Bonds will help upgrade local schools | May 11, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - May 11, 2012

Bonds will help upgrade local schools

Some elementary and middle school classrooms in the Mountain View Whisman school district are more than 50 years old and obviously need to be renovated or replaced.

But that won't happen anytime soon unless voters pass Measure G, a $198 million bond issue that addresses an array of shortcomings on local elementary and middle school campuses that have built up over the years. If approved, the cost to local property owners would be a maximum of $30 a year for each $100,000 of assessed valuation (not market value), or $150 on a home assessed at $500,000.

The June 5 vote comes at the end of a long process that began several years ago when district officials and school board members decided to take an inventory of what renovations and repairs would be needed to bring the district's nine campuses up to the standards for providing students a 21st Century education. Using a very broad yardstick, two board members met with designers, experts and builders and conducted four public hearings before deciding to move forward with a $198 million bond issue that is on the June 5 ballot. The proceeds would pay for renovations and repairs that will touch each campus.

Among the improvements listed on Measure G promotional materials:

• All schools will be brought up to current fire and earthquake standards;

• Hazardous materials like lead and asbestos will be removed from all buildings;

• Repairs and upgrades will be made to plumbing, sewers and classrooms and all schools will be made accessible to children with disabilities;

• Science labs, classroom computers and other technology will be upgraded, and;

• Energy and operational efficiency will be upgraded to save money that can be used to protect quality programs and teachers.

None of the bond funds can be used for salaries, pensions or benefits, nor can they be taken away by the state. If passed, a bond oversight committee will be selected to make sure funds are spent correctly, and more public meetings will be held at school campuses to solicit comments from parents and teachers.

To illustrate the importance of the bond measure, school officials told the Voice that some of the numerous portable classrooms that will be phased out if the bonds pass are not in use now due to their poor condition. In addition, passage of the bonds will permit the board to reoccupy the leased-out Whisman school campus if enrollment numbers keep growing, as they have in recent years.

Measure G has been endorsed by a long list of residents and school officials, as well as state Sen. Joe Simitian and Mayor Mike Kasperzak. And the district is also helped by its strong growth in achievement for district students, whose average test scores have advanced from 783 in 2007 to 834 in 2011.

We urge residents of the Mountain View Whisman school district to do their part by voting yes on Measure G when they go to the polls June 5. The bonds are a small price to pay for the tremendous improvements that will keep the district on a solid trajectory in the years ahead.


Posted by Jen, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm

These are just scare tactics!

"Among the improvements listed on Measure G promotional materials:"

The key word is promotional.

"• All schools will be brought up to current fire and earthquake standards."

These 50 year old classrooms have withstood many an earthquake. Just how dangerous are these classrooms to fire hazards anyway? Seriously. If you've ever stepped inside a classroom you'd see right away that there are plenty of exits in case of fire. No dangers there.

"• Hazardous materials like lead and asbestos will be removed from all buildings."

This is just another scare tactic. People should be more concerned with getting run over on the streets by unlicensed drivers.

"• Repairs and upgrades will be made to plumbing, sewers and classrooms and all schools will be made accessible to children with disabilities"

This was already done just ten years ago.

"• Science labs, classroom computers and other technology will be upgraded, and;"

This was also already done just ten years ago. Hirer better teachers! That will make much more of a difference. But first you'd have to get rid of the union and tenure.

"• Energy and operational efficiency will be upgraded to save money that can be used to protect quality programs and teachers."

Protect is right. The union and tenure will protect the bad teachers, and more money will just flow into administrator salaries.

Vote NO!

