Lindbergh voters to consider $31 million bond issue Nov. 4

Prop R ‘an outstanding plan’ for Lindbergh, superintendent says

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh School District residents on Nov. 4 will consider a $31 million bond issue designed to provide a long-term solution to space concerns at Sperreng Middle School.

The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to place Proposition R on the Nov. 4 ballot. A four-sevenths majority will be required to approve the measure, which would not increase Lindbergh’s debt-service tax rate, but extend the current rate of 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation an additional five years, according to Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane.

While Sperreng would remain a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, funds from Proposition R would be used to convert Truman Elementary School to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, add onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, convert Concord School to an elementary school and either construct or buy a new building to relocate the district’s early childhood education, or ECE, program from Concord School. The estimated cost, including projects identified as critical by district officials and proposed security projects, totals nearly $31 million.

District officials are pursuing an option to ease space concerns at Sperreng that was identified as the clear favorite in a recent telephone survey of district residents.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in October to establish a Demographic Task Force comprised of parents, residents and staff members to recommend long-term options to address space concerns at Sperreng, which last year had an enrollment of 1,321 pupils while the ideal size for a middle school serving grades six through eight is 600 to 800 pupils.

The 53-member task force formulated six options, which school-board members later whittled down to three choices, including the one favored by the survey respondents. In late May, board members agreed to solicit community input through a telephone survey on the three options — including the one ultimately identified as the clear favorite in the survey — to provide long-term solutions to ease overcrowding at Sperreng Middle School.

During the Aug. 19 board meeting, board Treasurer Mark Rudoff’s motion to place the bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot was seconded by board Vice President Vic Lenz and unanimously approved.

Before the vote was taken, board member David Peek said, “… I’d like to acknowledge the work of the Demographic Task Force and the work of the administration. This has been a long journey. We began talking about this sometime last year and I think that we are putting students first.

“It’s very important that we continue to provide educational excellence. I think it’s probably the paramount importance to us, and the overcrowding situation that we have in our middle school — while the middle school hasn’t grown a whole lot in terms of actual enrollment over the years, there’s been a lot of additional support needed to meet all the demands of No Child Left Behind and that, I think, more than anything has put a stress and a strain on the facilities and resources that we have,” he said, adding he believes district officials are pursuing a good direction and a good strategy with Proposition R.

Rudoff later said, “… After exploring all the options and after looking at both the funding and looking at the options of types of schools and where we were going … I don’t have any problem sleeping at night. I know that we’re doing the right thing and I firmly believe that this board is showing good character by doing the right thing for kids first and putting those needs first and foremost in calling for this bond issue.”

President Ken Fey later said, “… I believe the process did work and we have, this board has gone out to the community. And we stood with the community hand in hand and we asked them exactly what they thought, what they wanted and what we should do. I think we did our due diligence and we have come up with the right solution for the problem.

“And there’s just one other thing that I’m starting to hear and I’m starting to hear that we have done something that has been done many, many times before. And that is we have kept to the Lindbergh tradition and the Lindbergh tradition is to ask those hard questions, to go out to your community to find the right answers, to solve them and do what is right for the children of the district …,” he added.

Jim Simpson, who became superintendent July 1, told the Call that he believes Proposition R is “an outstanding plan” to provide a long-term solution to the overcrowding at Sperreng.

“… Without a doubt, we have a plan and I’m very appreciative of our parents and our Demographic Task Force and all the input that we’ve received. It’s been a long journey to get to this point. There’s one thing I’m very impressed with at Lindbergh. They do their homework. They do their journey. There’s no shooting off the hip in this district. They will take the time, even if it’s an extra year added to the study — whatever they need,” he said.

“So this has been a long journey of input, gathering information and thinking of options and narrowing those options … from a whole basket of options, going lower and smaller and smaller until now we have the Prop R for ’08. And that is an outstanding plan to really make the framework of the district in terms of using those facilities in the most efficient manner and in a way that serves the most students, particularly the middle school, of course.

“Sperreng is too large. It has too many students — 1,350 students. I don’t think you can find any research or any educator that would not raise their eyebrows a little bit at that number,” the superintendent said, adding the proposed solution “is really an outstanding plan that fits and matches so well.”

One example of that is the fact that Proposition R would convert Truman Elementary back to the middle school that it once was, he said.

Another aspect of Proposition R is that it is a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue.

“… The tax extension is certainly the synonym for that and that we never want to say that there’s a freebie in this any way. But it will not increase the amount of money that you pay and the extension is many years out in the future,” he said.

No-tax-rate-increase bond issues have been used by many high-quality school districts throughout the state “to keep their facilities in a high state, a modern state to support education. So that’s something that I hope gives our patrons a great feeling that you won’t have to pay more, but you’re going to get a modern, two-middle-school district and you’re going to get almost a totally renovated elementary — state of the art — in Concord. And you’re going to get more neighborhood elementaries.

“And you’re going to get an ECE. We’re going to continue with our early childhood program, which is so important to many of our parents …”