Prop P approval offers opportunity for Mehlville to be premier district

Ninth in a series

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

Passage of Proposition P will provide the opportunity for the Mehlville School District to become one of the top districts in St. Louis County — if not the premier district — Superintendent John Cary said shortly after voters approved the measure in November 2000.

Proposition P was a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase when approved by voters more than five years ago. However, a final budget revision approved in December raises the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3 percent increase — more than $20.7 million over the nearly $68.4 million building improvement program envisioned in 2000.

The ninth installment of the Proposition P chronology, based on Mehlville documentation and published accounts in the Call, picks up with the Nov. 7, 2000, election for Proposition P.

Proposition P received 24,717 “yes” votes — 56.39 percent — and 19,118 “no” votes — 43.61 percent. A simple majority was required for approval of the measure, but it nearly received a supermajority of the votes cast.

“I think it was a very exciting win for the school district, but especially for the community,” Cary told the Call. “It’s an opportunity for Mehlville to provide the educational environment that’s going to make our kids competitive with other premier school districts.

“I think with the direction we’re going in curriculum and improving instruction and the way our test scores are rising, and now accompanied soon by modern facilities and needed technology, the Mehlville School District has a great opportunity to become one of the — if not the — premier school districts in St. Louis County,” Cary said. “We really do have an opportunity if we keep improving the way that we have to become accredited with distinction, which there are very few school districts in the state that have reached that. It’s a goal that we can achieve.”

Dan Fowler, a former Board of Edu-cation member who served as chairman of the citizens’ committee, Citizens to Pro-tect Our Investment, that promoted the passage of Proposition P, agreed with Cary.

“When it is complete, Mehlville will be the No. 1 school district in St. Louis County. I think that we’ve got some of the best teachers in St. Louis County. We have test scores going up. We have the best superintendent in the state of Missouri. I think that’s now well recognized throughout the state that John Cary is ranked No. 1 of all superintendents in the state of Mis-souri,” Fowler said. “I think now that when the facilities plan is complete and you put that combination together, Mehlville will be the No. 1 school district in St. Louis County to live, raise a family and educate children. I think we’re also going to see a dramatic increase in property values, which causes a ripple effect. When we see a dramatic increase in property values, it will also increase our tax base, and, therefore, additional revenues to the Mehlville School District.

“So I think this bond issue really has a ripple effect. Once the school district is known to be a first-class school district, it will also cause businesses to be attracted to the area. It enhances the community and it enhances the tax base. Perception be-comes reality. Right now, Mehlville is perceived to be a mediocre school district … This bond issue will make Mehlville an excellent school district and we will be second to none in St. Louis County — and that includes Parkway, Rockwood, Lind-bergh. We will be second to no other school district in St. Louis County when these projects are complete,” Fowler added.

Cary said he believed the key to the passage of Proposition P was the public en-gagement process involving the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities.

“I think the public engagement process was key and probably had more effect than people ever dreamed it would have,” Cary said. “I think the very fact that we got that many people into our buildings and they actually saw some of the needs, I think that was very impactful.”

Fowler said when he was asked to serve as CACF chairman, “There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win something and I just simply did not know what it was at the time. But I also knew in order to succeed, we had to bring in all segments or a microcosm of the community. We were not going to win this without the input of parents, educators, students, parochial parents, senior citizens and critics. That was essential to solving the facilities problem. That set up the stage for the public engagement process.”

• Nov. 13, 2000 — The Board of Educa-tion voted unanimously to name the Mc-Carthy Construction Co. to serve as construction manager for the Proposition P districtwide building improvement projects. The board’s action directs the administration to negotiate and develop a contract with the company.

After reviewing seven proposals, a selection committee comprised of district officials, parents and board President Chuck Van Gronigen had voted unanimously to recommend the board name McCarthy construction manager.

Van Gronigen also requested that Cary formulate a recommendation for an oversight committee.

“The proposal should include the mission, responsibilities, roles, authority and accountability of the committee. Thinking through the expectations for the committee in advance should help us avoid problems and misunderstanding. The work of the committee should be meaningful, calling on the expertise of the members, and leveraging the work of administration and the board,” he said.

“The responsibility for governing the district still rests with the board. The responsibility for daily operations rests with the administration. The committee should not be put in the position of becoming a scapegoat for construction problems, but rather in a position to catch planning and execution problems before they are irreparable,” the board president continued.

“The membership of the committee is critical. How we determine the membership of the committee will determine how successful they can be in carrying out their mission. The committee should be large enough to represent the entire district, yet small enough to fully participate in guiding the process …,” Van Gronigen said.

The chronology continues next week.