Monday, December 22, 2008

At it again

The San Angelo Independent School District did it again. Years ago another Board made a decision to save money by cutting the maintenance staff by 50%. History shows that was a mistake! A hefty percentage of the bond money we just approved will be spent making up for that mistake.

SAISD is up to its normal thinking again. Not too long ago, the Board approved cutting the trades program because of low attendance and funding. Now they tell us they are going to pay for this new fieldhouse from the designated fund balance. This is money generated by parking money in interest bearing accounts until it is actually spent. The state recommends districts keep 2-3 months worth of operating expense in this contingency fund. SAISD did have $29 million+, or about three and a half months. In an unstable economy the Board should think carefully before “raiding the piggy bank”.

SAISD Board has been elected to insure that ALL of our children not only receive the best education possible, but have a safe environment in which to receive it. The Board needs to spend tax dollars wisely and to the benefit of ALL students, and not worry about bringing theoretical “economic development” to town. The City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and SADC have that responsibility-not SAISD. Once again, SAISD pushed through something on their agenda without taking it to the voters to see what they might think was top priority for the educational community.

Jim Turner and Jim Ryan tried to present this to the Board last Monday, but their advice fell on deaf ears. Board voted 6-0 (Hernandez absent) to approve this expenditure from the contingency fund. What educational value will be found in a $6 million+ fieldhouse? All I heard was how proud we would be when visiting teams came to town, or how embarrassed our football players are now. This fieldhouse does NOT improve the educational system for “everyone”.

Had Board done a little better job of selling Prop 2, which failed by only 600 votes, the fieldhouse would only need be 22,000 square feet instead of the 29,000 approved Monday. The fieldhouse will have space for coaches' offices and an expanded weight training room. Central also has a weight training room, making that duplicative and adding to maintenance costs.

Since ASU will be using the fieldhouse facility, how much are they contributing? Clearly from letters in the Standard-Times there is disagreement as to ASU's contribution, requests for services and even its long-term commitment to play at the stadium. Board should have nailed down this “detail” before committing tax money to this project.

Is there any hope for the SAISD Board to find out what is really important to the school system and what ALL THE CHILDREN need-not just a few? What economic impact will the fieldhouse have on the city beyond the companies hired for the construction?

It is appalling that we can pay $450,000 to have the building designed and another $6 million or so in construction while at the same time not having all the programs that are needed up to the level where they should be; at the same time not paying our teachers what they should be getting paid. WHERE IS THE COMMON SENSE (an unfortunately uncommon commodity) in this undertaking with the fieldhouse? Where are the privately funded contributions to this fieldhouse we were promised four years ago?

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