Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

This is my third Memorial Day reflection. With all the barbeque's, sales, etc. we must not forget that this day is set aside to honor those who "gave the last full measure of devotion". We also need to remember those who are still giving as we enjoy our freedoms.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Voter Turnout

I keep hearing people complain about the "low voter turnout" for the last election and blaming it for the failure of the bond issues. In a city of 90,000 why did only about 10,500 people vote on these issues. Let's take a closer look.

First off, 90,000 is the total population of San Angelo, not the number of people who could vote. You have to remember that those younger than 18 can't vote. Then add in those that have lost their voting privilege for felony convictions or mental disorders. Add in those that aren't here legally or haven't been here long enough to be residents, and you end up with around 55,000 eligible voters. According to the city website, there were 51,686 registered voters in the last election. Of that number, 27% voted. This is the highest turn out for a spring election in at least 10 years. This is higher than the 21% that turned out for the last sales tax election, a very hotly contested issue. Texas averages about 14% as a state for spring elections. Even our last November election only had 33% of those registered vote. We have to go back to the last presidential election before we break 50%. Off year and non-general elections just don't get much turn out.

The reality is that this last election had a much higher that expected turn out. I am sure the mayor's race was a factor, but it seems the big issue was the school bonds. Our local voters don't usually go to the polls in the spring unless there is something on the ballot that really grabs their attention. Normal spring elections are a yawn, so they leave it to the die-hard voters to decide the issues. This spring, the SAISD information campaign grabbed the voters attention. They turned out in record numbers. The results tell what they thought of the information campaign.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Online Survey

The school district has their survey online here. It doesn't take long so go take it and give them your input. This is a chance to talk back about the bonds and the future of our schools.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yard Sign Nannies

The elections have come and gone, pardon us if we went into single issue mode over the school bond. Definitely time to move on to other subjects. One might have predicted San Angelo would not be long in presenting us with a new topic, and we are not disappointed.

Zoning is always a testy subject. Striking the correct balance between the rights of a property owner, allowing development to happen without undue regulatory encumbrance, and possibly, if one is very lucky, even helping economic development with far-sighted planning is a delicate job at best. My personal view on the subject tends towards the most "delicate" hand on the central planning wheel possible. A fine example of getting bogged down in details was the years long process involved before allowing citizens on small lots to build hail protection carports for their vehicles.

For several years now, the Santa Rita community has put on a Music in the Park super block party featuring a local band, hot dogs, games and such in Santa Rita Park. Residents have put out signs like the candidate yard signs we saw last month to advertise the event. This year, after apparantly having solved the other dicey details of zoning and having too much time on their hands, code enforcement opted for "aggressive enforcement" of 12.607 of city ordinances, and has sent forth one Rudolfo Ybarra to curb infractions of this long-ignored provision: to wit, he is knocking on doors and insisting that the "Funky Monkey" (for the musically impaired, this is the band playing tonight) yard signs be removed.

My first thought when I heard of this was that if they carried this over to garage sale signs we would see a storm of unrest the likes of which have not been witnessed since Mayor Lown proposed to monkey with our trash cans. Then I read the rest of 12.607 and found that "Auctions, Estates, and Garage Sales" are specifically exempted. Well, thinks I, no problem. Somebody donate a rusty bicycle, put a for sale sign on it, and put up yard signs promoting the "Funky Monkey Santa Rita Music in the Park Garage Sale". Oops. closer reading reveals the garage sale exemption is hedged about, allowing one sign on the residential lot where the sale is, and two "off-site" signs, which must "clearly indicate the street address and name of the person responsible for the sale". The party is in a public park and many off-site signs were put up.

