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Guest Editorial | Board member encourages yes on Measure C

Over the last month or so, I’ve been watching the dialog regarding Measure C on social media, and I’ve been disappointed in the accuracy of the information out there. I’d like to share my thoughts on a few of the common topics.

Kurt Rockwell
Kurt Rockwell

School board members’ interests in Measure C I am a school board member and I strongly support Measure C. I support it because I, personally, in my heart and mind, believe it is good for our kids and community. I’m also a solid conservative and I hate new taxes. But I’m a realist and I know that this is the only way to make good progress in improving our facilities to make them more like what our students and community deserve. I fail to see what any school board member has to gain personally from the passage of Measure C. The only thing I’ll gain is the satisfaction that our community has seen through all the misinformation and ill-informed opinions to step up to help ensure our kids’ futures, and the satisfaction of seeing that future becomes a reality. That’s worth a few diet sodas a month for me.

We shouldn’t use Measure C funds for Admin Spaces.

Measure C will be providing benefit to the students of Sierra Sands for many years to come. Over those years, the needs will change. Looking back over just three years, who would have seen the needs that would arise as a result of earthquakes, COVID, inflation, etc.? The language in the Measure needed to be flexible enough to cover as many contingencies as the district thought made sense. The board is elected to be a voice of the community and a steward of taxpayer dollars. In the nearly 16 years that I have been on the board, I believe we have done a solid job of those duties. Is it possible to align with everyone’s individual desires in every effort? Of course not. But we’ve done a commendable job for the community as a whole. Every decision as to which of the projects listed in Measure C will be executed will be approved by the board with oversight from the Citizen’s Oversight Committee. Knowing what I know today, I, personally, would not support use of these funds for admin spaces.

Measure C is a “slush” fund.

A “slush fund” indicates that these funds can be used for anything the administration/board wants. That is patently inaccurate. The funds can only be used for items specifically noted in the Measure and then, only after approval of the board under the watch of the Citizen’s Oversight Committee. If you have seen evidence of the board approving expenditures that are not in keeping with improving the opportunities for our kids with respect to Measure C or any other action, then you should speak specifically about those concerns to people who can address them.

The challenge of Middle School “Transition”.

Much has been said of how hard transitions are for our middle school students. While I appreciate that some might have concerns about adding a 5th to 6th grade followed by a 6th to 7th grade transition instead of one transition to middle school (I recall the stress of my elementary to junior high transition although it was a long time ago!), I believe that what Sierra Sands is offering is different and significantly better than some of the information being spread on social media. Peer pressure is a real challenge for kids (heck, for many of us of all ages!), and a significant part of the stress involved in moving on to middle school in 6th grade is not just the transition to middle school, it’s the transition under the watchful, and not always helpful, eyes of the 7th and 8th graders. It’s also the stress of moving from an elementary environment with one teacher and one class, to the multi-class, multi-teacher environment. The 6th grade academy proposed provides an opportunity for all the 6th graders to experience that change together without the sometimes-critical eyes and voices of upper classmates. It allows them to come together as a single, collaborative, cohort being integrated from all the elementary schools in the district. In a sense, they can become a team who can then support each other as they transition to the 7th and 8th grade environment at Murray. This new approach has significantly more upside than some seem to think. In addition to the many positive benefits (more STEM/Arts opportunities, more focused teaching/staff, etc.), that have been shared in many media publications, there is the question of, “if not Measure C, then what?” Without Measure C, we will be left with the same crumbling infrastructure that will be band-aided at significant extra cost to the district with little opportunities to change. With the state requirement to add Transitional Kindergarten to our schools, adding another grade level to our already mostly-full campuses, the option to move to a K-6 configuration isn’t possible. Lottery funds are a drop in the bucket. California’s schools continue to be significantly underfunded as compared to the vast majority of the states in the U.S. The funds that the district receives allow us to keep the status quo and make minor improvements as we see opportunities, but we need so much more. So, if not now, when? Does anyone really think the cost to conduct construction projects will go
down? Or will they go up? I know where I’d put my money if I was a betting man. We need to make these improvements to our facilities now.

Out of town money supporting Measure C.

I haven’t looked in detail at who has paid money into the legally constructed Citizen’s for Measure C organization. And I’m not that concerned who is on the donor list as I hope all contributors are supporting the effort for altruistic reasons. Not all corporations are evil, right? Also, the district tries extremely hard to use local contractors, but we don’t always get many local bids and many of the local folks are extremely busy with earthquake repairs and the like. But the rationale for voting yes or no on this item should be based on what’s good for the kids, not who is contributing to the effort. And Measure C is of significant benefit to the kids.

Contention that Monroe isn’t safe today.

In the context of the discussion regarding Measure C, Monroe is the most problematic site. It’s the oldest and the costs to maintain it are rising significantly. That is a far cry from saying it isn’t safe. If it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t be there. The problem is that it may not be safe for very much longer and something needs to be done. Measure C is not a magic wand that will make all the proposed changes happen overnight. It will be a few years before the new Richmond will be built. Until that happens, we can’t vacate Vieweg. Until that happens, we can’t further modernize Vieweg to be a 6th grade Academy. Until that happens, we can’t vacate Monroe. So, this is a several year process. Until that time, hopefully, we can keep Monroe safe, it will just be at an escalating cost using resources that we can’t use for other, more positive efforts. And to address another related concern that I have heard: there are standards that indicate that a higher level of safety is required for facilities that house children than those that are strictly administrative.

Where do you get your information?

Please don’t rely on what people think maybe, might, or could be answers to your questions! Please don’t base those decisions on barbs from people who just love to rile people up. This is too important of a decision for our kids and our community to rely on inaccurate information. Please vote YES on Measure C!

Kurt Rockwell