Back in June I suggested that we “Wait and See” how things played out before making up our minds about the bond. I said that we need to:
- Wait for the 20 day numbers to come out before deciding if future overcrowding issues were resolved by the new charter schools.
- Wait for new Facilities Chair Melissa Merrell to provide some details as to how the bond will solve capacity problems.
- Wait to see which current BOE members will run for re-election in November.
Here is how things have shaken out.
Enrollment & Charter Schools
UCPS published the 20 Day numbers yesterday, you can find them here. There is a lot we can talk about in those numbers but for now I will focus on how it relates to the bond.
At the moment, we are 1,200 students BELOW the most recent forecasts. Most of the decline is in our elementary schools.Two new charter schools opened up this year (K-3 and K-6). Both of these charter schools will continue to add 1 grade each year until 8th grade, so these students will likely be back in UCPS for high school. Union Prep Academy has said they would like to open a high school in a couple of years if there is demand for it, but that is not a guarantee. I do not think it is wise for us to assume these 1,200 students are out of UCPS forever.
As promised, Melissa Merrell did provide additional details from the Facilities Committee as to how they plan on addressing capacity issues. While the information is a little more limited than I would like to see, it is a vast improvement compared to what we had from the previous Facilities Chair and his quarter of a BILLION dollar threat. I’ll dig into each project further down, but for now, my take away is that this is a big step in the right direction. Keep reading if you want more details.
The New Board of Education
The only person trying to come back to haunt us is Christina Helms. We also have Amelie
Shill Schoel in District 5 trying to bring Richard Yercheck and John Collins back by proxy. The good news is that even if voters buy the crap these two are trying to sell, there are still not enough votes for the current BOE majority to continue their reign of terror. It’s over. We won. The fact that there will be a new BOE majority in December will have huge impact on school boundaries.
There are a lot of people who believe that the redistricting in 2014 created the current overcrowding mess by forcing students into schools that lack the facilities and capacity to handle them. They argue that if we increase the capacity to match the current enrollment numbers, we are locking in a redistricting that should never have happened in the first place. These people are 100% correct. Redistricting created this capacity mess. If we roll back redistricting we will find that most of the capacity problems should go away. We will also be saving nearly $1 million/year by improving our transportation efficiency rating. It’s a win-win.
However, there are students who do not want to go back where they came from. After being kicked around every 3 years, there are students who want to be left alone and be allowed to graduate where they are. I support them. I don’t feel the same way, but I believe their desire to stay is just as valid as my desire to go back. Whatever changes we make to the boundary lines for 2017/18, we have to provide a 100% grandfathering option to those who want it. By offering a grandfathering option, there may still be some capacity problems as not everyone will choose to go back.
The only question is whether or not we will be allowed to go back. What are the odds that the new BOE majority will support Gary Sides’ rollback plan? Ask the candidates and they will tell you where they stand.
- Matt Helms (uncontested) – Supports it
- Kathy Heintel (uncontested) – Supports it
- Dennis Rape – Supports it
- Lee Henage – Supports it
- Joe Morreale – Supports it
- Rebekah Ratliff – Supports it
Three of those candidates are guaranteed to win, three of them are not. Even if we lose all three of those seats, there should still be enough support on the new Board to roll this back. This is why I suggested we wait and see who was running again. If Jason Marton or Michael Guzman had decided to run again, there would be a chance that a rollback could be blocked. As it stands now, I like these odds. A rollback will happen. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. There won’t be enough idiots left on the Board in December to block it.
I’m not letting redistricting affect my vote on the bond as I truly believe redistricting is dead.
Current core capacity of 1,270 and enrollment of 1,180. Current enrollment is 40 students below McKibben’s latest forecast and Monroe MS is down 66. However, that forecast shows enrollment going up above the current core capacity after 5 years. The current classroom capacity is also too low for the latest forecast.
Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done.
Current core capacity of 1,650 and enrollment of 1,375. Current enrollment is down 14 students below forecasts. Forecasts show enrollment going as high as 1,600 and then dropping down to 1,500 by 2025. However, Piedmont’s classroom capacity is too low for the latest forecast. The bond will not increase core capacity (cafeteria space) but will increase classroom capacity.
Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done.