This takes me back to my original concern over garage sales in general. At least on my side of town, it sometimes seems half of San Angelo is spending weekends selling its junk to the other half. I can scarce travel a block without seeing either a sale or a sign reading "Yard Sale" with an arrow pointing to a side street. But wait! Someone alert Mr. Ybarra! Almost none of these signs have the requisite information of name and address, there are often more than two, not to mention, most advertize "Yard Sales", not "Garage Sales". This tide of illegality must be nipped in the bud, to quote Barney Fife! Come on Mr. Ybarra, show us the stuff you're made of, take your life in your hands, and go mess with the yard sale ladies. Be sure and arrange for police backup, I'd rather stand between my aunt and her favorite soap opera.

Fun aside, it does seem better use could have been made of enforcement man-hours. Community events such as this should be encouraged in any part of the city, and for the record, I am not in Santa Rita, nor do I plan to be at this function. It seems the only cure is for Council to reasonably amend the existing ordinance, the sooner the better.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Frontline Election Report

It's been a week since the election and the results are impressive. I'm not talking about who won and who lost, but how the election was ran. Here are some of my observations from a ring side seat.

Soon after the last election, the entire elections office staff had to be replaced. Mike Benton submitted his resignation and the Elections Committee had the good sense to hold him to it. After an interim director was picked from outside the office, the rest of the staff left in a huff. Vona was left with a broken system and no staff to help fix it. She started recruiting and also reached out for help. She created a citizens advisory committee (which I am on) to bring fresh perspective to the problems, and asked for help from anyone that would listen.

The staff she recruited is small (the elections office is only 4 permanent positions) but very energetic and dedicated. In addition to Vona, Vannessa, Jamie, and Rudy have all done outstanding work. They have put in long hours. They learned the job while preparing for what turned out to be a complex election with a very large turn out. The made sure that there were enough trained election judges and clerks. They planned the equipment distribution and pick up, and took steps to make sure everything needed at the polling places was there. They made a good plan and followed it.

I was in the elections office as a poll watcher, an observer asked by one of the candidates to watch the election process for problems. They were prepared. They had extra people there to help. From the time the polls opened until after they closed, there was a steady stream of calls. Additional phone numbers for poll workers, and extra cell phones kept waiting time to a minimum. There were very few calls about equipment problems, mostly because of the prior testing and attention to detail that had happened in preparation for the election. In the end, all ballots and sensitive election machinery was back in the Edd B Keyes building by 9:30, and the final tally was out before 10:30, a local record.

No longer can the national (and international) press point fingers at San Angelo and Tom Green County as a bad example. We can proudly point to this election as an example of how it should be done.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Open Letter to SAISD

Bond election results are in, not much to be said there. Board President Layman, S-T Sunday; “maybe we are not in step with the community and we need to find out what objections they had”. Good start, now let's see if you mean it.

STEER belatedly formed an S-PAC, hard to say how much impact we had. In retrospect, given the actual margin, our effort might have been so much flatulence in a hurricane. This issue was obviously the driver in the high turnout and the lopsided defeat. We like to think our networking and few ads might have padded the margin, but in all honesty, we could have caught up on our reading and ignored the issue, this bond was doomed from the start.

STEER agreed fundamentally that SAISD needs money, lots of it, for renovation, repair, some new construction. We might hope to shave a bit of money here and there, but that was never our primary issue. Obviously, another bond will be coming, we genuinely hope it will be one we can support. On that line, I offer some advice. If you recall my comment walking away from the podium at the ethics training session, “I'm cheaper than they (Huckabee) are”.

