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Letter to the editor: Due diligence conducted in school referendum

 

In serving on the Jamestown Public School District school board for the last six years, with the last five as president, I can share my belief that the district has conducted due diligence in bringing this referendum to the community. Over the span of the last five years, and with the help of community members, the district has moved from strategic plan to referendum. As both a board member and a taxpayer, I believe that is a prudent amount of time to adequately study the issue and come to a reasonable plan.  

The district began initial steps in April 2013 with a strategic planning process that included approximately 80 individuals representing all stakeholder groups. Strategic Plan Goal #3 stated that the district would develop and implement a facilities and land master plan that addresses maintenance and upgrading of existing facilities … identifies the need for possible new facilities/structures, and ensures that facilities and land are utilized effectively and efficiently.

With this goal, as part of the larger strategic plan, approved in January 2014, the district went to work in conducting a facility assessment in April 2014 and subsequent facility planning as well as an enrollment study in April 2015. This work led to the initial proposal and referendum in September 2015.  While the majority of the community did support the proposal (58.37 percent), it did not meet the 60 percent approval requirement.

A community debrief was held in January 2016 to review the perspectives of all stakeholders on both sides of the vote. The board and district administration were very responsive to this feedback as noted by the next steps in the process. A Capital Projects Plan was created that prioritized facility needs over the next 10 years with projected costs. Additional perspective gathering was conducted in May and October of 2016 and, most importantly, the board approved a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, inclusive and representative of the community, to study the issue and bring a proposal to the board.

The Citizen’s Advisory Committee has, in my opinion, done excellent work. Over the next 18 months, they examined the facilities firsthand, engaged in community and staff discussion, heard presentations on 21st Century learning and economic development, conducted prioritization exercises, and studied the fiscal impact of these priorities. As a board member, I have a high level of confidence that they were objective and considered all issues.  

A referendum with such a large scope cannot be all things to all people. I encourage the community to consider the plan, as a whole, as opposed to focusing on only one or two aspects.  Our board approved this referendum to bring to a district vote because we believe it is what our students need and deserve.

(Haut is president of the Jamestown Public School Board.)