"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nov. 30, 2010 Board Meeting

I attended the Work Session, Dedication, Board Meeting and Closed Session on Tuesday (Nov. 30).  Everything took place at Orem High School. 

Work Session 
The process behind the bond and the enrollment projections were discussed.  Some of the considerations for the bond were the Tax Rate Increase, the New Building costs, and the 5-year Capital Improvement costs. 

The 5-year Capital Improvements deal with updating older schools to meet, for example, seismic codes, repair roofing, etc.  The 4 schools proposed in the 5-year Capital Improvement suggestions were all constructed in 1959.  No details on what the improvements would be at this point.  Many of these things will be discussed with maintenance and principals before being approved.  At this time, it is hoped that the bond will provide $100 million for upgrading these 4 schools.

Currently, ASD has 66,100 students.  By 2015, it is projected that we will have in the neighborhood of 78,000 students.  Superintendent Henshaw pointed out a handful of elementary schools (page 23).  He showed that Cedar Ridge currently has 131 Kindergarten students and 157 6th graders.  Since there are less Kindergarten students than 6th graders, it is assumed that the school will be able to continue to adequately acommodate those students coming in through the 6th grade.  However, Pony Express has 248 Kindergartners and only 196 6th-graders, implying that in the next 6 years, the school will need to accommodate many more students than it does currently.  (We discussed the following schools specifically: Cedar Ridge, Eaglecrest, Fox Hollow, Freedom, Harvest, Hidden Hollow, Meadow, Mountain Trails, Pony Express, Ridgeline, Sage Hills, Saratoga Shores, Snow Springs, and Traverse Mountain.) Also, in looking at schools in close proximity with similar numbers, it is assumed that more elementary and maybe junior high schools will need to be built. From a very non-committed perspective, it was discussed that 4 more elementary schools and 1 junior high should be built using the proposed bond money in the subsequent 5 years.  Those schools showing the most growth are mostly in the Lehi/Eagle Mountain/Saratoga Springs area.  It is hoped that the bond would provide $110 million for this new construction.  It was stated that the new construction figure was pretty solid, so any amount the bond was reduced would need to come out of the capital improvement monies.

Also, in looking at the tax rate, it was stated that for the average home ($230,000), a bond in the neighborhood of $200 million would be a tax increase of about $15/year.  The state legislature has set ASD's debt limit at one billion dollars.  Currently, we have about $400 million in debt, and are paying it off at the rate of $30 million/year. Most of the ASD bonds are 15-year bonds, and it is assumed that about every 5 or 6 years, we will retire a portion of that debt and be able to bond for additional capital additions or improvements.  Directly after the meeting, I learned the board could set aside monies for future projects, instead of bonding.  They had looked at this in the past (paying for new construction on a cash-basis).  The assessment is this method would work for elementary schools, but the costs of building secondary schools were too high to be able to do this.  I asked about building schools without as many amenities to accommodate the funding, and was told we could also do that, but the district had surveyed people in the past, and the people wanted secondary schools with all the amenities.

Orem High School was dedicated.  It was fun to receive a copy of the original program from 1956 when the school was first dedicated.  The story is that when they were moving things from the old building to the new one, they found a box of these old programs.

Student Body President, Corin Byers conducted.   There were performances from the Jazz Band and the A Capella Choir, speeches from the Principal, the Governor, Administrator Sam Jarman, and Board Member Terry Peterson.  Board President, Debbie Taylor, offered the dedicatory prayer.  I found it a very nice dedication.

Board Meeting
Orem HS teacher, Neil Johnson was recognized for being the 2010 Utah English Teacher of the Year.  He has been teaching for 42 years. 
There were a few committee reports. 

Board Members JoDee Sundberg and Terry Petersen, along with Superintendent Henshaw, met with newly elected Utah Speaker-of-the-House Becky Lockhart.  JoDee mentioned their desire to keep programs like the current, optional extended-day kindergarten funded, as well as putting 'teacher pensions back above the line'.  JoDee also mentioned that they had met with the Orem City Council who had expressed approval for a letter published in the Daily Herald by Rhonda Bromley, spokesperson for ASD. 