Trust: The Board has made this a two-edged sword and managed to find itself on the wrong side of both edges. The public obviously does not trust you, but more importantly, you obviously do not trust the voters. The decision to edit the cablecast version of the March 26 meeting was possibly illegal, definitely contrary to the spirit of 551.022 Government Code. Nothing in law requires a video record, but if you make one, it becomes “public record” and is not to be tampered with. When Terry Bader failed to get a second to look into the matter, then resigned to make it a newsworthy matter, the Board made the classic mistake of making the “cover-up” a bigger issue than the original bad call. When the Board alienated the Task Force in the Crockett decision, it lost that cloak of “public input”. To be honest, Bader, Paschal, and Barbour probably killed this bond before STEER spent a dime on ads. Using the same company with which we contract for new school architecture to do an evaluation of existing facilities creates an unavoidable $8 million conflict of interest. I make no allegation of wrongful conduct against Huckabee, SAISD hired them, but that evaluation should have been done by a company at some remove from fiscal benefit. At the March 3 meeting during the Crockett debate, the new location for Crockett was referred to several times as “the Albert property”, a term never again used in public. There is an abiding suspicion that that decision had been made in advance of the Task Force's recommendations to take an inconvenient property off Jack Albert's hands. If you can put that issue away, please do, many voters believe it.

Community: Schools are more than interchangeable cogs in an educational machine and here dollars and cents need not be the primary concern. Especially at the elementary level, schools are an integral part of the their community. A local school encourages parent involvement, something we all agree is already too low. As I write, precinct breakdowns are not yet available, but I doubt you got many votes from the Holiman precincts. Holiman may have a small student count, but it is growing and many of the home buyers in Paulann bought there because of the walking distance school. Closing Holiman puts nails in the coffin of one of the only bright spots in northeast Angelo's economy. Ditto the above for the Crockett precincts. See below on attendance lines.

Maintenance: Here we start at the top management, the people who in 2001 RIF'ed the department by 50 %, with predictably bad results. The Central tour was a damning indictment of whatever passes for maintenance and included items which had to be glaringly apparent even before that reduction in force. Time and again we were shown the sort of problems homeowners deal with without calling in the bulldozers, but which had obviously been ignored for years. Green plumbing, flaked paint and rust, uneven sidewalks, etc. these things do not happen overnight. Matters not if the problem here was budgetary or management, I am telling you, the most outspoken tourist in my tour group in favor of the bond during Van Hoozer's tour in a parking lot post-tour discussion told us he inclined to vote “no” just to get your attention on maintenance.

Open Process: This goes beyond the issues I mentioned in the trust section. Board continues to treat “workshops” as less than fully public sessions. By law, if four of you meet at a steakhouse, it is a quorum and you best have an official recorder along and publish a 72 hour advance notice of the dinner. There is a widely held belief that options available were never seriously considered due to an axiomatic decision by the Board that any long range plan had to result in a single 5A football team. All options have to be on the table when we are discussing 9 figure bonds, especially when this is the first of three bonds proposed long term. Angelo's growth is lopsided toward southwest, why does the Board hold that attendance zones should be carved in stone? Well, except when changes are convenient as in Holiman, Bradford, and San Jacinto. Then the same Board treats actual bricks and mortar buildings as disposable. Suggestions have been gaining support for either equalizing Lakeview and Central or moving to three 4A high schools with a new facility out where the people are actually moving in, but these ideas seem to get short shrift in long term planning. The SAISD response that 4A schools could not offer the curriculum available in a 5A school is irrelevant in a district of our size. If each 4A school specialized in a magnet school way we could allow high school students to attend the school best suited to their career plans and offer possibly more courses, district wide, than a single 5A school.

Unifying SAISD: When I wrote a column in S-T supporting the '96 bond, one thing I deeply hoped for was that it might heal the treatment of the Lakeview area as a “red-headed step-child”, particularly by placing Lamar on the same proposition with the new Lincoln. Then comes the Lakeview fire, and Board's decision to take $2 million of that insurance money and spend it elsewhere. Now the new Central, far closer to Bobcat stadium than Lakeview, and you propose to spend as much on athletic facilities there as was spent on all of Lakeview rebuilding to prevent travel by Central students. BTW, my $15 million estimate on Central athletics was my guess. Two direct questions asking for that figure were answered by claiming “it is difficult to separate athletics from academics”, a response that gets hoots of laughter from anyone I've shown it to. Jeff Bright finally allowed I might be a little high, but in the right range. Lakeview was two generations ago, are we ever going to treat the adopted child as a full family member?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bond Grand Finale

As the campaign on the school bond wraps up, it is appropriate that I post a final note. It is no secret that I have moved from looking at the bond to outright opposition, including formally filing as Treasurer of the STEER Pac on the issues. Early voting has ended with much higher than expected numbers, the newspaper editorially has "gone dark" on the election, nothing remains but actual election day this Saturday.

