Louise Johnson: Answering some frequently asked questions on Measure B
Thank you to our citizens who contacted me about our Measure B for the Nevada Joint Union High School District. I have enjoyed talking to all of you about our schools, our students and the future needs of our community as we serve as your high school educators.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the more frequently asked questions.
1. What exactly are the projects to be funded?
Our facilities improvement plan focuses on infrastructure repair and upgrade. It is on our website, http://www.njuhsd.com. It is on the right-hand side on the rotating news feed. The projects are prioritized so all of the bonds would not be issued at once. We would work in phases starting with the highest priority and working our way down the list.
2. How is the independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee formed and who selects the members?
By California law, a school district has 60 days from the passage of a measure to form the oversight committee. It must be made up of at least seven volunteer members who serve terms of two years each. Composition of the committee must include representatives from the business community, a senior citizen organization, a bona fide taxpayer organization as well as parents with children in the district. In addition, no employee or vendor of the district can be a member of the committee.
3. With declining enrollment, why don’t you just close Bear River High School?
Bear River High School is a vibrant school serving south Nevada County. It has high test scores, championship sports teams, a state and nationally recognized Future Farmers of America program, new career pathways in computer science and digital media and amazing performing arts groups like Starlight Express. Bear River sends its graduates to the finest colleges or prepares them for careers of each student’s own choosing. The average comprehensive high school in California is 1,410 students so while Nevada Union is slightly larger than average, there are many likewise vibrant schools of about 700 students all over California. It makes no sense, whatsoever, to close Bear River High School. Period.
4. What else has been done to maximize the use of our public high school facilities?
At the end of the 2012-13 school year, Pioneer High School and Sierra Foothill High School closed. Currently, four schools occupy the Nevada Union High School campus: Nevada Union, NU Tech, North Point Academy and Nevada Union Adult School. Portable classrooms have been moved to serve other public needs including the Grass Valley School District and the Madelyn Helling Library. Two schools completely fill our historic Park Avenue school: Silver Springs and the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning. Western Sierra Youth Build rents the entire McCourtney Road facility that used to house a number of alternative schools that have moved to Nevada Union or closed.
5. The flyer said that no money could be spent for administrator salaries and pensions, what about teachers and other employees? How does this attract and retain quality teachers and other staff?
By law, funding from a local bond measure can only support capital improvements to school facilities and classrooms. None of these funds may be used to pay any school employee normally on the payroll. Research indicates that good facilities do serve to attract and retain quality teachers and help student learning. Good teachers and good students deserve up-to-date facilities free from leaky roofs, gas and water lines. They deserve working heating and air conditioning. Teachers, students and office staff deserve an internet network that works quickly and efficiently. Teachers and students deserve up-to-date tools and equipment in our Career Technical Education classes. All schools and citizens deserve security and fire protection infrastructure that works effectively and efficiently.
6. What are the interest rates and term of the bonds?
As we move on to each phase of the list, the Board of Trustees may set standards for the interest rates and duration of that particular bond issuance. Our financial projections assume an interest rate of 4 percent for the first round of bonds. The maximum allowable term for bonds in California is 30 years. As with the interest rates, the actual term would be determined by the board at the time the bonds are issued.
7. For more information, please visit our website http://www.njuhsd.com, call me at 273-3351 x 212 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have more questions or would like a tour of our facilities.
Louise Johnson is superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
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