Besides, the district and board continues to allow senior administrators (assistant superintendents) to receive generous raises right before announcing retirement (pension spiking)! Neither are good stewards of the taxpayer's money.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

"Using a very broad yardstick, two board members met with designers, experts and builders and conducted four public hearings before deciding to move forward with a $198 million bond issue" which is where the main problem is with this JUNE BOND - this is a long-term community decision, made with the minimal possible public input.
The Bryant family on Dana Street commented on local schools in the Voice in 2005 on spending/closing/reopening: "This is not an issue that concerns only the school, its parents and its students. It is a citywide issue, a Mountain View issue. ". By two 'abstain' votes the Board could have waited for NOVEMBER Bond. After waiting, now 24 months, without ANY school site PUBLIC committee meetings, I feel the Board has shown contempt for the open process we usually use in this city of Mountain View.
Specifics? Check the site for the Facilities Plan (page 7 budget).
Walter's "wish list" (quote to the Voice) demolishes four dozen permanent classrooms, and a dozen attached restrooms. All of these are of the same average construction as the refurbished hundreds that will be kept. WHISMAN NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL, incredibly, does not have $1 specifically allocated in Walter's "wish list". On her map - Whisman School does not exist. Demolish/rebuild more than enough rooms for an ENTIRE NEW K-5 SCHOOL, but no money, no 'line-item', no 'column' for Whisman? That is a travesty of inequality on one of our 'least rich' neighborhoods, with 2 closed "surplus" schools !
Bryants 2005: "Having or not having neighborhood schools, caring or not caring for the quality of life in our neighborhoods is a citywide issue, a Mountain View issue. We are all stakeholders."
This is one specific issue with "wish list" public spending, done with back-room planning. Another, the "wish list" is $423 Million - the Measure G bond is $198 Million, less than half the funding needed.
Tell us exactly what you are going to spend on, before you tax us. INCLUDE US. Don't make "a wish list" like the High Speed Rail fiasco.

Posted by Fiona Walter, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 12, 2012 at 11:19 am

The official rebuttal to the opposition, which is published in our voter pamphlets and signed by our community's most respected leaders, factually refutes all of the erroneous allegations made by the few opponents of Measure G. Read the facts about Measure G for yourself by visiting the League of Women Voters website at: Web Link

Posted by Ike, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Ms. Walter:

What am I missing in this link? Almost everyone for this measure is on the public dime with big fat pensions and benefits. Nearly everyone against are private sector taxpayers. I can't even find a teacher who is for it!

And aren't you one of the board members that approved those two administrators back in 2006 to retire with spiked pensions by letting them roll everything they could into their final pay (cost of health care benefits, phone and car allowance, ect)? Yes, technically legal but morally outrageous. And since then, such practice has been outlawed by the State legislature.

And now there's the rumor of two more assistant superintendent retiring next month having just gotten salary increases in the 11th hour, once again approved by your board, and once again can be easily construed as pension spiking. And now you come out as a responsible steward of public money? I don't think so.

VOTE NO on Measure G!

Posted by TechHead, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Typical. With every new superintendent we get a new bond measure. It's as if the each want tons of money to spend on perceived needs to enact some vision they have. How about just getting high quality teachers in front of children with chalk and chalkboard? The internet comes later or at home. Like or not, that's how those of us employed in Silicon Vally and undertaking cutting edge research and working for leading technology companies cut our teeth. Many of us probably even went to school in similar 50 year old classrooms.

And is it just me, or isn't really funny how no one runs for school board with many of the seats going uncontested or made up of appointees, but then these same appointees claim to speak for the best interests of the people. It seems pretty clear to me that voters in Mountain View have little interest in who runs for school board or any of these board measures since we all know it's just a money-grabbing game.

Posted by Jim Pollart, a resident of North Whisman
on May 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm

My wife and I have lived in MV for 15 years. Our kids have attended MV public schools for the past 9 years. I have been active on a number of levels in the district during that time. I am also a licensed civil engineer and I have worked as a developer / builder in the bay area for the last 20 years, so I know construction.
I understand folks have questions about how these bond funds will be used (if the bond passes). To satisfy myself, I read the Facilities Plan, and I approached the school board and superintendent directly to get answers to my questions. Based on that, I am satisfied the district has a plan in place to manage the construction program efficiently, and the money will be put to good use for the benefit of our students. I am also confident there will be plenty of public input to identify the specific projects to be built, and in what order (if you're uncomfortable on that score, step up and join the citizen oversight committee to provide your input first hand).
So based on all that, I encourage everybody go vote yes on Measure G. Our city is moving up in the world big time, but we will only ever be as strong a community as our schools. So let's give our students the modern facilities they deserve so our students can be part of of the mountain view success story!

