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BELOIT SCHOOL REFERENDUM Con viewpoint: Send it back to the board

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Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 4:00 pm

Beloit’s referendum is significantly different than others. What began in October as a 26 million dollar referendum exploded, practically overnight, to 70 million dollars — the largest being considered in Wisconsin.

Wording on the ballot does not inform the voter of the inextricable consequences of its passage — reconfiguration of our entire school district and multiple neighborhood school closures across Beloit. Such decisions typically involving community input and careful study in collaboration with city planners, professionals, teachers and parents were brought forth with little or no input, leaving many questions and concerns for parents and taxpayers. 

The new 4-8 intermediate school planned for the Morgan area will benefit the children in Beloit’s most affluent neighborhoods. But nearby, our less affluent children will spend five years at Aldrich, an uninviting school in serious need of repair.

On the west side, half of the children will have a new school and the others will attend McNeel, another old building neglected over the years.  All families pay for the referendum, but only some benefit. 

This referendum leaves nearly half of Beloit’s students in subpar facilities neglected for too many years. Aldrich, McNeel, and most of our high school, all with “dire needs” were publicly presented as a main reason for the referendum. In the end, these schools were left out and will receive none of the funds.

Promises that 8 million dollars in needed repairs will somehow be met are glossed over in presentations; the math does not make sense and no solid plan for funding has been presented.

The district’s entire 2 million dollar annual maintenance fund will not be enough for necessary repairs, and the 2.3 million dollar annual savings projected several years from now will be needed for other operational expenses.

It is irresponsible to intentionally exclude schools in such poor condition.

The proposed reconfiguration of elementary and middle schools was not research-driven. No particular grade configuration guarantees student achievement.

We know that middle school students enjoy choices and a sense of belonging somewhere in their school. With this proposal, we will have half as many 6th-8th grade students in each building. There may be fewer opportunities for electives, exploratory courses, and some extracurricular activities, especially in performing arts.

Community input from the beginning would have brought alternative ideas of how to condense buildings and reduce expenses. 

We just restructured our elementary schools a year ago, and our elementary students are now performing at higher levels than ever. It’s working well. Soon, we will be sending better-prepared students to the middle schools and we’ll see improvements there as well. But if we jump into a new multimillion-dollar reconfiguration now, and it is not successful, there is no going back.

With neighborhood school closures, there is no law that requires busing. We have already been told that children grades 4 through 8 will have to cross Highway 81 to get to school. Deliberately creating a less than safe situation for children is poor planning. 

As for cost, calculate your annual tax increase based on your assessed property value. Know that you, the taxpayer, will pay the full cost of the referendum. Some of us can afford the tax increase, many cannot.

This referendum was rushed and lacks proper planning and community input. This is our “once every twenty years” opportunity to get it right.  Voting “no” will send this back to the board to develop a better referendum — one that will address the needs of each school, and make all of Beloit a better place to live.  


Pam Charles is a leader of Beloiters for a Better Referendum

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  • pam charles posted at 3:58 pm on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    Cody, like I said, the reason I did not voice my concerns earlier about the referendum is because the superintendent was presenting to the public, in those listening sessions, and in the paper, and in the board meetings, that ALL SCHOOLS would be included in tis massive referendum. Then as I explained before, the three largest schools, schools with dire needs, were eliminated from the referendum wording on December 20th. That's when I began voicing my concerns.

    None of our schools are "just fine". They all need work, which is why we need to send this thing back to the board. Mr. McNeal was right when he originally, at all of the listening sessions and board meetings, called for all facilities to be included.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 2:31 pm on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    Pam - Believing what flutters around the rumour mill is not a viable excuse for why you did not attend the public input meetings. I learned to never trust the word of someone before you had the facts on it. In this case, not only had you stated there were no public input meetings when you now admit that you knew that there were meetings, but you now make it evident that you thought the citizens or the school district would voice something. When neither group said what you thought was a problem, well the rest is history. Like a great teacher of mine once said, "never trust someone to get what you want done".

    The school district is addressing the needs of all of the schools. Did you ever think that maybe some of the schools were just fine and did not need much in terms of needs? It's easy to understand, where while one school is getting a whole new floor, another one is getting a road around the back of the school. Each school has it's different needs, some just happen to be bigger than others.

