Summerville teachers won’t back Nov. 6 bond

By Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat September 13, 2012 02:18 pm

Summerville High School teachers expressed doubt Wednesday about a bond measure being placed on the Nov. 6 ballot to help fund renovations for the school’s facilities. 

Meanwhile, members of the Summerville High Board of Education voiced their own concerns about a state tax measure, Proposition 30, put forth by Gov. Jerry Brown to avoid further funding cuts for schools and public safety agencies statewide. 

 

Summerville High’s chapter of the California Federation of Teachers is withholding its formal support of Measure H, a bond measure that would raise money for facilities projects and apply to property owners within district boundaries. 

“We may be able to work through it,” said Kristy Dwyer, president of the union chapter. “It was just some ill feelings over the last bond ... people who pushed that bond seeing what we got and what we were promised.” 

Dwyer, who teaches math and coaches volleyball at the school, said she supported Summerville High’s 1998 Measure Q — which authorized the district to sell $9.9 million in bonds. 

A new library, classrooms and theater were built with the money, but Dwyer said she and other teachers were expecting improved athletic facilities too. 

Measure H would extend Measure Q for 15 to 20 years to generate a further $8 million for school facilities projects.

The current annual tax rate for Measure Q is about $40 per $100,000 of assessed value. After 2023, the rate would start going down until it reaches $30 per $100,000 under the new Measure H. 

Projects that may be undertaken if the bond issue passes include the replacement of outdated and undersized art classrooms, repairs to athletic facilities, technology upgrades and more. 

While the district drew up a broad list of possible projects, it hasn’t ranked them in order of importance. Community members have shown up at recent Summerville board meetings to ask for a prioritized and more specific list. 

Following discussions with other teachers’ union officers at Summerville High, Dwyer refrained from signing a letter in support of Measure H that Keiter presented to her.

Dwyer said she and the other union officers may still decide she should sign the letter. They have until later this month to make up their minds. 

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

Keiter has said he thinks the bond has a better chance of passing now, in what he sees as a more favorable political climate. The Summerville High School Foundation is hosting a public question-and-answer session about Measure H in early October. 

Later at Wednesday’s meeting, the board debated a resolution to support Proposition 30 and said they didn’t believe schools would see any of the revenue raised from its tax increases.

“I personally feel that I want to support education all the way,” said board member Dennis Spisak. “But I also feel that dumping money into Sacramento … is not always the answer either.” 

Brown has made it clear that the defeat of the ballot measure, called the Schools & Local Public Safety Protection Act, would lead to steep funding cuts for education.

That would include a midyear loss of about $450 in funding per student, described by educators in the Mother Lode as a major threat to their schools’ fiscal health and ability to educate students. 

Proposition 30 would entail a temporary quarter-cent increase in sales tax, in addition to an income tax hike for top earners that would last seven years. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that it would raise about $6 billion annually between 2012 and 2017. 

The revenues would be put into an “Education Protection Account,” with 89 percent going to kindergarten through 12th grade schools and 11 percent to community colleges. The text of Proposition 30 promises that the legislature, governor or state agencies can’t use the money for other purposes. 

But the assurances seemed to carry little weight for some Summerville High board members. 

“I don’t believe that the state is going to do anything for education,” said board member David Marquez. “There are no guarantees in the proposition for education. … As much as I support the school, and I’m here as an advocate for the school, I don’t support the tax increase.” 

Summerville High Chief Business Official Tonya Midget said schools would “definitely get some portion” of the Proposition 30 money, but not all. She also said constitutional protection for school funding has failed in the past.

The resolution in support of Proposition 30 was brought before the board Wednesday by the California Federation of Teachers Summerville High chapter. Statewide, the Federation of Teachers is campaigning for the ballot measure. 

If the resolution were approved, the California Federation of Teachers would add Summerville High to the list of Proposition 30 supporters on its website. It would also appear on Brown’s website, according to Summerville High Superintendent John Keiter. 

Spisak suggested adding the same language that the Tuolumne County Board of Education put in its resolution to support Proposition 30 and another tax increase. 

As finalized Monday, the disclaimer reads: “The Tuolumne County Board of Education feels pressured into supporting both funding measures for fear of what will happen to public education funding should neither measure pass.” 

None of the Summerville board members moved to support Proposition 30 on Wednesday. A new resolution, with a disclaimer similar to the Tuolumne County Board of Education’s, will be discussed at the next regular meeting. 

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, a Summerville High coach questioned the board and administrators for giving Dwyer’s position as athletic director to another teacher. 

“I’ve seen her work late nights and do a lot of extra things,” said Dave Woods, who coaches girls’ basketball. “While I agree that the administration has the right to open the position of athletic director, it doesn’t mean they should have.”

Woods added that six or seven people are now “scrambling around” trying to fill Dwyer’s shoes as athletic director. He then read a statement approved by 21 Summerville coaches for various sports, thanking her for her work. 

The athletic director position was opened up to applicants within the district last month, and administrators later selected teacher Debbie Mager for the job. 

Board President Cheri Farrell was the sole vote against the agenda item that included approving Mager’s selection. 

In other news Wednesday:

• Midget gave a budget update that reflected better news about Summerville High’s financial position at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Higher-than-anticipated revenues put the district’s general fund balance at more than $2.4 million. 

• Board members heard a presentation about visual and performing arts programs in the district, which administrators say are benefitting from the hard work of teachers and student enthusiasm.

• Teachers and board members debated the best way to partake in a character-development program, with one option involving faculty going to Los Angeles and another bringing a training session to Summerville. The discussion will continue at future board meetings.