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Summerville High staff differ on H

 A bond measure proposed by the Summerville Union High School District has been the subject of intense debate among the school’s staff members in recent weeks.

Measure H, which would extend a previous bond measure used to buy computers and build a theater on the Summerville High School campus, has elicited skepticism from some teachers who questioned the use of $9.9 million in bond funds from 1998’s Measure Q. 

An informal poll conducted by teachers who support the bond extension suggested that a majority favor Measure H. The poll found that 19 teachers supported Measure H and 15 didn’t. However, several teachers didn’t participate. 

Advocates say the measure is the only way to fund technology upgrades and classroom renovations that would benefit students. 

If passed by the required 55 percent of district voters, the measure would extend Measure Q for 15 to 20 years and generate $8 million for school projects.

Technology upgrades are among the possible uses for Measure H money, as are an art classroom that dates to 1964 and sports fields in need of safety improvements.

Staff discussion about Measure H kicked into high gear with a special meeting after Kristy Dwyer, a math teacher and president of the California Federation of Teachers Summerville High chapter, declined to sign off on a letter from Superintendent John Keiter in support of the measure.  

At a board meeting Sept. 12, Dwyer explained that she and other union officers may change their minds about opposing the bond. Most haven’t yet, due to what they describe as a lack of specific information about how Measure H money would be spent. 

Meanwhile, another group of teachers has been speaking out in support of Measure H. 

Brianna Willis, a Summerville High English teacher, graduated from the school just before Measure Q passed. She returned as a student teacher about five years later and saw a transformed school — with a new library, theater, campus roads and classrooms.

“It’s fundamentally changed the entire campus,” Willis said. “And not just aesthetically. I just see it as real positive for the kids. Our access to technology and resources is so much better than what it was.” 

But technology has changed faster than Summerville High can keep up, particularly when it comes to the Internet, according to Keiter. While students in Summerville High English classes now use software as part of their writing process, a shortage of computers and computer labs is an obstacle.

Many other California students have better access to technology, Willis said. She worries that the lack of current technology at Summerville High may put students at a disadvantage when trying to find a job.

“As a community, it’s our responsibility to ensure that they are given the tools they need to succeed when they leave here,” Willis said. 

Dave Woods, who’s taught at Summerville High for about 22 years, said Measure Q came with the promise that new lab tables would be installed in all science classrooms. They were installed in only one. 

The promise that there would be a computer for each student was not fully realized, though the money did fund a computer lab, Woods said. Measure Q was also supposed to overhaul the football field, baseball field and an old gym, according to Woods, who coaches varsity girls’ basketball. 

But the old gym wasn’t renovated, and the new gym built with bond money isn’t suitable for varsity games, he said. 

He and other teachers were active in the campaign for Measure Q. 

“We put our word on the line to promise (people) those things, and they didn’t get them,” Woods said. “So we felt personally responsible … It’s hard for us to go out again and make these promises when it didn’t happen last time.” 

Summerville High Chief Business Official Tonya Midget said completing the planned Measure Q projects would have cost an additional amount in excess of $2 million, even after the district received $3 million in modernization money from the state.  

Keiter said a prioritized list of Measure H improvements would be drawn up if the new bond measure passes. The last time Summerville High proposed an extension of Measure Q in 2010, it was voted down by a slim margin. 

The choice not to prioritize the improvements is an effort not to “over-promise” this time around, Keiter said. But some teachers remain suspicious of what they see as a strangely open-ended proposal. 

“I think it’s the most bizarre thing ever,” Dwyer said. “It’s like going to buy a house and not getting to see the inside of it.” 

Mi-Wuk Village resident Jerry Morrow, the bond’s most vocal critic in the community, said he’s spoken to several Summerville High teachers who are on his side. In fact, they’re participating in a letter-writing campaign against Measure H. 

Meanwhile, the Summerville High School Foundation has ramped up a campaign for the initiative, with members canvassing the community and holding a forum Oct. 3. 

Willis, one of the leading proponents of the bond on campus, said she understood teachers in opposition. She also understood concern that not all possible projects would come to fruition. 

“But if we don’t get the funds from this bond, then no improvements are going to be made, which is frightening,” she said. “Then the chances of getting the football field, of getting the technology, aren’t there at all.” 


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