Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>District plans meetings to inform public

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

To help explain why they’re seeking a 3.9 mills increase, Cabot School District officials intend to educate the public by visiting schools, local civic groups and holding public meetings.

“An uneducated public is the most dangerous thing we can have,” school board president Brooks Nash said.

“It will take lots of education and marketing (to get it passed),” he added.

If the increase were approved in the March 10 special election, Cabot’s total millage would be 39.9 mills, generating the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the $50.5 million in construction projects it is trying to fund.

Community members involved in Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman’s focus group agreed voters need to know why the extra millage is needed.

“The common misconception is that money isn’t a problem here. People don’t know where the money is really coming from,” said Hayley Tacker, a Magness Creek parent, after hearing Thurman explain how millage works, something she said she didn’t know beforehand.

“Parents just don’t understand that there’s only so much money, and to keep our kids up-to-date, we’ll have to chip in and help,” Tacker added.

Cabot residents without children in the school system must also be educated, said Carolyn Park, secretary for the Cabot Scholarship Foundation.

“You have to hit the senior citizens hard to let them know how it affects them,” Park said.

Resident Tom Anderson summed it up best – “Someone has helped put the kids before yours in school and now it’s your turn,” he said.

The projects an increased millage would help fund include a $13 million health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center; $11.3 million for a new elementary school; $9.04 million to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in 10 kitchens in the district as well as HVAC systems at Southside Elementary, Junior High South and Central Elementary; $7.3 million to add 40 classrooms at the high school to accommodate future growth; $3.66 million for renovations to the high school auditorium; $3.6 million to renovate the high school S-building; $2.27 million to upgrade the science labs at Junior High South to accommodate growth in the next four years; $1.86 million for a new roof and HVAC system at Eastside Elementary School; $1.77 million for HVAC systems in the physical-education facilities at eight campuses; and $1.82 to construct a new facility for the district’s charter school.

The district hopes the state facilities board will help fund the projects in a 60-40 split, but if not, Cabot will have to decide where to spend its 40 percent share of the cost for at least some of the 16 proposed construction projects in the next three to five years.

Also included in the 16 projects are two items the district knows are not eligible for any state assistance – purchasing the land for a new elementary school, estimated to cost $200,000, and paving Stagecoach Road from Stagecoach Elementary School to Campground Road, at an estimated cost of $50,000.

Grade configurations

Before the school board de-cided on a millage increase, it voted to move ninth grade to the high school campus in the next few years, a move that would be easier with the completion of the proposed new cafeteria and use the existing high school programs, which would more efficiently utilize the district’s facilities.

Thurman said if the ninth-graders were at the high school, it would be a special program and ninth- through 12th-graders would not be in the same structure, something he said didn’t work several years ago.

The district is at least four or five years away from moving the ninth-graders, but teacher training would take place well in advance because the district wants to do it right, Thurman said.

Ninth grade is also the grade level at which students begin accumulating credits for graduation.