The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday voted 8-1, with Greg Meyers opposed, to place a $1.89 billion bond referendum on the November 6 election ballot.
The bond, if approved in November, would provide for the renovation of 38 schools, provide technology upgrades, and improve regional field houses and athletic facilities, according to a news release. News Release
The bond is projected to require a tax increase of $0.0485 per $100 valuation for property owners in the district. The increases would begin in FY2014, with a one cent increase, followed by another one cent increase in FY2016, and a final increase of the remaining $0.0285 in FY2017.
The total increase would equal approximately $70 per year for a home valued at $198,936, the average home value in the district.
Meyers noted that the district does have needs to be met through funding such as a bond issue.
“I don't think that we can deny that,” he said.
However, Meyers said he had issues with the process of determining what would be proposed in the bond package.
“My question is if the process was so well done, it concerns me then, after we vote today, what's going to happen before it gets to the voters,” Meyers said.
Meyers noted that the evaluation for the bond program continued for five months, and that some needs were not identified.
“If I vote for something, I'm voting for the sanctity of the process, ensuring that what I vote for, is exactly what I was supporting, and I'm having some difficulty supporting this,” he said.
Meyers stated that, if the item was approved, that transparency and communication should be “on the upmost level” with the voters.
Anna Eastman also questioned the process leading to the bond proposal.
“I still have too many questions to be able to bring this, with my confidence, to the voters,” Eastman said.
However, after further discussions among the board, Eastman supported placing the referendum on the ballot.
“I think the voters have the right to decide whether to entrust us with this process or not,” she said.
Paula Harris said that while there were issues, the district needed to move forward, and that the voters should decide.
“Who am I to say that I'm not going to allow you to vote on it?” Harris said.
The board heard from several speakers on the bond issue prior to their decision, with the usual time allowed to speak per person shaved from three minutes down to two minutes due to the crowd.
Many spoke in support of the bond, or supported placing the referendum on the ballot to give voters the decision to approve it.
Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner was the first to speak on the bond issue, and discussed his concerns of reductions for some schools in the bond program.
“When you look at some of the schools where the reductions were made, many of those schools for example are lacking in their academic programs, vocational programs, parking facilities, and when you look at the schools that are in the surrounding area, those schools simply cannot compete,” Turner said.
Parents with students enrolled at Kashmere High School opposed the bond due to past suggestions that the district may close the school. Representatives from the Houston African American Forum also spoke in opposition, stating that many of the companies selected to work on schools in minority neighborhoods are owned by caucasians.
Trustee Lawrence Marshall later made a motion to amend the item so that priority consideration be given to contractors with a physical location in Houston for bond projects. However, the motion died due to legal issues with such a provision.
“Our attorney said we cannot do that,” Board President Michael Lunceford said.
The board voted 5-4, with Lunceford, Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Eastman and Juliet Stipeche opposed, to approve multi-year performance contracts for school principals.
Lunceford and other members opposed to the item noted concerns about paying out on three-year contracts for principals leaving their positions before their contract was complete. Currently principals have one-year contracts.
“Once an administrator is placed on a multi-year contract, a review for renewal/nonrenewal will take place at the end of the contract term,” General Counsel Elneita Hutchins-Taylor said. “The administrator may be given another multi-year contract, or may be recommended for a one-year contract. Consistent with current performance contracts, however, mid-year reviews could result in a recommendation for termination of the contract without cause, at any time during the term of the contract. This would require paying the administrator for the balance of the time left on the multi-year contract.”
The item was proposed in order to retain higher performing principals.
Negotiation of a contract with W.A. Robbins Construction Company, Inc. for the renovation of the Settegast Building on the Carnegie Vanguard High School campus was withdrawn from the agenda. Therefore, no action was taken on the item.
The board voted 8-0-1, with Eastman abstaining, to approve the establishment of a budget for the implementation of a formative assessment system and universal screener to provide diagnostic assessments, and to execute contracts with Public Consulting Group, Inc. and Imagination Station, Inc.
The board voted 7-2, with Stipeche and Harris abstaining, to approve contract terminations, appointments, and other personnel matters as discussed during the board's executive session.
The board voted 6-0-3, with Stipeche, Harris and Eastman abstaining, to approve a settlement in the matter of Joan Czarnek vs. Houston Independent School District, as discussed in executive session.
The board voted 6-0-3, with Stipeche, Harris and Eastman abstaining, to approve a resignation agreement and release in the grievance matter of Mae Itauma. The item was discussed during the board's closed session
The board voted 7-0-2, with Harris and Stipeche abstaining, to approve a settlement agreement in the matter of Houston Independent School District vs. Sherald Chatman, as discussed in closed session.
All other items were approved by unanimous vote. All members were present. Agenda