School bond measures totaling $59 million on March ballot
Two school bond measures will be on the ballot March 2 – a $35 million bond for the Truckee’s schools and a $24 million bond for the lakeside schools.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District boardmembers voted unanimously to put the bonds to vote in early 1999 – but not without a clarification about what committees will oversee the spending of the funding if the bonds pass.
“There needs to be language to make citizens feel more comfortable that every year the funding will be looked at,” said Dan Collins, Truckee Bond Committee chairperson, about a concern voiced in favor of annual audits.
The board agreed that annual audits would be completed under the audit system already in place in the district.
“We solicited questionnaires from teachers, parents and the community,” said Ken Foster, chair for the lakeside bond committee. “The comments section of the questionnaires overwhelmingly stated that the public needed to know the money is being spent on the facilities and not by the district. It’s important to us to commit to voters a program with safeguards and checks, and then to fulfill it (program).”
Boardmember Karen Van Epps assured both Collins and Foster that each site would have bond and citizen oversight committees to assure the funds could never be used for state mandates, and added that there were concerns about Truckee’s bond.
“I would like to understand more about our projected enrollment and examine it further,” she said. “There is going to be a big hit to the general fund if we open a new school and we need to know where the money is going to come from.”
Boardmember Suzanne Prouty and Collins both agreed that no matter what the enrollment projection for the future looked like, there was no confusion as to the overcrowding at Truckee Elementary and Sierra Mountain Middle schools.
“We are already more than 50 percent overcrowded at Sierra Mountain Middle School,” Prouty said. “Even with declining enrollment, we are still overcrowded.”
The $35 million bond in Truckee will provide for the construction of a new middle school, as well as modernization upgrades.
The $24 million lakeside bond will provide for much needed modernization at Kings Beach, North Tahoe Middle and North Tahoe High schools.
“It’s not a matter of pulling the bond off the ballot,” Van Epps said. “It’s about being absolutely sure everything (the needs and costs) is explained.”
A facilities report will be provided at the district’s Nov. 10 meeting.
Taking immediate precedence over the March ballot is Proposition 8 on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The board unanimously opposed the proposition that Superintendent Pat Gemma said is a “bad, bad bill.”
Funded by Gov. Pete Wilson, the 36-page initiative will create site-based councils made up of one-third teachers and two-thirds parents, will limit in-service training for teachers, will mandate changes in the teacher credentialing laws and will create the position of Chief Inspector of Public Schools, what administrators are saying will impact the district.
“This initiative needs to not pass,” said Reina Markheim, president of the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association. “This is a horrible bill.”
By initiating the site councils, power will be given to the schools and continuity between sites within the district will diminish, and parents will have more control over site curriculum.
If councils are not assembled, schools will not receive class size reduction funds.
The Chief Inspector position, appointed in 10-year increments, will provide for unlimited staffing, budgets and authority.
The inspector will be able to set the position’s salary without confirmation by the state assembly.
The funding will come directly from the state’s education budget.
“(The initiative) is only going to hurt the educational process,” Gemma said.
Boardmembers sworn in
Superior Court Judge Andy Holmer swore in the new boardmembers who will take their seats at December’s regularly scheduled board meeting.
Doug Hamilton will represent Area 1, Mel Cone will represent Area 4 and John Wojcik will represent Area 5.
Andy Holmer put aside his “usually joking self” to conduct the ceremony.
“I hold the highest respect for education,” he said. “I feel honored to be able to conduct this task. I don’t mean to be solemn, but this is important to me.
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