Board Member Chrissy Hanneman had met with the District Community Council.  She expressed a feeling of enthusiasm from the council toward the upcoming bond and a desire from them to do more to help.  They, too, expressed support for Mrs. Bromley's letter.

Board Member Guy Fugal discussed the high school 3A and 4A ratings. 

The meeting was adjourned into a closed session.  The new board members, John Burton, Paula Hill, and myself, were invited to attend, as the matters discussed would, most certainly, not be resolved within the next month before we are to be sworn in.  Closed session items are those of a confidential nature.  I found the information interesting and helpful.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I find it interesting that they could set aside money for future elem. schools, but apparently have not done this? And the tax increase for the new bond would ONLY be $15. Wow, if the voucher law had not been overturned, we would not be worrying about more taxes for more schools, which was the reason for passing it in the first place.

  2. Wendy, thanks for taking the time to write and post this summary. What a huge service you are already performing for us, as parents!

    If you ever do a poll on whether parents would support less expensive schools, I would vote YES! Large and spacious buildings don't teach children, caring and capable teachers do.

  3. Last bond we were told a house worth $200,000 would only have a $25 a year tax increase. The actual increase was more like $250. I don't believe their figures.

  4. It is time that some of these assumptions are challenged. Wendy, would you ask them to sponsor a new survey to find out if families would like to pay higher taxes in order to have all the amenities at the secondary schools. Would you also survey the district population to find out how many approve of running a 400 million balance when they could be paying cash for elementary schools. Last, would you make sure to express support for Save ASD's reply to Rhonda Bromley's letter?

  5. Thanks Wendy ... keep it up. You've already made a difference.

  6. @ Elaine: I don't believe their figures either. Multiplying the projected cost by 10 to get the actual taxed amount sounds about right.

    Also, I wish ASD would spend as much time finding good math programs as they spend looking for money and architects.

    I will never consider public schools for my kids until every elementary school uses Singapore Math.

  7. What does "teacher's pensions back above the line" mean? Have you witnessed any discussion about the specific concerns raised by the people at SaveASD?

  8. No on any program increasing taxes. I think the more simple our schools are, the more successful they will be. Simplify and cut costs. Go back the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic (the kind that actually teaches math). Remember the public school system redistributes wealth which is wrong. The more programs, the more socialistic it is. All day kindergaten is a horrible idea. How about parents reading to their kids more. I know everyone will say, "some parents won't do that." I say that the more we give the responsibility to the school, the worse the problem of passing on the responsibility becomes. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children. The schools can suppliment whatever else we need help with, not the other way around. As for extra ammenities, we have to remember that people without children, homeschoolers, and people struggling to pay for private schools are paying these taxes too. They should not have to pay extra for a system they don't use or don't believe in.

  9. Thank-you, Wendy!

    I agree with Jared. Let's trim the fat by focusing on excellence in academics. Isn't that the only purpose for a school's existence. A system that is continues to fall short of that mark does not deserve to grow.

    Giving families more choices (vouchers) would create the competition that public schools need to raise the bar while lowering their expenses and relieving their overburdened facilities. Excellent teachers would just move to where the children go - no job losses (for the good teachers, anyway). Helps the taxpayer, private schools, the public system, and, most importantly, the children. Good grief, let the free-market solve our problems.

  10. TO Anonymous I hope more people think like you. Then we would have smaller classrooms and more to go around.

    Hey look, I am anonymous to!

  11. @Don: Thanks for the good questions about public input. I will see what options we have. There will be public hearings on the bond, etc.

    I have been pretty clear about my position regarding the mission statement and John Goodlad on this blog. I understand that the mission statement will be addressed when the new board is in place. I think that a vigorous debate in a public forum would be most beneficial and will encourage that before any board action on this issue.

    @Barb: I got clarification on the 'above the line' statement. The state funds education with mandatory amounts (above the line) and discretionary amounts. The district is required to pay pensions and social security, but this last session, the state had pulled those amounts out of the mandatory funding and put them into discretionary funding. ASD would like the state to acknowledge that these items are not discretionary, but are, indeed mandatory and fund them accordingly.