Roughly 400 kick off canvassing for Mehlville’s Prop C

‘Now is our chance to restore the pride,’ Schibig tells crowd.

By EVAN YOUNG

Roughly 400 Mehlville School District students, parents and staff came together Saturday morning to kick off canvassing for an 88-cent tax-rate increase measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Supporters went door to door throughout the district to spread the word about Proposition C, which if approved would fund roughly $106 million in capital and operational improvements designed to make Mehlville a high-performing district.

Prop C would generate roughly $15 million a year to fund the first phase of the COMPASS II plan — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

The plan includes $94 million in capital improvements, such as a new Margaret Buerkle Middle School and new performing arts and technology centers at each of the district’s two high schools.

It also includes such operational improvements as full video security and moving teachers’ salaries to the county median.

Prop C supporters previously have said the measure would create hundreds of construction jobs in south county. However, Superintendent Terry Noble told the Call Friday a representative from contractor S.M. Wilson & Co. recently estimated Prop C would put more than 2,500 people to work.

One of the Prop C campaign’s platforms is that Mehlville’s next-to-last ranking in per pupil spending among St. Louis County school districts isn’t acceptable.

“Twenty-one out of 22 is not good enough,” said Jim Schibig, co-chair of the Committee to Restore the Pride, at the kickoff rally Saturday morning at Mehlville Senior High School. “We live in a global society. We must prepare our kids to succeed. Mehlville graduates are not just competing against kids sitting next to them in school.

“They’re competing with Lindbergh, Parkway, Rockwood and even across the world. We need to give our kids the experience and exposure to develop the skills to be competitive in the world in which we live.”

The COMPASS recommendations have been crafted over the last three years, and the COMPASS II plan was refined over the course of six community engagement sessions earlier this year. During the last session, nearly 400 participants overwhelmingly recommended the Board of Education pursue a 94-cent tax-rate increase that would fund proposals totaling more than $107 million. A community survey conducted this summer found that 51 percent of district voters would approve a 94-cent tax-rate increase. The school board later voted to place an 88-cent measure on the ballot and reduced the amount of proposals it would fund to roughly $106 million.

Four board members — President Tom Diehl, Secretary Larry Felton, Drew Frauenhoffer and Micheal Ocello — attended Saturday’s rally. Also present were 85th District Rep. Vicki Englund, D-Concord, 97th District Democratic candidate Jan Polizzi and 100th District Democratic candidate Andrew Spavale.

Schibig, a former principal and longtime Mehlville employee, said he has heard some members in the community say now isn’t a good time for a tax-rate increase.

“Well, when is the time?” Schibig said Saturday. “It’s never a good time. Everybody’s going to say: ‘Well we can’t do this now.’ We can do this. We’ve got to do it now.

“This is our chance. We’ve got to do it. The stars are aligned … Now is our chance to turn Mehlville into a high-performing school district. Now is our chance to prepare our kids for the 21st century. Now is our chance to prepare our kids for a global economy. Now is our chance to restore the pride.”

Saturday was the first of four weekend canvassing drives to educate the community about Prop C. The Restore the Pride campaign will continue canvassing:

• From 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.

• From 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 30.

Volunteers will meet at Bernard Middle School on all three days.

Residents who would like more information about Prop C or who wish to volunteer can visit

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Peggy Hassler, the Committee to Restore the Pride’s canvassing co-chair, told volunteers Saturday their job is to inform voters, not persuade them. Canvassers also were advised not to debate or argue with anyone who is opposed to Prop C.

“We’re not out trying to change their minds,” Hassler said. “We’re trying to educate and we are trying to take a quick survey of the community to see where we stand.”

Noble said at Saturday’s rally that motivation “comes from within.” His motivation is the district’s students — present and future, Noble said.

“I learned some time ago that there’s only three things in this world that will last forever. That’s faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love,” Noble said. “My love for the kids in this district — the 11,000 that are currently here and the thousands more that are going to walk through our halls. That’s what motivates me. And I hope that’s what motivates you. Thank you for being here, and let’s keep that in mind as we work hard for the future of our children.”