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HISD board to put nearly $2 billion bond proposal on November ballot

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Should a nearly $2 billion bond proposal be put on the ballot and decided by taxpayers? HISD's trustees think so.

HISD board members on Tuesday night voted 8-1 to call on a bond election in November. Trustee Anna Eastman changed her mind to a yes vote, and Trustee Greg Meyers voted against the proposal.

This bond is historic, the largest ever in Texas history. The $1.89 billion measure now will appear on the November 6 general election ballot. The proposal would make major improvements to a total of 38 schools, as well as technology upgrades at all HISD schools.

Sharpstown High School in southwest Houston is one of 20 high schools set to be torn down and rebuilt. Principal Rob Gasparello is ready for the change.

"You give us the facility, along of the kinds of things that we said are doing here in Sharpstown, an I guarantee you we will graduate top-notch, college-bound students," Gasparello said.

This school was built in 1969, nearly 30 years before this year's freshman were born. The band room -- complete with a hole near the roof -- is in a trailer. Last year, the whole ninth grade was in trailers.

Technology is not easily added at Sharpstown, and inside the classrooms there are no windows, barely enough room for students.

"It's very small. You think about 25 high school students in here. Notice you don't see the desks in a row," Gasparello said.

If voters approve the bond package, HISD says it would likely adopt a property tax rate increase in the future. This tax rate increase would have no impact on the homesteads of HISD residents age 65 and older, because their tax rates are frozen.

For the owner of the average HISD home with a market value of $200,000, this would mean an increased monthly cost of $8.25, or $99 per year.

But already opposition is lined up.

"We're tired of being ignored by the HISD board," said Kevin Simms with the Houston African American Forum.

The Houston African American Forum says the district doesn't have a good record in hiring black contractors and can't support the deal until it does.

"I cannot support it because I need to know, what are we going to do for our children?" said Pastor James Nash with the Houston African American Forum.

Others say the list of schools to fix was drawn up in secret and won't be spent in the right places. But go back in the schools, ask Gasparello; he says show him the money, and he will show you the results.

"To me, it is a no-brainer, if you get into special interests, invested interest and politics and who's it going to appease, then I think we get into things that I don't think are best for the kids," he said.

When it comes to those minority contracts, HISD says the 2007 bond, nearly 30 percent or more of those contracts went to minority or women-owned business enterprises. The Houston African American Forum says it just may not be enough for the African American community.

The district says design work of the new schools would begin in early 2013 and construction would start in 2014.

The proposal details are outline below (info from HISD):

Provide new campuses for 20 high schools:

  • Austin
  • Bellaire
  • Davis
  • DeBakey
  • Eastwood
  • Furr
  • High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
  • Jordan
  • Lamar
  • Lee
  • Madison
  • Milby
  • North Early College
  • Sam Houston
  • Sharpstown
  • South Early College
  • Sterling
  • Washington
  • Worthing
  • Yates

Partially replace four high schools:

  • Waltrip
  • Young Men's College Prep Academy
  • Westbury
  • Young Women's College Prep Academy

Renovate four high schools:

  • Jones
  • Kashmere
  • Scarborough
  • Sharpstown International

Convert five elementary schools into K-8 campuses:

  • Garden Oaks Montessori
  • Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion School at Gordon
  • Pilgrim Academy
  • Wharton Dual Language School
  • Wilson Montessori

Build three new elementary school campuses:

  • Askew
  • Parker
  • Relief school on the west side

Replace/complete two new middle school campuses:

  • Grady (new addition to complete new campus)
  • Dowling (new campus)

In addition, the proposed measure would include funds that would improve conditions for students in all HISD schools. Those proposals include:

  • $100 million for district-wide technology improvements
  • $42.7 million to replace regional field houses and improve athletic facilities
  • $35 million to renovate middle school restrooms
  • $17.3 million for district-wide safety and security improvements

Click here to see the full details of HISD's bond proposal.

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