To Bond or Not To Bond, That is the Question

The biggest elephant in the room in this 2017 school election cycle is the General Obligation Bond.  I’ve barely begun on the campaign trail and that is already the most asked about topic.  It seems that support for or against the bond will determine whether voters will elect specific candidates.  Because of that, I will tell you how I feel about the upcoming bond vote.  However, I would emphasize the fact those two pieces, board candidates and bond referendum, are on the same ballot.  Candidates’ feelings on the bond itself will have no effect on the actual passing or failing of the bond vote.  Instead, as a candidate, I feel that is important for me to show my support for the Facilities Master Plan.  The bond is simply the defined funding source for the plan.  The needs of our schools and students don’t go away after the bond vote.  Schools are still in need of air conditioning, students are still receiving instruction in portable classrooms, lunchrooms are not adequate to get students through in a timely fashion, music and art rooms are not ideal for instruction and there is limited pre-K space across the district.  As a board member, it is imperative to correct these facilities issues to create equitable learning environments for all students.  The bond vote is just the starting point to then begin to address the other issues around our district.

But, as I mentioned earlier, you still want to know where I stand on the bond.  So, let me tell you.  I have spoken in favor of one large bond as opposed to multiple smaller ones.  This is not a blind leap of faith in our administration and I do share some of the same concerns of putting such a large number out to the voting public.  My support for a single large bond is more pragmatic than anything.  Let’s say this bond does not pass.  Yes, we can then rework the bond language and likely the dollar amount and put it back to the voters in 6 months to a year.  I believe we would get much the same reaction from voters with the overwhelming thought being “I already said no, stop asking”.  Now imagine that we asked voters to approve a smaller bond this year and it does pass.  We then would have to ask every two years for another approval of another bond.  We would likely have to do this for 3, 4 or 5 straight election cycles.  Keeping up to date on all that is going on in the district for several years in a row is difficult for even the most involved voter.  History shows that the voter turnout in a bond year is 3 to 4 times higher than a normal school election year.  These voters will need more and more assurances that their money is being well spent.  I would prefer to make those assurances one time and back it up with my work as a board member.

I also understand that there are more concerns at play than just the dollar amount of this bond.  I’ve heard concerns of it being a blank check for administration or the projections for seats don’t match the plan.  Those are fair and reasonable concerns.  I have questioned some of the numbers for individual schools and what they are supposed to receive under this plan.  That being said, I would love to be the board member that you can trust to make sure the plan gets completed in a thoughtful manner with due diligence.  Here is why I support the bond:

  • I want to make sure every school has air conditioning. 
  • I want to make sure we don’t have kids in portable classrooms.
  • I want to make all of our schools accessible to all students, family and staff.
  • I want to ensure teaching spaces are adequate for the curriculum being taught in them.
  • I want to make sure our students are provided an opportunity for the best education and learning environments to make them productive citizens of the community.
  • I want our facilities to no longer be barriers to education, so we can begin to address and correct other barriers our students face.

If projections change over the years, I want to be able to adapt to those changes.  I want to hold administration accountable for getting all of these things done.  I believe these things can be done within the scope of our Facilities Master Plan and with the bond to fund it.  However, if elected, I will do everything in my power to make all of our school needs happen regardless of the outcome

The Family Vacation A.K.A. Things We Do for Our Kids

We recently took a vacation.  Doesn’t that sound nice? Ah, vacation. Getting away from it all.  Relaxing with a nice cool drink by the side of the pool.  Now, that may be exactly what some people get to enjoy.  I, however, have two kids.  Anyone reading this who has kids knows that the reality of a vacation doesn’t match the brochure.  Let me tell you a little bit about how our vacation went.

We planned a trip to the Wisconsin Dells with another family.  Between the two families, we had a head count of seven.  Both families own the staple of the modern family unit—the seven seater mini-van.  Perfect.  We could all go in one vehicle and the kids will have a blast.  Then we started thinking about all of the things we needed to pack in the van besides little bodies.  Or in the case of my five foot eight inch 12-year-old, big bodies.  If we packed really tight we could get my whole family’s clothes into one suitcase.  That would save space.  Parents, have you ever told your kids they need to share a suitcase, or anything else for that matter?  How did that work out for you?  Exactly. Okay, so separate suitcases.  We could still make that work.

What about food and drink?  We would need a cooler.  Or two, or three as it turned out.  Oh, and we couldn’t forget the entertainment.  Books, DVDs, hand-held devices.  Whatever happened to license plate bingo or the alphabet game?  It was clear the mini-van idea was now out of the question.  Gas was too expensive for us to want to take two vehicles.  Luckily, our friends have an RV.  We could all fit.  All of our stuff could fit.  The kids got to move around a bit more.  Perfect.  Well, it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good.  Better than the Griswolds’ adventure anyway.  Granted, before we even pulled out of my driveway, I had slammed my thumb in the door of the RV.  It is still a very nice shade of purple.  I’d say eggplant.

We finally got to our destination after hours of “are we there yet” questions.  We, the adults, spent the next three days following our kids on their various adventures.  Have you ever gone down a waterslide that flushes you out the bottom like a toilet?  I have.  Have you ever been zip-lining even though you are afraid of heights?  I haven’t, I was too chicken.  My friend did though since her daughter is a daredevil and she couldn’t look more scared than her 11-year-old.  Go-Karts, ropes course, horseback riding: You name it. We did it.

These are the things we do for our kids.  Imagine what we can accomplish if we put forth that much effort into their education.  It’s not even all about effort.  It’s about the focus.  When we put the focus directly on the kids, they thrive.  It can be hard as the parent.  I know I didn’t want to do all of those things.  A nap sounded pretty good to me most of the time.  But guess what, I ended up having a lot of fun as well.  That translates to our kids schooling as well.  What do the kids want and need to be successful?  There will probably be times we have to do something we don’t want to in order for our kids to see results. I am going to give it a shot and, who knows, I might actually like it in the end.

How do you fix a two party system? Throw another party.

I am so excited about the construction of the new Liberty High School.  I am excited for all the reasons you think I would be.  I have a son who will be starting High School in the fall of 2017.  He is slated to start at this brand new amazing facility.  It’s close to home.  It will allow for greater opportunities for the students to join sports teams, vocal and instrumental music groups and even academic programming.

The less obvious reason that I am excited about this opening is that I think it will be the best thing to happen to our community in a very long time.  With the current balance of two comprehensive High Schools in our district, a bipartisan atmosphere has been created.  I initially wanted to use the Hatfields and McCoys as a metaphor, but I thought that was a little too harsh.  Since we are all one community and I really just like pop culture references, let’s go with Family Feud.  You have one team vs. another team.  While that can be a good healthy rivalry when you are talking about sports teams, it doesn’t work as well when you are talking academics or music or almost any other arena. 

With a third comprehensive high school added to the mix, we can start to change that attitude.  You can go with whatever metaphor you choose here; three sides to a triangle-each one holding the shape together or a three-legged stool- if one falls, the whole thing goes down.  I told you I like pop culture so I am going to go with The Three Amigos.  See, it even has the word friends right in the title.

Working together as a community we can ensure that students at all three locations can have access to all of the programs that they need to be successful.  Learning from each other and sharing strengths is what will help our students grow in all areas.  I am looking forward to this great opportunity for our kids as well as the chance for the whole area to truly embrace the Community part of the ICCSD.