Posted by VOTE NO ON MEASURE E, a resident of Gemello
on May 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Gee thanks Jim for the rhetorical reference to authority--you are a civil engineer with experience in construction so you give it a stamp of approval. As Steve Nelson has already pointed out, the district really doesn't have a solid plan. It's just another one of those "trust us, we can handle it". These are hard times, we don't need any more taxes! Even more so by administrators who always manage to walk off with $150,000 pensions for life while leaving the schools without enough money to hire enough teachers (or don't you remember all the layoffs and increased class sizes?).

Posted by Parent, a resident of North Whisman
on May 13, 2012 at 7:37 am

How could anyone vote yes on this measure knowing full well that more tax measures will appear on the ballot in November? The November ones will be required just to keep public education from real trouble, like laying off more teachers and shortening the school year. We need to prioritize between what is more important at the moment. There is a good reason this is no the June ballot. The district knows it doesn't stand a chance in November. Also think of how much more residents can afford to pay in tax increases in a single year. The average bill here will be more than $150. I'm predicting more like $250 per household. Then get ready for the Bush tax cuts to expire (an additional $2000+ per family) and for whatever tax increases the state want to throw at you (say another $250). On top of this you have the city raising utility rates anywhere between three and eight percent! And then don't forget the skyrocketing price of food which is outpacing inflation. If you've got kids, you then also have to factor in the higher and higher costs of a college education.

So what's more important, pretty buildings or the real threat of crowded classrooms with teachers and schools on reduced academic years?

Vote NO. Now is not the time. This is not a priority.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 13, 2012 at 8:11 am

Dear Jim Pollart, I well understand your personal expertise on construction. But you also, as a High School District Bond oversight member know that the LEGAL function of a Prop 39 Comm. is audit after-the-fact. The high school has a twenty year veteran at the hand of bond spending, Sup. Goldman is in his second year and has never overseen a construction bond. WE ARE NOT IMPRESSED: he has not urged the Board to come back to the community in the last two years as promised. LEGALLY, the Board may set up a community-based advisory committee on leasing/facilities (Whisman did it first with a "7-11" then a 20 person committee). Jim, I look forward to you running for school board - I hope you won't again be swayed by sitting school board members not to 'throw in your hat'!
Respectfully, Steven Nelson

Posted by Tired of taxes, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Enough already! Everyone knows that all of the 2 bedroom 1 bath house s in our town cost almost $800,000. That would be an average of at least $240.00 per household. Why should homeowners be penalized? Hw about renters? The local parochial schools get by without new facilities and seem to be doing a better job t deducing the kids there.

Vote NO! No more taxes

Posted by district insider, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I would have put the average home price at about $1 million. That's $300 per year for how many years? Does anyone know how many years we would be paying for this bond?

My wife and I can't afford to rebuild our 1940 era house but we are expected to pay for the district's 2nd remodel in 10 years?

Our schools are gorgeous. What, they have to look like the Pink Palace known as City Hall?

Look at the conditions at St. Joseph, Girls Middle School, or any one of the numerous small Christian schools in Mountain View. They are doing just fine thank you educating their students in some pretty old and entirely satisfactory buildings. St. Francis has tons of new facilities because they have parents who can afford to foot the bill.

More than 40 percent of the students in the Mountain View district are on the free-lunch program. Their parents will be very likely hit with a rent increase as a result of this bond. I'm sure they'll be happy to have the privilege to pay more for 3 families to live in a 2 bedroom apartment just so their kids can go to class in 2-story buildings on the other side of town.

Vote NO on G!

NO more taxes!

Cut the 6-figure annual pensions of retired administrators if you want more money.

Posted by Parent of Student at Whisman, a resident of Gemello
on May 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm

OK, so your plan is to throw out the 300 kids currently at Whisman? I will certainly vote NO on G!