I would like to address The Herald’s March 29-30 editorial, “Single-issue voters,” by Tommy Felts. I am one of the candidates who ran for the West Franklin school board. I did not win, but I think the patrons of USD 287 won by voting in four new board members.
The Herald’s editorial said that all the board candidates’ single issue was to defeat the West Franklin bond issue. I put my name in the hat before that board resolution. However, I do agree that I ran my campaign based on one issue. My one issue is that the school board poorly represents the interests of the children and patrons of West Franklin. The bond issue is just one of the many outcomes of their poor decisions.
The current school board members do not listen to their patrons, but rather ignore their wishes. There was a survey in February 2011 with three options. Forty-eight percent of the responses were to keep all three schools open. The other responses were split between the two other options. The board said that there was not a majority and tossed out the results after spending thousands of dollars on an architect and the survey. There was a majority of people who voted for the two options not to close the two schools and consolidate to Pomona.
In February 2013, the board hired another architect and conducted three meetings throughout the district. They spent thousands more dollars for the results. That survey ended up with 61 percent voting to keep all three schools open. They again threw out that survey as not being representative of the whole district since it only surveyed attendees at the forum.
The school board has poorly managed the funds they currently receive. In addition to the money wasted on the surveys and architects, during the past four years, they have been setting aside money in anticipation of supplementing the funding of consolidation rather than making necessary maintenance and repairs further allowing the three campuses to deteriorate.
School board meetings are run poorly with an inappropriate heavy hand by the school superintendent, Dodson Bradbury. At the March 11 school board meeting, where they were to decide what to do going forward, Curt Altec was in the middle of making a motion to not go forward with any of the options, when the superintendent interrupted him and said that they should consider other options. They debated for several hours over Option B (keeping Williamsburg and Appanoose open) or doing nothing until another board member out of left-field decided to go with a motion to go forward on Option A (closing Williamsburg and Appanoose with a $16 million bond).
The school board has done a poor job of justifying Option A (closing the two schools and consolidating all to Pomona). They have alienated their patrons by appearing to empathize, but ignoring the survey results. They have wasted money on those surveys and architects. They have only minimally explained the numbers that justify this bond issue — a $16 million project that will be paid by a 30-year bond for $14.32 million and $1.7 million coming from existing board funds that they have been “saving” for the past four years instead of making the necessary repairs. They make the argument that the most cost-effective option is Option A. They could save the patrons — not really saving the patrons, aren’t they saving the district budget? — $500,000 or more per year. They have not explained where that savings will come from. They say 17 employees will be cut. They have not explained the additional resources needed for busses, food service, maintaining the new athletic facilities, etc. The numbers do not add up.
I did not win the election to the school board, but I am very happy to stand behind all four of the candidates who did win. The people of this district know the difference between right and wrong, and what the current board is doing is just wrong.
The people of this district have the power to do the right thing, and they did that April 2. Hopefully they will do it again June 4.
— Bruce A. Rockhold,