  • pam charles posted at 10:21 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    Jazzy, You say that I "contributed to the slashing of the budget for a grand total of seventeen times in the past twenty years." I was only on the board for 3 years, and only one of those years was I on the property and finance committee. I hope you understand that a school board member can't be blamed for what happened before or after they were on the board, and besides, one board member only has one vote out of seven. Three years is all I could have had any input in to the school budget. Gary Seidel served on the school board much longer than I.

    And the reason I did not voice my concerns earlier about the referendum is because the superintendent was presenting to the public, in those listening sessions, and in the paper, and in the board meetings, that ALL SCHOOLS would be included in tis massive referendum. Then as I explained before, the three largest schools, schools with dire needs, were eliminated from the referendum wording. That's when I began voicing my concerns.

  • pam charles posted at 10:05 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    I apologize, I see in this article,,

    that, in addition to the BMHS auditorium, Wright elementary school, a school to be closed or "repurposed" is also getting a new roof. How does that sound? A school that may be closed, is getting a new roof. And I'm curious why this school is not going to get its roof from the referendum that was supposed to address the needs of all elementary school facilities.

  • pam charles posted at 9:51 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    How many roofs are right now being replaced? All I have heard about is the one that will soon begin over the high school auditorium. A fitness center was given priority other "dire needs", so I continue to say that this was not a well-planned referendum. It is irresponsible.

    If this referendum does not pass, the board will bring another one in November. Hopefully it will be more reasonable and address our needs.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 3:16 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    Pam - We do, however, have a maintenance budget. The school district recently stated that it is being used on roofing repairs, and the project is currently underway. So regardless of whether this referendum passes or not, the roofs will be addressed, so you can cut it out with the fitness centers before roofs argument.

    You may have not had a $70 million referendum when you were on the board, but you certainly had the tax power to make a difference. Even raising the taxes by a couple cents could have brought in a lot of money that could have been used for the repairs you now advocate for. Instead, you contributed to the slashing of the budget for a grand total of seventeen times in the past twenty years.

    You talk about uninviting schools? If this referendum doesn't pass, ALL of the schools will be uninviting, no one will want to go to Beloit.

    Furthermore, if you actually were that dedicated to seeing that Aldrich (now receiving brand new bus roads around the school to make traffic easier) got something, then you would have gone to the public input meetings back in October and November and voiced out about this. You would have gotten the citizens educated and rallied then on what was going on, and to tell the School Board "We need this!". You would have then received a referendum that on the first try was something that all of Beloit could have supported. Instead, no one said that Aldrich or the roofs needed to be addressed (which they are), and now you are heading a movement against something you could have easily contributed to if you had taken the time to go to a simple meeting, voice your input, and have it addressed.

  • pam charles posted at 10:56 pm on Sun, Apr 1, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    Gary, No I am not easily intimidated. You know that. But we never had 70 million dollars to fix our schools when I was on the board. I'm sure that is why my concern about providing natural lighting in Aldrich was not shared by others. That's why it was such a battle to get the theater's fly system replaced.

    I find it unthinkable to have such an incredibly large sum of money...70 million dollars...and NOT fix every leaking roof, NOT provide for every school, NOT assure each child has a decent facility. I find it unthinkable that we would put in a fitness center before addressing leaking roofs. It is wrong that, depending on the neighborhood you live in, you will either attend an uninviting school with unmet "dire needs", or you will have a brand new school.

    I believe this is unfair to half of Beloit's students and taxpayers. If you think this is good then I think your priorities are wrong.

  • grseidel posted at 8:36 pm on Sun, Apr 1, 2012.

    grseidel Posts: 20

    Pam, Pam, Pam..... You again never answered the issue at hand. You had three years. You say we have sub-par schools, well now you say that. But for 1,095 days you said nothing of the sort. Now, did you have to climb on roofs? No. You could have asked a simple question: "Are we maintaining our schools". That is five words. Or: "Can you assure me you are maintaining our roofs?" Nine words. I personally suggested that you focus on maintenance. Admit it, you did not. There was a roof plan, you tossed it aside, or somebody did. How do I know? I asked around and confirmed it was ignored.

    You never did anything for Aldrich in the 1,095 days you were on the Board, and now suddenly, unexpectedly, out of the blue, you are astonished to find Aldrich is "neglected" and "uninviting". You were there often, very often, a lot. Did you ever make this an issue? I didn't think so.

    And are you asking me to believe you were so shy and unassuming with 6 other members that you never felt you could speak up? Come on.... Heck, you are not on the Board now, but you feel comfortable making it an issue. Were the other members that intimidating?

