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District Calls for Questions, Input from Attendees at Bond Measure Forum

A potential $230 million bond measure is being discussed and the district is looking for input.

The is looking for input from the community on a potential $230 million bond measure.

On Monday night at , the district held the where it discussed the bond and then held breakout sessions with attendees to ask and discuss various points of the bond.

The next two meetings:

  • Monte Vista High School — Thursday, Feb. 2 — 7 p.m.
  • Dougherty Valley High School – Wednesday, Feb. 8 – 7 p.m.

The bond is currently in the exploratory phase, school officials repeated throughout the evening. An exploratory committee consisting of parents, administration, faculty and other members of the community have been assembled and charged with determining if the district should pursue a bond and, if so, what that bond would look like.

Projects discussed that could find themselves in the bond proposal included a complete renovation of Stone Valley Middle School, major renovations of several elementary schools, the expansion of Dougherty Valley High School and Quail Run Elementary School, plus putting emphasis on technology infrastructure throughout the district, including a robust wi-fi network. A finalized list has not been established yet.

The bond, if recommended, could fall somewhere between $190 million and $230 million, officials said. They said the expected cost to the taxpayer to be about $20 to $30 per $100,000 of assessed property values for a 25-year bond. That cost, however, could fluctuate up and down slightly, officials said during the breakout sessions later in the evening.

"We're going to be probably asking for a bond," Board of Education President Greg Marvel told the audience of a few dozen parents and administrators. He went on to say that he received emails saying the district had wasted money. "It isn't because we wasted money. We didn't. We spent honestly and judiciously and completed on time and on budget and even saved money."

The district passed a $70 million bond measure in 1998 and a $260 million bond in 2002. (A bond measure in 1996 failed by just two votes.)

Not if, but when

Despite the exploratory phase of this bond, the question Chris Kenber, a former Board of Education member and a member of a previous school bond oversight committee, posed was not whether the district should be pursuing these projects but when.

Under California State law, a bond measure on a general election ballot only needs 55 percent of the vote, or a super majority, for it to pass. In special election years the district would need two-thirds to pass a bond measure. The earliest date for a vote would be a June 5 ballot.

But why now?

There appear to be several reasons, according to the officials who spoke during the forum.

One point emphasized was the growth at the schools. Kenber said that the San Ramon Valley Unified School District has grown by an average of 4 percent over the past six years. That equals about 1,000 new students a year he said.

Year

School population

2002

21067

2007

24623

2012

29896

With this type of growth, the issue of diversion comes up.

With the previous two bonds "we've minimized serious student crowding and avoided most student diversions around the district," Kenber said. Though there are some student diversions he added.

Kenber said with a new large-scale development near Dougherty Valley, the need for expansion is key. "What's the impact here?" he asked the audience at San Ramon Valley High School. "(Students) diverted out of Dougherty High School. We'd have to put them here or somewhere, and that's a problem that will affect everyone."

Creating 21st Century Schools

Another key point, Kenber said, was upgrading the facilities to the 21st century with the infrastructure to support technology, including a wi-fi network, throughout the district.

"We're not going to use the bond money to buy iPads," Marvel said. "If students can't get online, they can't use iPads. ... We have 35 buildings. They age. We need to put an emphases on technology."

Kenber added that, due to the recession, construction costs are incredibly low. Additionally, he presented the idea that property values and quality schools are related. "We have a destination district with a superlative education program, good test scores year after year. This is good for homeowners, too. The value of homes have dropped less than its surrounding areas," he said.

Anecdotally, he said, local realtors will say that the No. 1 selling point in the area is the school district.

The district said other projects the district wants to address include energy efficiency to lower operating costs, improving traffic and improving the schools' safety measures.

Parents say more info needed

For the breakout sessions, the audience was split in half and put in separate rooms to provide input and ask questions about the potential bond measure.

"I thought it was very helpful," Rebecca Adams, a mother with two in the district said. "I learned a lot."

