Voters to mull bonds H and J

By Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat October 05, 2012 12:31 pm

Sonora Union High School and Summerville Union High School districts could renovate decades-old buildings and replace outdated equipment if voters pass two school bond measures on the Nov. 6 ballot. 

The $23 million bond measure for Sonora High, Measure J, would be the first bond measure on record for the school. The $8 million initiative for Summerville High, Measure H, would extend its 1998 bond measure for an additional 15 to 20 years. 


Both bonds need a “supermajority” of at least 55 percent voter approval to pass, and the money to repay the bonds would come from taxes paid by property owners in each district.

Sonora High’s measure would raise annual property taxes by $22 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

The current annual tax rate for Summerville High’s Measure Q is about $40 per $100,000 of assessed value and will begin decreasing after 2023 if Measure H passes. The rate will decline until it reaches about $30 per $100,000. 

Sonora Union High School District covers Sonora, Jamestown, Curtis Creek, Soulsbyville, Columbia and Belleview school districts. Summerville High includes Summerville Elementary and Twain Harte-Long Barn school districts. 

Sonora High’s top priority is to renovate the humanities building, which was constructed in 1970 and has been identified by students and faculty members as the “worst of the worst.”

The district also hopes to expand the kitchen and cafeteria to better accommodate employees and the approximately 1,000 students served daily. Superintendent Mike McCoy would like to transform the cafeteria into a food court like Summerville High’s Bear Rock Cafe.

Turning the library into a modern school media center is the third priority, followed by renovations to the science building and the 1939 Centennial Hall.

Farther down the list of priorities are a new barn for the district’s Wildcat Ranch, technology improvements, a stadium track and an aquatics complex. 

Summerville High Superintendent John Keiter said a prioritized list of improvements for Summerville High would be drawn up if the new bond measure is passed. Possibilities include renovating the art classroom, making safety improvements to level an uneven athletics field and upgrading areas of the campus to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Summerville High also hopes to replace outdated technology. The bulk of the school’s computers are six to seven years old and some date back 10 years, Keiter said. 

New projection equipment, handheld student response devices for paperless quizzes and SMART Boards are also possibilities.

SMART Boards, which have been installed at Twain Harte School, combine the concept of traditional whiteboards with modern technology to display interactive multimedia presentations.

“There’s always a worry that some technology is a fad, and so we intend to be very careful about the kind of technology that we want to actually devote funds to,” Keiter said. 

Summerville High first proposed an extension to the 1998 measure in 2010 and was voted down by a slim margin. 

Benefits reaped from the initial $9.9 million bond measure include a new theater and library, and energy upgrades in three buildings constructed in 1964.

Some teachers, including officers in Summerville High’s chapter of the California Federation of Teachers, oppose the bond extension.

Kristy Dwyer, a Summerville High teacher and president of the union chapter, said at a Sept. 12 board meeting that there have been ill feelings over the last bond because people who pushed for it did not get everything they were promised.

In June, Mi-Wuk resident Jerry Morrow asked Summerville High’s board not to place the bond measure on the ballot. He has since said Measure Q cost him about $75 in taxes last year.

Morrow has filed an argument against Summerville High’s Measure H with the Tuolumne County Elections Office. He said he has also organized a group of about 10 citizens and a handful of Summerville High teachers who will express their concerns through a letter-writing campaign.

So far, no opponents of Sonora High’s Measure J have made their opinion heard at the district’s board meetings.