Parents and teachers plan for upcoming bond campaign | SierraSun.com
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Parents and teachers plan for upcoming bond campaign

Sherri Mays

Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District parents and teachers met last Thursday to begin strategizing for the upcoming bond measure, slated to be on a March ballot.

More than 50 parents filled the seats in the Sierra Mountain Middle School cafeteria and listened to the successes and failures of last year’s bond committee and listened to the new district Superintendent Pat Gemma talk about his experiences with bond measures in the Martinez and Piedmont districts.

District boardmember Suzanne Prouty facilitated the meeting and helped devise a plan to raise awareness and organize support.

“The turnout was great,” Prouty said. “We pulled in teachers and parents from all sites. Measure B taught us that we need to have a broad-based grassroots effort to pass the bond.”

Measure B – Building Better Schools, was narrowly defeated in April by a margin of 3 percent.

The $15 million bond was slated for construction of a new middle school and the modernization of the high school and elementary schools.

With different issues in mind, the board voted last fall to split the district for bond purposes.

The schools located around Lake Tahoe face modernization issues, while the Truckee side of the district was focusing on a new school to possibly be built on the proposed Planned Community 2 site along Highway 89 North.

“We shocked ourselves by not getting the bond passed,” said Carla Pombo, one of four Measure B core committee members. “We know that a more unified approach is the best approach.”

Matt Gelso, who was also a core committee member, agreed.

“The process is not too difficult,” he said. “If the bond doesn’t get passed this time, it’s serious.”

Pombo and Gelso said money for the campaign is an issue, but not as important as organizing a volunteer effort to help educate voters.

Gemma relayed his experiences and said a clearer identification of the district’s issues is critical, but difficult to find. When educating the public on the needs, vagueness or specificity doesn’t work. Gaining consensus on educating voters with the “happy medium” is the best, but isn’t easy to find, he said.

“Passing a bond is like leaving a legacy,” Gemma said. “It’s history in the making when community members get together to build something in the community. Voters need to realize they can be part of that history.”

Prouty said the district is diligently working to identify what the public wants, what the district needs, and how much the suggestions are going to cost. She said this bond attempt will be different than the April vote because it will include a funding mechanism for ongoing maintenance, an issue most bond measures do not address.

“People ask us (the board) why they should agree to more buildings when we (district) can’t take care of what we already have,” she said. “We want to be able to fund ongoing maintenance. Maintenance can get very costly.”

During back-to-school nights, the district will be distributing surveys to address parent concerns and to help get district facts to the parents. Prouty said once the surveys are completed, the district will work with architects to determine what costs would be and where funding is specifically needed.

“Our biggest priorities are staying the same,” she said. “We will first address overcrowding and modernization.”

The core committee consists of five parents from each of the five schools. Each committee member must recruit five additional people to assist with the effort – therefore incorporating a 25-member core committee for each facility: Truckee Elementary, Glenshire Elementary, Donner Trail Elementary, Sierra Mountain Middle schools and a combined high school effort with Tahoe-Truckee High and Sierra Continuation schools.

The core committee will meet Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the TTUSD offices on Donner Pass Road. There is also a “Town Hall” meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at Tahoe-Truckee High School.

“It’s about getting information out, making the calls,” Gelso said.

Truckee attorney Bob Tamietti, who also worked on the Measure B core committee, said, “Polling is OK, but grunt work works.”

Prouty said making the bond visible and understandable will be the new committee’s main objective.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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