Mountain View Voice

Opinion - December 6, 2013

Nelson still unhappy with bond spending plan

by Steven Nelson

I hope all local elected public officials, like City Council member Margaret Abe-Koga, will continue to address the public on items that have been previously voted on. Her views and opinions on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) (published in the Voice on Nov. 8) are still relevant to public policy discussion and debate — even if her view did not gain a majority in a recent City Council vote.

School board issues that will come up for a further vote also, in my opinion, deserve equal freedom of public debate, for they will come up for future discussion and votes. After all, spending public tax money on schools is also a public policy issue, just like spending on streets.

From the large to the small: Is it good that performing arts is a "huge driver" of the anticipated facilities spending for the middle schools? An administrator of the Mountain View Whisman district spoke those words at a recent school board facilities committee meeting.

The process for facilities spending is now correspondingly at a point where 40 percent of the Graham bond money is to be committed to performing arts-related projects. And that school's budget will be almost $2 million over the bond funding. A survey at that school allocated matching teacher interest to technology improvements and to performing arts improvements. For, while 60 percent of the students do take performing arts there, 400 percent take science, math, English and social studies classes combined.

It's like the bus lane-car lane argument on BRT down El Camino, or the high-speed rail project at the state level. Just because administrators at the VTA, or HSR or the school district have pushed a particular emphasis does not mean we, elected school board members, cannot reconsider and maybe avoid expensive errors in long-term public investments.

For Crittenden Middle School, the school board chose, when given options, to elevate and increase new library facilities above new locker-room facilities. Somehow, at Graham Middle School, I feel we have lost our way. The administration has recently recommended what I call "gut and swap." Gut the insides of a 5,000-square-foot library, and swap it with the 3,000 square foot administration. Two million dollars. Swapping a student library enlarged (2002) with the last bond's money, and moving it into smaller space. It still escapes me how that helps students.

As Margaret Abe-Koga was elected to vote and debate on fiduciary issues of our city, I was elected to vote and debate on fiduciary issues of the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Steven Nelson is a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood and a member of the Mountain View Whisman School District.

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