Tyler ISD began plotting the course for a November bond election aimed at funding its long-range plan.
The plan, which the district began discussing in September, calls for major renovations to existing buildings, the reorganization of schools and the construction of new facilities, including two new high schools through 2020. The plan is expected to ultimately cost taxpayers more than $200 million.
All board members were present for the meeting except District 4 representative Shirley Jordan.
Board president Michelle Carr said in an earlier interview that the absolute latest the district could decide to go for the vote on a November election is Aug. 21.
Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid said previously that the district would be able to fund a $150 million bond package without changing the current tax rate of $1.375 per $100 home valuation.
All six board members present seemed to agree that, though the deadline for proposing a bond issue for November’s ballot is nearing, they wanted to hear from constituents about what specifically they wanted before then.
“We as a board continue to seek the input of our constituents,” Mrs. Carr said, encouraging people to attend the budget workshop on Aug. 6, which will focus heavily on the bond issue.
District 7 representative Andy Bergfeld said the district has many needs but recognized the challenging financial times.
Bergfeld showed his support for new facilities to address overcrowding at middle schools in the southwest district. He also expressed his support for the Advanced Career and Technology Center proposed in the plan.
All other board members present also weighed in on the need for the center to address the needs
of students who aren’t necessarily college bound, as well as those looking to get a head start before entering college.
“We have a responsibility as a board and as a community to address that,” District 3 representative Therelee Washington said. “What are we going to do with these kids that decide they’re not going to college? To me, we would be doing justice to this community if we could provide an avenue by which those kids could learn a trade.”
Eleno Licea, who represents District 1, strongly supported the creation of fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth grade centers in the district as one of the primary projects to fund first with the bond.
“I think the sooner we get to fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth grade model, we’re going to see that it’s going to help us tremendously at our high schools,” he said. “If we leave that component out of the first piece of the bond package, we’re probably not going to get to that model in the next seven years. I think it’s very important that we make that grade-configuration switch as soon as possible.”
He said that right now the district has a lot of options for how to improve itself and the time to make a decision on that direction was imminent.
The Rev. Orenthia Mason, the board’s vice president and District 2 representative, said she encouraged constructing the career and technology center but thinks the public needs a better understanding of the new centers before any action is taken on them.
“When we can present a plan to our citizens that is simple enough to understand but presents a clear direction” is when she’d feel comfortable with action, she said.
She said it’s important for non-academics to understand the philosophical and sociological reasons why the grades ought to be together.
Mrs. Carr said she hoped to see residents at the August workshop and that representatives would hear from as many constituents as possible before a decision to ask for a bond election in November was made.
“It’s important to think about needs of the district and the concerns that our constituents have brought to our attention,” she said.
The district also named a new principal to head Andy Woods Elementary School in the coming school year.
Brandon Chandler was welcomed to the district with cheers from a number of staffers from the school early on in the meeting.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity,” Chandler said. “Andy Woods Elementary has a strong tradition of excellence in this community.”