Porter Ridge MS/HS
Current core capacity is 2,352/1,615 (MS/HS) and enrollment is 1,336/1,740. Current classroom capacity is 1,216/1,877. The middle school is over its classroom capacity and the high school is over its core capacity. Enrollment is forecasted to grow without a decline (forecast goes through 2025/26).
If we roll back redistricting 100%, Porter Ridge will still be in trouble. Porter Ridge was overcrowded and capped before redistricting. This is the problem that the BOE should have fixed 3 years ago, instead of trying to get Yercheck’s friends rich.
I had hoped that the charter school in the area would lower the middle school numbers a little bit, but that didn’t happen. The middle school is 18 students ABOVE forecasts. The elementary schools are down more than 200 students across the cluster, but it looks like the middle school students stayed in UCPS.
Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done. Actually, this one should have been done 3 years ago.
Sun Valley HS
This is one of the schools redistricting broke. Redistricting pushed hundreds of extra students here, well above what the core capacity could ever possibly handle. If we rollback redistricting 100%, this school might not have capacity issues. However, there is more going on at Sun Valley HS than capacity problems.
Part of the bond package will be a new stadium for the school. The current stadium is not ADA compliant. As the father of 2 disabled children, you cannot fathom how pissed off I am about this. ADA laws have been around for nearly 30 years. The fact that we still have facilities in this county that are not ADA compliant is a disgrace. Every BOE member that sat on the facilities committee for the last 10 years owes our children an apology. Don’t even get me started on the lazy, self-serving, good-for-nothing assholes that filled the Chairman’s seat and never did a damn thing to help. Kudos to Melissa Merrell who sat in the Chairman’s seat for only a few months and instantly made this a top priority. Do you want to know why I support Melissa Merrell? This is it. Right here.
Sure, the $250 million CCEP had some ADA compliance things in it, but they were also bundled with $200 million dollars of excess bloat and unrelated bullshit. Typical political crap where they give us a few small necessary items and then tie them together with crap that we neither want nor need. Don’t let Kevin Stewart fool you when he says he gave our disabled children dignity. He held our children’s dignity for ransom, to the tune of $200 million.
Our disabled children deserve better than this. My sons deserve better than this. If for no other reason than this project, I would ask you to support the bond.
Western Union ES
Current core capacity is 692 and enrollment is 597. This year we are 100 students BELOW the latest forecast due to students transferring to charter schools. Without charter schools, this school was in desperate need of relief. This is the other school that redistricting broke. At the time of the bond proposal, this school absolutely should have been on the list. Now, it might not be needed.
Looking exclusively at the latest numbers, I will say that this project is no longer necessary, strictly from a capacity stand point.
I won’t lie to you. I hate this project. The Goldmine Rd property was purchased years ago by UCPS from a developer who had been working as a land/purchasing agent for UCPS. Do you know who sold that land to the developer? Dr. Mary Ellis and her family. In the corporate world, this is called insider trading and it gets you thrown in prison. In Union County, it’s called business as usual.
However, the Ellis family cashed their check for $1.4 million dollars years ago. Even if we can somehow toss this project out the window, there’s no getting our money back now. My dislike for this project is strictly emotional, and I try to vote based on facts, not emotions. The facts are that we probably do need some additional maintenance bays for our bus fleet.
I can’t guarantee that this project will fix what’s broken, but when it comes to our kids safety, I try not to gamble.
Redistricting is dead and there is a very clear roadmap to rolling it back. Talk to the future Board Members and confirm it for yourself if you must. I’m willing to vote in favor of the bond based on what I see is a very likely rollback for the 2017/18 school year. Redistricting will become a none-issue.
The lack of ADA compliance at Sun Valley HS is a disgrace and we should be ashamed that we allowed it to go this long. The new stadium and other ADA issues is not about test scores or school ratings, it’s about human dignity. It’s about doing the right thing for our kids. It’s about doing the right thing for my sons. If for no other reason, please vote Yes for my sons.
When redistricting is rolled back, grandfathering will be allowed, which means there may still be capacity issues for those who choose to stay. Porter Ridge will certainly have capacity issues that need to be addressed regardless. With the exception of Western Union ES, the projects, from a capacity stand point, all look good to me. Western Union doesn’t need the capacity increase now that the charter schools have opened.
While I hate the insider trading deal behind the Transportation Center, that was years ago and there’s nothing that we can do to get that money back from Dr. Ellis’ family.
I’m voting Yes on the UCPS bond, I think you should too.