices could be moved temporarily to the Chavez school site. Hmmm, I think I've heard that suggestion before. Then we heard from a parent, a builder, who explained that now was the right time for construction projects and that the idea of using $4 million dollars to temporarily fix the district's problems was just a "bandaid".

Mr. Sanchez asked Mrs. Kakish if she wanted to clarify the district's position and explain about the committees that oversee the projects. She first explained that the theater project was already in the works and was number one on the list of priorities. She went on to say they have started the project which will be partially funded by measure Z funds even though no bonds have been sold. Then she explained how a board member sits on every project oversight committee and she gave a summary of the other members. I already knew all this but I don't think too many other parents and teachers knew this.

What she didn't explain, is that no board member or district employee is allowed to sit on the Measure Z oversight committee and that the oversight committee has no authority to set priorities, budgets, timelines or select contractors. The committee's only responsibility is to make sure that the funds are spent on projects that were designated in the text of the measure Z legal documentation. She also didn't explain that the members of these committee's are usually hand picked by the district. I think the teacher's union, BTA, does have some input regarding what teachers are selected.

I understand that my ideas may be way outside the box and that nothing is going to change. But I also know, and I think Dr. Viccarello knows, that if an election was held today, the voters would have to be looking at a different bond issue for it to pass. Many parents who spoke out at the public forums in February expressed there hope that measure z funds could be used to help us keep some teachers and services for our kids. Today's bond issue would be have to be more focused to solving our problems today and less focused on the sports complex of tomorrow.

Something I heard for the first time tonight was, according to Mrs. Kakish, this was going to be the only bond sale. Because, according to Mrs. Kakish, the current real estate values would not be able to support the $125,000,000 bonds authorized by measure Z without raising the amount the supporters of the measure (the district) had promised tax payers they would have to pay, about $24 per $100,000 of their homes' values. She added that legally they could issue the full $125,000,000 but it would be difficult politically. I applaud this decision because it is responsible but it goes against the administration history of taking advantage of the letter of the law when it suits their interest. This will be interesting to watch. 

It's late and I'm sure my summary here is somewhat confusing. When I look at this post again tomorrow I'm sure you I will make some grammar corrections and provide a little clearer description of what happened. I wanted to get this all down before I go to bed. After I have a chance to review the tapes of the full meeting, I will put together my usual summary and make it available.

One thing I want you to take away from this, is that the funding and priority of the district's projects is complicated. We don't know the complete financial story; if it is truly the case that there will be no future bond sales, this discussion becomes much more important. I want to hear this directly from the superintendent if this is the plan. I also want to hear each board members' position on the priorities of the projects and how they feel about the idea of using surplus property proceeds to reinstate services.

Our elected officials have a duty and a responsibility to keep us, their constituents, informed about their decisions. It is our state elected officials who got us into this mess by working without transparency and not doing what is right for the people they represent. We really have very little control over what's happening at the state and national level but we do can make a difference here in Beaumont. Whether you think a sports complex, a theater, an expansion at the high school, a 21st century classroom, shade structures, transportation, or class size reduction will have the biggest positive impact on all of Beaumont's children's education, you have a duty and a responsibility to speak out and to demand to know what are your board member's priorities.

I've asked the board and the administration to gives us a chance to have this open discussion by placing an item on the next board meeting agenda. I am hoping they will show the courage to make it possible. This needs to be different than the public forums in February, we need a two way discussion.