I started looking at this being dubious of the amount dedicated to the new Central. On this end, I find the amount perhaps excessive, but much lower on the list of reasons to vote "NO". STEER holds that SAISD does need money for improvements, but not this bond. We are confident that if this bond fails another will be proposed, one we hope will be so modified as to deserve support. Our students will not graduate spelling cat with a "K" if the May 12 bond fails. STEER hopes defeating this bond will improve city-wide education in the long term. The following is a list of primary reasons we want a complete review of the bond.

Planning: The planning was poor, both in design and potential conflict. The three year effort by the Task Force was essentially flushed when the Board ignored parts of the Task Force recommendations at the same meeting it passed ballot language which amounted to very few restrictions on design or payment. Only in the last days of the "educational" effort on the joint Huckabee/SAISD were we shown even rough sketches of the new schools. The same firm contracted to do the architecture for new schools was given the job of evaluating existing schools, which study is available. At a standard 6% architectural fee, Huckabee has about 8 million reasons to skew any subjective measure towards demolition and new construction. We do not accuse Huckabee of anything unethical, SAISD hired them for both jobs, but the mindset is questionable.

Maintenance: Many of the highlighted items of decay are things a homeowner or retail shop would have dealt with years ago. Flaked paint, underlying rust, structural rust, uneven sidewalk segments, green plumbing, all are the sort of problems which have been evident for years and the sort of thing the average homeowner deals with all the time without calling in the bulldozers. STEER does not blame the maintenance staff, which SAISD reduced by 50% beginning in 2001. Until we have guarantees of better maintenance in the future, pouring more money down an existing rathole does not strike us as a good investment.

Trust: The Board wraps this bond in the work of the Task Force. First, that "citizens' group" was originally 70 members with 25 at most being public appointees, the balance being SAISD Admin personell. That division was evident as deliberations progressed. As mentioned earlier, the public members largely rose up in revolt after the March 3rd meeting. Then, the same meeting when Huckabee gave its ethical standards presentation, the channel 4 cable-cast of that meeting was edited on the direct authority of the new superintendent. This is no minor item; former Board President Terry Bader was unable to get a necessary second for his request to review that editing and thought it so serious he resigned just to make that a public issue.

Options Closed: Despite the obvious lopsided growth in San Angelo, the board refuses to consider any plan involving changes in attendance zones (well, except when it suits them as in Holiman, Bradford, and San Jacinto) for high schools. There is a deep suspicion, supported by some responses on the Huckabee website, that no option was ever considered that did not keep Central as a sole 5A football team. Considering an early promise that "none of the money would be used for athletics, except for basic needs", the list of athletic "basic needs" at the new Central amounts to about $15 million, or the total amount spent rebuilding all of Lakeview. It took two weeks and three inquiries to get anyone in admin to discuss that figure. Twice, I was blown off with blatherskite about the difficulty of separating athletic costs from academic, which I translated as "we are really embarrassed by this number". This bond is seen as exacerbating, rather than addressing the Lakeview/old Angelo division in SAISD.
We need an open facilities review that does not regard existing buildings as disposable while treating attendance lines as carved-in-stone.

Early voting was exceptionally strong. We predicted early on that a large turnout favored defeat of the bond. If you have not voted, please do. In this case, a "NO" vote on this bond is actually a vote FOR better education in the long run.

Open Thread on the School Bond

Please share your thoughts on the school bond and related issues here. All comments are welcome.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Report from the Last Bond Election

This Standard Times report from the last bond election is interesting for comparison.

