Bond Issue Vote on Valentine's Day 2012

Post date: Dec 9, 2011 4:37:31 AM

On December 8 the Bartlesville Board of Education voted to adopt the resolution calling for an election on the $49.5 million bond issue on February 14, 2012. Presentations will begin at different school sites to inform teachers about the specifics of the proposal.

School board members Nikki Benson, Mike Orr, and Rick Boswell each commented before the vote that they wanted to ensure that teachers had an active role in the design process for the new buildings, additions, and renovations. It was noted that while some teachers and parents had input on the initial design of the elementary additions, personnel shifts meant some teachers working in the new areas did not have that input.

“I’d just like to see us do an outstanding job — and an even better job than we’ve done at the elementaries — of involving the right people in the design of it,” Board of Education member Nikki Benson said. “I’d like to see us get the appropriate teacher input.”

Dr. Quinn assured board members that design committees would be formed to provide a mechanism for that input as was done for the 2001 bond issue projects at BHS, helping guide the design of the new Fine Arts Center, Bruin Field House, and Science Wing.

At the 12/6 community forum board member Scott Bilger highlighted that a focus of the Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee recommendation was to reduce the number of secondary sites to reduce district expenses. The painful closure of Oak Park Elementary this past summer is turning out to yield $585,000 in annual personnel cost savings plus another $77,000 is being saved on utilities each year now that Oak Park and McKinley are closed. This helped partially offset the $2.6 million in state funding the district has lost since 2009. The board of education agreed to dip into the district fund balance for 2011-2012 since even those savings and continuing personnel cuts could not balance the district budget after another set of severe state funding cuts and the loss of federal stimulus money. Mr. Bilger pointed out that dipping into the fund balance is not sustainable.

It is projected that the secondary reconfiguration in the bond issue would save the district over $5 million in administrative/personnel, utility, and maintenance costs over the 9-year span of the bond issue because of greater efficiencies in operating only three secondary schools and the eventual closure of the Education Service Center and the Will Rogers Complex when their functions are moved to Central to keep that historic facility operational although no longer serving as a middle school.

Mr. Bilger noted that the Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee spent much of its time researching and debating how to address the issue of the middle schools with about half of the 6-8 graders in the 95-year-old Central and the other half in Madison, which was built cheaply in the late 1950s and is deteriorating noticeably. One plan to expand Central to serve all 6-7 graders was estimated to cost $10 million and Committee member Granger Meador points out that students would still have spent most of their day in a 95-year-old facility with its old-fashioned design ill-suited to a true middle school concept. Another plan to expand and renovate Madison would have cost several million dollars more and still left the district with inefficiencies and functional problems from its California-style "Desert Modern" design. Community leaders challenged the Committee to recommend something bold which would truly be best for the 6-7 grade students and the town's long-term growth. More research showed it would be possible to build a new $17.6 million 6-7 grade center which would far better serve those 21st century students.

Physics teacher Granger Meador, also a member of the Planning Committee, pointed out that district patrons cannot vote to increase the general fund millage to boost teacher salaries or reduce class sizes. But they can vote for a bond issue, which can provide better facilities and meet other needs while also reducing operating costs, which thus helps keep class sizes in check.

All but one of the community members who provide opinions in public comment about the bond proposal were supportive of it. One patron did express her concern about sending all of the middle school students to a larger 6-7 grade center on the east side of town at the Madison site, but Dr. Quinn pointed out that the building would be brand new, unlike the 95-year-old Central and the cheaply built Madison, and more importantly the new 6-7 center would be built as a true middle school with multiple pods. Each pod would have a teamed set of core teachers (language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies) serving the same group of youngsters who would only leave that school-within-a-school setting for electives.

Other patrons came forward to express their support, as quoted

in the Examiner-Enterprise: “I am particularly pleased that it seems to be a very sound, comprehensive, long-range plan,” said Byron Boles, a parent of four children in the Bartlesville Public School District, during the public comment section of the meeting. “I just frankly love the idea of moving the tenth graders to the high school and the idea of building the new middle school. … The efficiencies that we are going to get out of a new middle school will be incredible.”

You can listen to the entire community forum online.