About 20 people were in one breakout session, of which half were district parents. The breakout sessions posed questions and asked for feedback on the perception of the facilities, what on the project list is important, what's missing from the list, what the voting populace would think of a tax increase, and the bond time frame.

Parents were asked to write their feedback on sticky notes, which were stuck under the various questions asked.

Comments included:

  • Facilities appear to be well maintained.
  • Why complete renovations?
  • Facilities are middle of the road because of mix of old and new buildings. Some are new, excellent facilities, others are not.
  • Some will not support any bond but the majority of parents will recommend and vote yes.
  • Need to provide info so that residents without school age children will get out and vote.
  • San Ramon Valle High School parents will support but it's still hard for our families.
  • There is concern of the time in these economic times.
  • Get more information out. More specifics would be useful. A detailed project list. Specific cost info on each project plus cost comparison.
  • Education of voters of inequities in school districts, do they exist?
  • Full disclosure of finances to people.

The consensus of those in the room was that there needed to be more information presented and available to the public but that they were, in general, in favor of the bond.

"Most people are uneducated about what is going on," Adams said. "Most people don't know what some of the schools really need, facility wise. They need to keep them up with times. Most parents are very supportive and this is a great community."

Engagement needed

Do you have an opinion about the potential bond measure? There is several ways for your voice to be heard. We invite you to tell us what you need to know about this bond measure, if recommended, before heading to the polls. We invite you to tell us why you would or wouldn't support this measure. We invite you to voice your thoughts and opinions on this subject. You can leave a comment in the section below or, if you're feeling really ambitious, write a letter to the editor and email it to Danville Patch editor Terry Parris Jr. at terry.parris@patch.com.

This is an ongoing story. Follow Patch as we report it.

R January 27, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I became so frustrated with teachers/school district that I have one of my children in private school, my other child will go to private school for high school but my junior will finish here. I gave money and volunteered for years. I pay for tutors and sports and music for my 3 kids on top of all the school donations. I relate to D Mom, spending hours reteaching my kids at home. At least at the private school we are at now, the kids start study hall at the end of the day and can ask the teachers questions about homework before they go home. It makes after school an absolutely different experience. I will vote no.
Terry Parris Jr. January 27, 2012 at 09:27 PM
R: Thanks for the comment. In your opinion, why were you having to pay for tutors? What do you think the issue was/is? Not enough time to teach what needs to be taught? Standards are high and teachers can't fit it all into their classes? Are the teachers not performing to your standards? What was your issue?
R January 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Math math and math. That is what I am paying tutors for, and so are many other families I know in this school district. Each level has different issues. In elementary school the kids have so many projects tossed at them with out showing how to really do it and many parents end up helping too much. It also felt like by 4th grade there was this checklist of projects at a rapid pace with no feedback for the kids. Product not process was emphasized. I would like my kids to be able to learn skills they can apply to their learning again. In middle school the math is the worst. The are not teaching math well and the kids start to think they are not math students and limit their future choices. HIgh school, lack of feedback. How can a student prepare for a math final when there has been not returned work since November? How does a student (or parent looking at school loop) know where they are at, what they know well and what needs more work?
Sam Clemens January 28, 2012 at 08:24 PM
The complaints we read here would soon be rectified if the SRVSD had a competitor. Students switching to a better alternative would force SRVSD change 100 times faster than parents complaints. It's only creative destruction that will create change. Parents are wasting their breath with complaints. Think charter spin off. Think bond $$ for charter.
Gail Erb February 06, 2012 at 04:50 AM
According to my most recent property tax bill, we are paying already for a SRVUSD parcel tax in addition to our base property tax. We are also paying for the SRVUSD 2002 bond issue and two community college bond issues. I say enough. Cal High was just remodeled, and so was Pine Valley. Schools out in Dougherty Valley are practically brand new. Let's pay off these bonds before we approve any new ones.

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