Proposition 1 proposes far-reaching improvements

Staff report

If little things add up, then that certainly holds true for bigger things - like 100 new classrooms, a new 800-seat auditorium and dozens of other significant improvements recommended to San Angelo school patrons under Proposition 1.

A Standard-Times review of the numbers shows that the $23.9 million proposal on Saturday's school bond issue ballot is far-reaching. The price tag, it appears, in large part results from efforts to simultaneously address issues on all of the district's more than two dozen campuses.

The detailed proposition - termed ``the essentials'' by district officials - stands in sharp contrast to the simplicity of the second ballot question facing voters Saturday. Prop 1 consumes eight pages of a financial report; Prop 2 requires barely a page to lay out its proposal to spend about the same amount of money for a new elementary, new junior high and 19 multipurpose buildings.

In analyzing Prop 1, the newspaper took the district's campus-by-campus listing of proposed improvements and analyzed it in a different way - bundling all new classroom construction into one category, general remodeling into another, fine arts and vocational improvements into yet another, and so on.

The result is seven groupings of expenses that are perhaps easier to digest for voters still making up their minds about the merits of the proposition.

In a nutshell, voters who study the Prop 1 numbers in this light will find the proposal offers these budgeted items:

·CLASSROOMS: $12.1 million districtwide for new classrooms.

·REMODELING: $3.3 million for major remodeling of campuses.

·ADMINISTRATION: $600,000 for improvements to administrative facilities at 18 separate campuses.

·ATHLETICS: $1.4 million for improvements in athletic facilities, including upgrades to Central High's swimming, tennis and gymnastics facilities, and substantial improvements at Glenn, Lincoln and the district's two high school stadiums.

·_ROTC: $75,000 to purchase the former National Guard armory for use by Central's rapidly expanding ROTC program.

·_FINE ARTS AND VOCATIONAL: $4.7 million for band, choral, dramatic arts and vocational skills facilities, including a projected $3.6 million for a new 800-seat auditorium at Lake View High and substantial improvements to the Central auditorium and theater.

·_OTHER CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS: $1.8 million for other capital improvements and contingencies, depending on whether one or both propositions are approved.


More than $12 million would be spent on new classrooms, libraries, computer labs, science labs and major remodeling of Lake View High ($520,000), McGill Elementary ($100,000) and Crockett Elementary ($200,000).

The new classrooms, intended both to add space and to replace many of the older portable classrooms that dot the district's campuses, are projected to cost about $80,000 each, on average, to build and fully equip to the needs of today's students. The price tag for 100 is about $8 million alone.

Ten campuses would receive classroom additions that are budgeted starting at nearly a half-million dollars each and going up:

·Glenn Junior High, $2,150,000 (two projects, including library).

·Lake View High, $1,600,000 (in addition to the $520,000 major remodeling and a $3.6 million combined auditorium and classroom addition).

·San Jacinto Elementary, $1,218,000.

·Reagan Elementary, $1,155,000.

·McGill Elementary and Fannin Elementary, $1,008,000 each.

·Santa Rita Elementary, $790,000.

·Central High, $506,200 (includes completing classroom project in PWC building and enclosure of Bacon porch).

·Glenmore Elementary and Austin Elementary, $480,000 each.

Some examples from the library projects: Alta Loma Elementary would get a new library and computer room, Central High's library would be expanded and remodeled, Lake View High's library would be remodeled, the library at Austin Elementary would be expanded, Glenmore Elementary would have two classrooms remodeled into a library, Holiman Elementary would get a new library and the library at Sam Houston elementary would be remodeled.


More than $3 million would be funneled into upgrades of basic facilities on the district's campuses. The money would be spent for such things as restroom additions and improvements, floor tile and carpeting, window repairs and replacements, additional parking, covered walkways, drinking fountains, lighting, electrical improvements, heating and air conditioning, marker boards, teacher storage cabinets, shelving, ceiling repairs and expanded cafeterias.

