Tyler ISD could call for new bond today
|The Tyler ISD board of trustees is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today in the Dr. Jack L. Davidson Conference Center in the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd. Among the many issues to be considered during this meeting, the board is scheduled to vote on whether to call a May bond election. There will be 30 minutes set aside for public comment. The board meets in executive session at 6 p.m.||
Supporters and opponents of a Tyler ISD bond proposal planned to work down to the wire spreading their message in preparation for today's scheduled school board vote on the issue.
Trustees are scheduled to vote on whether to call a May bond election during a 7 p.m. meeting in the Dr. Jack L. Davidson Conference Center in the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex.
Supporters of the $160.5 million bond proposal draft planned to attend a 6 p.m. rally outside the complex to make their opinions heard.
Opponents planned a 10:30 a.m. news conference to announce the results of what they describe as effort to get "definitive answers to questions regarding Tyler ISD's record of academic results, low teacher morale, growing discipline problems and facility plans."
Rick Eisenbach, with Grassroots America - We the People, said the group does not oppose new buildings and facilities in general. But, he said, new buildings don't guarantee strong academic achievement.
"What we feel like is we need to get the academic side and the discipline side (under control)," said Eisenbach, who is chairman of the TISD watchdog group for Grassroots and a part of the "No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!" Coalition, which opposes the bond proposal. "One affects the other. Until we get those two things under control and up to a standard. ... We don't have any business talking about a bunch of new buildings."
Leslie Strader, vice president of Tyler Proud, an organization that supports the passage of the bond proposal, said academics and infrastructure are tied closely together and they want the district to show support for teachers and students by acknowledging the need for improvements.
"We think calling the bond is a great way to show that," she said. "We hope there is a unanimous yes from the board members and that they come out strong on that for the sake of the kids."
If the board calls an election and voters approve it in May, the $160.5 million would fund the construction of a career and technology center; three middle schools, two of which would replace existing schools; and the remodel of Rice and Dixie elementary schools, according to district information.
TISD Superintendent Gary Mooring and school board President Michelle Carr have said this bond proposal, if implemented, would complete a commitment made to the community by finishing work on the elementary schools.
It would start addressing overcrowding at the middle schools by building new and larger Boulter and Moore campuses and a new middle school in southwest Tyler, which would draw students from some of the other campuses.
At the high school level, it would provide a career and technology campus that could better engage students and provide appropriate facilities in which to learn workforce skills, according to information provided by district spokeswoman Dawn Parnell. This campus also would provide some relief to the high school campuses, by taking several hundred students off of them for at least part of the day, Mooring has said.
All schools would be built to provide better security and updated technology for students, faculty and staff, according to district information.
"This is really a good package and a good plan to bring forward for May," Mooring said last week during a meeting with the Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial board.
The bond proposal could be funded without raising the existing TISD tax rate of $1.375 per $100 valuation. This is because the district is paying off about $5.5 million of existing bond debt annually, according to information provided by Ms. Parnell.
However, the lack of a tax rate increase has not silenced opponents, who have said now is not the time to call a bond election.
"I'm not against us having new schools here in TISD," said Cedrick Granberry, a TISD parent and member of the "No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!" Coalition, which opposes the bond. "I'm far from that. I think that's a definite great investment, but at this point there are a lot of issues that have been recognized ... with TISD. At this point, I think those issues need to be addressed more than building a new school."
He has concerns about communication between the district and community, how the district addresses economically disadvantaged students, and how some of the actions taken by the district seem to negatively affect one part of the community more than another.
Granberry said he would like to see the board decline to call a bond election and evaluate the issue more closely to make sure whatever they decide does not divide the community.
However, supporters said just the opposite. Julie Thompson, 46, a business owner and parent of two TISD students and one TISD graduate, said the district has waited too long to improve its facilities.
"My kids love TISD," said Ms. Thompson, who was selling T-shirts for Tyler Proud on Wednesday. "They've loved their experiences in the schools. But when I go up there and see our facilities ... I think we can do better."
Cici Shelton, 45, a part of Tyler Proud and parent of a Robert E. Lee High School freshman, said improving the district's facilities is good for the students, but also good for business and people moving in to the area.
She said they need to know they can go to public school in Tyler and have a good facility.
"This is not just for our kindergarteners," she said of the bond package. "It's for everybody. It makes this a better place."