South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Second to last not good enough, Prop C supporters say

Schibig, Clobes will co-chair citizens’ committee for Prop C.

Second to last is not good enough for the Mehlville School District.

That’s where it ranks in per pupil spending relative to the other school districts in St. Louis County. And it’s one of the messages leaders of a volunteer campaign hope moves district voters to pass a tax-rate increase Nov. 2.

The Committee to Restore the Pride plans to kick off its campaign next week for Proposition C, a proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase designed to fund roughly $106 million in district improvements. A campaign rally is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at Mehlville Senior High School, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.

District officials estimate Prop C would generate $15.4 million annually in new revenue.

Mehlville’s residential property-tax rate would increase to $4.30 per $100 of assessed valuation. The commercial property-tax rate would increase to $3.74 per $100 assessed valuation. Prop C would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $334 per year.

Up to 40 cents of the increase would be used for capital projects, according to the Prop C ballot language. The first phase of the district’s long-range improvement plan, COMPASS II — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — outlines $94.5 million in facilities proposals, such as a new Margaret Buerkle Middle School on the Mehlville High campus; new performing arts and technology centers at the two high schools and major renovations to Bierbaum and Trautwein elementary schools and Oakville and Washington middle schools.

The rest of the increase, according to the ballot language, would fund operations. The first phase of COMPASS II calls for such operational proposals as full-day kindergarten, full video security and moving staff salaries to the county median.

Jim Schibig and Jeff Clobes are the co-chairs of the Committee to Restore the Pride. Schibig, a longtime district employee and former Beasley Elementary School principal, was recruited in 2007 to co-chair the COMPASS community-engagement effort. He told the Call last month he planned to support Prop C “in the background” but shortly afterward received a call from Superintendent Terry Noble to serve as a co-chair on the campaign committee.

Clobes is a father of three children who attend elementary school in the district. A small-business owner, he is a district volunteer who chaired a citizens’ committee that promoted Mehlville’s successful 2008 ballot measure, Proposition T. The referendum helped stabilize the district’s finances.

In an interview with the Call last week, Schibig and Clobes discussed their reasons for getting involved and outlined the campaign strategy for Prop C.

“Jim and I have established a rapport based on the fact that we’re genuinely interested in the district,” Clobes said. “We’re not involved in it for the politics. We’re two guys from completely different backgrounds, one in education and one just being a parent in the community. We both have the same view of how important this is for the district to move forward.”

The committee is crafting a positive campaign to connect with voters, Schibig said, adding the effort likely will employ direct mailings, advertisements and weekend canvassing. The group also has launched a website,


Asked about the message behind the campaign’s slogan “Restore the Pride,” Schibig said, “There is no status quo. We gotta be moving forward. If we don’t pass this thing, we’re not going to be standing still — we’re going to be moving backward. And I hate to even say: ‘If we don’t pass this’ because I think we’re going to pass it.

“I also realize it’s a sizable chunk of change, but education costs. That’s part of restoring the pride. The community has to realize … what an important part a school district plays in the community.”

Clobes said, “For Jim and me, it’s not necessarily about some of the issues that have been raised in the community. It’s not about salaries. It’s not about some of the peripheral stuff that’s either been reported on or been talked about in the community … For me, I’m involved for three reasons: my 10-year-old, my 7-year-old and my 6-year-old. I have no political agenda. I am here to move the district forward and give my kids a chance. I’m restoring the pride in myself and my kids to give them an opportunity to compete. That’s the bottom line.”

Throughout the COMPASS program, district officials have stressed Mehlville does well with its current resources. A preliminary report card from the state shows the district met all 14 accreditation standards this year and is expected to receive its fifth consecutive Distinction in Performance Award from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“That says a lot to me about our teaching and professional staff,” Schibig said. “And I say this all the time: We get the biggest bang for our buck with our staff.”

But Mehlville ranks 21st out of 22 school districts in the county for per pupil spending. The state and county average is roughly $10,000 per pupil. Mehlville spends about $7,600 per pupil.

Even if Prop C succeeds, the district may only move up one spot on the list, said Rod Wright, president of communications firm UNICOM•ARC, a consultant for Mehlville.

“There’s only one public school district in St. Louis County that ranks below us in per pupil spending, and that’s Bayless,” Wright told the Call. “Literally, everybody else is above us, and some are way above us … There are a lot of school districts that are spending $10,000, $11,000 per pupil, and we’re spending a lot lower.”

Schibig estimated Prop C would increase Mehlville’s per-pupil expenditure by $1,000.

He noted that, despite the rough economic climate, several school districts passed tax or bond measures in the April 6 election.

Notably, voters in the Webster Groves School District — which Wright contended has a nearly identical tax base to Mehlville — approved a 55-cent tax-rate increase.

Schibig acknowledged Prop C would face opposition in the community but said the campaign “can’t be concerned” about it.

“We can only control what we do,” he said, “and our job is to get out a positive message about what we’re doing and what we need.”

As for any organized effort to oppose Prop C, Clobes said, “I would have to ask: Is the opposition out there because they can’t afford the tax increase? Or are they out there because they don’t value the importance of what the district brings to the community?

“That’s the question you have to ask. My guess is based upon what I’ve seen at community events, they’re not the people who can’t afford to pay for it. They’re the people who are opposed to public education, and that’s a shame. Their message is probably not the message the community as a whole needs to hear,” he continued. “Because it’s not about the 88 cents. It’s about the kids …

“It’s not about what the opposition group wants it to be about. Neither Jim nor I are politically motivated. We’re in it for the kids. I believe the opposition group is committed for a different reason.”

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