Other items include work to correct a drainage problem at Bonham Elementary, a new intercom system for Central High, remodeling to meet health and safety codes, and repairs to doors, door frames and walls throughout the campuses.

Some other specific examples: carpet or new floor tile at Blackshear Elementary and new carpet at Glenn Junior High and Lake View High (among others), parking improvements and a new traffic circle at Bowie Elementary, new window treatments at Bradford Elementary, Lee Junior High and Central High (among others), an enlarged and updated kitchen at Crockett Elementary, cafeteria additions at Edison and Lincoln junior highs, an upgrade of the electrical wiring at Glenmore, Austin and Santa Rita elementaries (among others), and teacher cabinets and shelving in all classrooms at Lake View High.

At Central High, more than $200,000 is budgeted to improve fire safety by reworking corridor walls, adding doors on classrooms and revamping heating, venting and air conditioning. At Lake View High, a new fire sprinkler system is budgeted for an estimated $180,000.


At least 18 campuses would receive shares of the nearly $600,000 budgeted for improvements to administrative offices.

District officials said many campuses currently can't accommodate the administrative space required for nurses' offices, on-campus suspension, parent-teacher conference rooms and the like.

Also, they said the improvements would include new space for counselors, storage and teacher workrooms.


The $1.4 million budgeted price tag for improvements to athletics facilities includes projects at the junior highs and Central High, as well as improvements to both of the district's stadiums.

At Central, the Gehrig Gym floor would be replaced ($65,000) and the gym air-conditioned. Forty two-tiered lockers would be added in the girls' locker room at Gehrig. The Cottage would be renovated for tennis lockers and offices and public restrooms. Other locker rooms, restrooms and an office would be added for swimming and tennis at the natatorium, which also would receive additional bleachers and fresh paint (total of $218,000). The gymnastics facilities would receive additional bleachers, restrooms and expanded training areas ($185,000). Also, new offices for coaches of girls' sports would be added on the second floor of Didrickson Gym ($60,000).

Other specifics: new locker facilities and public restrooms at the girls' gym at Glenn Junior High ($160,000), new restroom, storage and dressing rooms building for the tennis program at Lake View High ($45,000), replacement of the gym floor, new bleachers and other improvements to the gym at Lincoln Junior High (total of $143,500), repair and resurfacing of four tennis courts at Edison Junior High, new restroom and concession facilities on the north end of San Angelo Stadium ($90,000), four new sections of seating at Lake View Stadium ($160,000) and two new sets of concession and restroom facilities at Lake View Stadium ($150,000).


The $75,000 item for purchase of the former National Guard armory adjacent to the Central High campus is intended to meet the demands of the school's rapidly growing ROTC program.

The co-curricular program - meaning it is an extracurricular activity but also can be counted toward graduation credits - is approaching 200 students.

Officials said the building will require little work to meet the needs of the student program.


The single largest item under the umbrella of Prop 1 is the proposed $3.6 million Lake View High auditorium and related art and drama classrooms and facilities.

The project would include the auditorium-theater, projected at 800 seats, and five classrooms.

Other spending would include about $425,000 for improvements to the theater at Central High, including two new classrooms and an area for constructing stage props. Also, a center aisle would be added to the Central theater to meet fire code requirements, and the Central band and choral facilities would be remodeled.

About $300,000 is budgeted for an Edison Junior High mechanics, wood shop, band and orchestra facility. About $240,000 is budgeted for similar facilities at Lee Junior High. A new Glenn Junior High ensemble room would be added, and the Lincoln Junior High art and choir building would be remodeled.


This $1.8 million category is designed to address two scenarios:

In the event that Prop 1 passes and Prop 2 does not, administrators said this would provide needed funds for additional capital improvements to Crockett and Travis elementaries and to Lincoln Junior High.

