"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

Monday, October 7, 2019

Phase 4 of the Bond: Promises Made on Faulty Data

Tomorrow, Oct. 8, 2019, the Alpine School Board will decide which two areas will see elementary schools built as part of Phase 4 of the bond.  In November, 2017, the Alpine School Board designated a new elementary would be built in Vineyard.  However, the projections used to make that decision were revised a year later a DECREASED by almost 400 students.  That made the "promise" of a new elementary in Vineyard, not as much of a "no-brainer" as it looked in 2017.  Here is my letter to the current board.  It is important to note, that every new board has the ability of reviewing and changing the actions of a previous board.  And certainly, if they have better knowledge and information, they are obligated to act, based on that improved knowledge.


Dear Board Members:

I know you are wrangling over the decision about what elementaries to add to Phase 4 of the bond for the meeting tomorrow.  I appreciate the difficulty of this decision and wanted to clarify just a few things.

  1. Our previous board is not, legally, allowed to tie your hands, as the current board.  As new information and situations change, you are not only free to act in a different direction than what we planned, you are obligated to do so.  You are accountable for the knowledge and information you have now, regardless of what decisions we made in the past. 
  2. The decision that we made in November, 2017 to designate Vineyard as one of the elementary schools was based on data that is no longer accurate.  In Nov. 2017, Vineyard was projected to be at 1,360, non-self-contained students by this year (2019).  By 2021, it was supposed to be at 1,523.  By contrast, Sage Hills was supposed to be at 1,070 by 2019 and1,136 by 2021.  Dry Creek was 1,102 by 2019 and 1,144 by 2021.  Currently, Vineyard is at 1,085. Sage Hills at 1,140.  And Dry Creek at 1,039.  The 2018 projections were more accurate by a large factor than the 2017 projections upon which the Vineyard “promise” was made.  Those numbers are much closer to the actual numbers for this year (which only makes sense), but the 2018 projections for Vineyard in the year 2021 went from 1,523 to 1,167.  This is a HUGE discrepancy.  Additionally, the Sage Hills and Dry Creek numbers are, roughly, similar between the 2017 projections and the 2018 projections, for both 2019 and 2021.  And, the 2021 projection for Sage Hills is already 4 students short of what Sage Hills has currently, in 2019. So, there was obviously a huge error made in the Vineyard projections upon which our board based its decision.  This information and the change in data must be incorporated into your decision, regardless of what we thought at the time.  This is why you were elected, to make on-going decisions, as new information presents itself.
  3. I understand that many of you are concerned about keeping the promises that our previous board made to the citizens of Vineyard.  First, you need to know that the amount of time you’ve spent studying this issue is much, much greater than the time we took in making the original “promise”.  In point of fact,  I (and at least one other former board member) didn’t even remember this Vineyard “promise” ever occurring, until I read the Herald article and listened to the audio.  Granted, we go through a lot of issues, but I do remember the major decisions that took time, and effort, and energy.  To my recollection, this idea of specifying Vineyard as Phase 4 on the bond was not ever brought up in Superintendent Meeting, at least not one that I attended.  The placement of the issue on the agenda was one I discovered by looking at the agenda during the day or so before Board Meeting.  I have no record of having asked any questions outside of the Study Session or Board Meeting on this issue.  In short, I looked at the numbers presented and made my decision based solely on those, now obviously, incorrect numbers.  We were “promised” in our Board Meeting in November, 2017, that Vineyard would be the elementary with “the largest” population by 2021.  According to the projections, only one year later, that “promised” projection went down by nearly 400 students.  That discrepancy is the second point.  When the numbers are closer, as they actually appear to be, it’s a much more difficult decision.  This would have required a lot more analysis and discussion, than a few comments in a Study Session, then a 5 minute discussion in Board Meeting, and a vote.  Finally, based on the timing of the vote, it really did seem like we were designating Vineyard in order to appease the Hillcrest/Scera Park patrons.  And that’s fine, if you have the numbers.  But we didn’t designate any other elementaries for Phase 4 at that time.  And our numbers were much more accurate for our other elementaries.  It’s, as if, Vineyard was the only error in our projections.  I can promise you that if the numbers hadn’t been so widely out of line for Vineyard, I would not have been willing to make that determination at that time.  And certainly, if the numbers had been closer, I would have asked more questions and asked for more time.  My single vote wouldn’t have changed the board’s “promise”, but I am here to tell you, I hope you will not base your decision on my mistake.

In short, we made a “promise” with faulty data and without a lot of deliberation, discussion, or analysis.  We are not legally allowed to tie your hands.  Since you now have greater information and understanding, I ask you to take all the information into account.  If you are unable to diverge from what we, hurriedly “promised”, with inaccurate numbers, I shudder to think about other decisions that we made and the on-going implications.  You MUST be able to make a decision, without thinking about what was said in the past.  And, hopefully, without considering politics, only facts, numbers, and students.

Thanks for taking on this difficult task, and I hope you know if you decide against what I agreed to 2 years ago, I will be pleased that the system is working as it should.  And, even if you don’t, please don’t blame the hurried promises of our board for your decision.  Please own the decision, based on your own numbers.


Wendy Hart

November, 2017 Projections (2019 pg. 20, 2021 pg. 24)
November, 2018 Projections (2019 pg. 18, 2021, pg. 22)
Current Numbers (pg. 118)