    For you to make this an issue now is somewhat hypocritical. You had 1,095 days, and you said nothing of the sort at that time. I don't remember hearing one comment, one word on the issue from you. You did not make it an issue. I believe the schools you mention are good schools, with excellent staff, and quite inviting, and are not neglected.

    3 years, 1,095 days, 26,280 hours, and you could not devote 5 minutes of your time on the issues you now think are "big". Like I said, somewhat hypocritical....

  • pam charles posted at 3:39 pm on Sun, Apr 1, 2012.

    pam charles Posts: 19

    Gary, Gary,Gary. I can hardly keep up with the stuff you type.
    Mr. MNeal presented at listening sessions the schools that were in "dire need" of repairs and maintenance: You were at the presentation -- Aldrich, McNeel, and BMHS. Remember? These school were a big, if not the main reason to go to referendum. They were even on the superintendents presentation page in the board packet the night of the vote, December 20th. It read "all facilities" would be included. The only problem was the three dire need schools were removed without any discussion, and the resolution adopted was not what was presented in the board packet.

    Next: I was on the board for one term THREE years ago. Tia Johnson beat me. Remember? I had no more voice than the other 6 board members, and the least amount of board experience.

    I was not on the property and finance committee until my last year. Guess I was trusting too many people. I should have climbed up on those roofs myself. How many roofs did you have replaced while you were on the board? Did you climb up and inspect them or trust the administrators like I did?

    I am happy that I was instrumental in getting the fly system replaced at BMHS theater. I did actually climb up on the stage and I had Mr. Wallendal show me exactly what a fly system was and why we needed a new one. It was presented and it was approved.

    I tried to get natural light via roof windows into Aldrich , but I was only one of 7. It didn't interest the others.Tell me what you did for Aldrich while you served on the board.

    Gary, you say that it is NOT irresponsible to exclude schools in dire need of repairs from this referendum. Well, I disagree, and I believe others do as well.

  • grseidel posted at 2:04 pm on Sat, Mar 31, 2012.

    grseidel Posts: 20

    Question regarding the so called "poor condition" of our schools. Just asking here. If the schools noted by the author are in such deplorable condition (and they are not), why did the author not make this a big issue when she was on the School Board, just two years ago? Seriously, if this were true (and its not), I would have thought this would have been her #1 objective, as it is here in this editorial piece. Maintenance would have been high on my list if that were the case. But the reality is that when the author was on the School Board, maintenance was not an issue. Maintenance was ignored. Instead we got summer school, a new day care facility, a charter school, a Board raise, and other stuff. Oh, and throw in some large tax decreases after all that. I don't know how exactly they did it. But the maintenance plan for the roofs at the schools got tossed aside.

    So, they ignore maintenance of schools when they had the chance, but now it is their burning issue?? Something just does not add up here.

    She adds that we have "sub-par" facilities, such as Aldrich and McNeel. Again, I ask what did the author do with these facilities while on the Board? They did not become "sub-par" overnight. She says: "It is irresponsible to intentionally exclude schools in such poor condition." I might add that if this were true (and it is not), that it was irresponsible to ignore the issue when she was on the Board, just two years ago. In this case you can't have it both ways (well, I guess you can in this person's case...)

    So we have "sub-par", and "un-inviting" facilities, but she did nothing about them when she had the chance. Again, something just ....does....not....add....up....

  • Michelle65 posted at 9:56 am on Fri, Mar 30, 2012.

    Michelle65 Posts: 55

    These are valid points and they are things that must be considered seriously before voting. We are fixing something that is not broken. We are going against recommendations from research. And no, I would not want my son crossing highway 81 twice a day.
    The board did not vote on so many important closures, reconfiguration, the amount of the referendum, leaving out buildings that we were told would be included. The more I think about this, the more concerned I become that we have absolutely no representation anymore. Our schools are being run by one man, and the board has just stepped aside and let him call the shots. That is not fair to the citizens.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 1:47 pm on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    If you go to this site, you will clearly see that her arguments have been gutted and all the mistatements being launched cleared up. I urge anyone reading this to not only go to the site and see the information behind this, but to also do some research of your own if you can't trust either side. A common pattern I have discovered is when someone says they have researched into both sides and gotten all of the facts on their own, they end up supporting the referendum. Those with questions and no urge to find the answers often fight against this.

  • HRDHD posted at 8:35 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    HRDHD Posts: 8

    This referendum viewpoint was well thought and made some excellent points. Can't really argue with any of it. Sorry if it send you in a tailspin Mister.


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