Joanne Rice, district planner, said the two elementaries would be less crowded if Prop 2 passed and a new elementary were built. Without Prop 2, they will require some additional spending to relieve crowding. Also, if voters do not approve a replacement for Lincoln, then that campus as well may require additional improvements, she said - although she and other district officials maintain that the aging school must be replaced soon.

If both propositions pass, Rice said the district would use the funds in this category for capital improvements currently unspecified. She said this could include replacement of more of the portable buildings in the district.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Different thoughts on the School Bond

One of our readers forward this to me.

Things to think about on the school bond issue.

1. They say Central cannot be secure because it is so spread out well I take a different view of that. Lets look at what has happened in the last few years. Columbine - Virginia Tech - Oklahoma City -------- Who would have a better chance for survival? All of our kids confined into one building, or fewer kids in several separate buildings? And also if Central is not safe for high school kids why would it be safe for jr. high kids?

2. High school age kids are old enough to handle an open campus but I don't think jr. high school age kids should be put in that situation. Jr. high kids have enough problems and temptations without being on an open campus.

3. What ever happened to the 150 acres of land the school already owns out by Lamar elem?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Education Committee

Yesterday papers were filed forming a Specific-purpose PAC related to the bond issue before us on May 12. The committee is named Sensible Taxation for Educational Excellence and Reform, or STEER. The name is appropriate, everyone connected with this PAC so far is in agreement on some basics, namely that SAISD does need a bond and money for construction, renovation, and overdue maintenance; and that this notwithstanding, we cannot support the bond as proposed now. It is too late to modify the ballot measure before us, so we hope to defeat this bond and work for a better measure next election.

This is only partly about money. Some of us hope a re-examination of the bond could save significant money, but we could be persuaded to support a bond in this amount, if that's what it takes to get the best educational result. Unfortunately, this bond is far more about buildings than educational output.

Our concern lies primarily with the policy dictated by this bond. The Board is draping itself in the mantle of the three year effort of the Facilities Task Force and claiming that assures adequate public representation. Unfortunately, at the same meeting when the Board put the bond on the ballot, they effectively flushed the Task Force's efforts. The disaffection of the public members of the Task Force is so deep that Bob Paschal, a dedicated Task Force member, will take the “con” position at Tuesday's San Angelo Forum, and the Board is having difficulty finding an appropriate speaker to carry its side of the debate.

There have been options to the proposals in this bond. A few years back, Jack Cowan, editor emeritus at S-T put out the idea that perhaps we should roughly equalize the student bodies of Lakeview and Central, but acknowledged a core objection existed in that they would then have to play one another football. Another idea we have all heard before, and some of us support, was shrinking Central, and putting a new 4A school in the southwest area where much of the growth is. My sources tell me this three 4A model was the initial inclination of the Task Force, but they were told in no uncertain terms the Board would not entertain any work product not resulting in a single 5A high school, and they so modified their deliberations. See “Is the tail wagging the Dog”, this BLOG.

As to policy, the Holiman consolidation is going to be one hot item at least to Holiman families, probably Crockett as well. From what we have seen, Holiman has probably the highest percentage of students who actually walk to and from school, (at least on nice weather days). Many families based their decision to buy homes in Paulann on the Holiman school, and are not remotely happy that SAISD plans to bus those kids halfway across town.

See “Some Assembly Required”, this BLOG. Mr Turner makes a great point, that schools are more than interchangeable cogs in an educational machine. By the time kids get to high school, it is no great problem in a city our size to go to a school across town if it caters more to one's educational preference. At the elementary level, the local school is an integral part of a thriving neighborhood. Close the school, move the students, and parental involvement, already too low, goes down further. SAISD has done this once, in closing Holiman and moving Crockett out of the community it serves, they propose to compound their mistake. STEER objects more to the policy demonstrated here than to the expense.

STEER intends to stay in existence after this election, whatever the result. It is plain that SAISD needs someone paying them the sort of oversight attention Conchoinfo has paid to city and county government.