Schools & Education

SBHS contemplates $60 million bond measure

The proposed November bond would fund further construction, modernization of classrooms, and update disability accessibility requirements
SBHS trustees and school officials toured the ongoing construction this week. Photo courtesy of Juan Robledo.

The San Benito High School District Board of Trustees gathered July 26 to discuss a potential bond measure that would fund further construction, modernization of classrooms, and update disability accessibility requirements. Amanda Sintes of TBWB strategies, in coordination with Janet Muller of Dannis, Woliver, Kelley and Bruce Kerns of Stifel, presented the board with an updated version of the proposed $60 million bond measure.

In the presentation, Sintes informed the board of a poll conducted in April showing 61 percent of potential voters in favor of the bond. She recommended the board make a decision to adopt the bond measure resolution by Aug. 12, 88 days before the November general election which takes place on Nov. 8.

After the presentation was finished, District Superintendent John Perales addressed board members saying,“We’ve kind of wordsmithed along the way, by no means is it written in stone that’s why we are meeting tonight. One of the issues we are faced with is how specific are we with our projects. God forbid something happens tomorrow and we have to change our plan.”

Board Trustee Evelyn Muro brought up some concerns in the wording of the resolution citing that it stated the CTE (Career Technical Education) building was under “completed projects” but next to it were the words “in progress.” She said it felt like it would confuse the voters suggesting the ballot measure and resolution mirror each other. “I think there should be consistency between the resolution and ballot,” she said.

District trustees, along with school staff, FFA students and parents broke ground on the CTE building on May 4. The building will house auto, wood, metal and agricultural classrooms and will also include high-efficiency lighting. The building is being funded by Measure G bond funds approved by voters in June 2014.

Trustee Juan Robledo also brought up the point that the resolution failed to show the changes to the science classrooms and how they will be better equipped.

Muro continued the discussion saying, “I’ve heard from the public that we are rehashing the old stuff.”

Robledo said, “I want to make everything transparent. I want there to say that we are having an arts building.” The proposed building would house dance, ceramics and art classes. “I agree with Evelyn, there are people out there that feel we are asking them for more money to spend,” he added.

Sintes said there needs to be clear communication with community members that “we are not asking for more money to do the same projects.”

Trustee William Tiffany said “$60 million has a big sticker shock” and compared it to the rumored $36 million for which the Hollister School District will be asking.

Board President Ray Rodriguez expressed his concern about the measure saying,”This is just a discussion item, but I’ve got to tell you guys, I don’t think we’re ready to do this. I’m a little worried.”

Muro added, “I’m just pretty amazed that citizens and staff have not had a discussion. It feels like something is wrong because we haven’t had community input like we did last time. Personally, I think one of the problems was that we were clear on what we were doing and we have to be clear on what we’re going to do with this money. You have to tell people ‘I’m going to build this building’ and you have to be very concrete.”

In October 2013, board members held a community meeting in which they shared the proposed projects they were planning to fund with Measure G. More than 100 members of the community attended, including local officials.

“I don’t think we have a vision,” Muro said. “I think we’ve done a good job after the fact but it does feel very strange. Maybe nobody cares anymore? It’s two things you don’t fool around with; one of them being people’s money.”

“Can we afford not to do it?,” Robledo asked. “I mean, this high school is the biggest act in town and the biggest high school in the county. We have structures that need to be repaired. The poll said 61 percent would vote for it, you know I’d like to think that that’s true.”

Rodriguez said, “It’s not a political risk to us if it fails, but I needed to say publicly how I felt as a warning. We are bringing this idea forward that is not as mature as it was last time.”

Measure G authorized the district to borrow $42.5 million. 55 percent of the vote was required for it to pass and it narrowly did with 56.3 percent of the vote. Along with the construction of the CTE building, the bond was used to ensure San Benito High school students would have access to modern classrooms and educational tools, fund the replacement/upgrade of classrooms and labs to prepare students for college and careers, repair roofs, plumbing and outdated electrical systems, and improve access for persons with disabilities.

“I hear it from the parents ‘why can’t we have that in Hollister?’ Well, we won’t if we don’t put it on the ballot because after the whole thing is over I could answer and say ‘because you guys didn’t approve it,’” said Robledo, referencing comments he gets from parents when traveling to other schools.

Perales said, “I think things are different this time around. We have an administrative cabinet prepared to do whatever it takes to make this happen.”

The superintendent said he will continue to work with TBWB and bring the bond measure ideas up for a vote of the trustees at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Laura Romero

Laura Romero has been a reporter and handled marketing/social media for BenitoLink. She has covered education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. With her PR skills, she has helped to implement social media strategies and develop online giving campaigns for BenitoLink. Laura continues to contribute to BenitoLink on a freelance basis.