East Valley School District’s open forum Thursday was separated into two parts.
During the first half, board member Mike Harris worked with the packed audience to create a list of what the board needs in order to make a decision about the direction of the district, and a list of worries and concerns of the public, staff and students.
Among the ideas for input, Harris included getting ideas from the staff, collecting data about student learning now compared to what it was under the middle school system looking at behavior, academics, social skills, emotional learning, attendance and discipline.
One suggestion was to look at next year’s freshman class and see how they compare to previous years.
Another was to find out from the community why the bonds have failed and what would it take to pass one. Someone suggested completing a survey with the staff.
“Parent choice is absolutely critical,” said Mindy Stewart, one of the parents. “Parents are a huge source of information.”
The second half was reserved for questions and answers.
Board chairman Mike Novakovich said the board was looking for ways to solve the problems they have – they had heard about students walking through fields to get to class, they have heard about the lack of lockers.
“What are the logistics of how we want to proceed?” he asked the crowd.
Most notably, interim Superintendent Tom Gresch told everyone about his feelings coming into his new position and how he feels everyone can move forward.
“We have to be together to move forward,” he told them. “No matter what the configuration, we need to do that very best with what we have. We are have nots right now. Many other districts are haves.
“We need to make sure our house is clean before we ask somebody else to help,” he said of going out for another construction bond.
“Do you want this district to fail or succeed?” he asked them.
Mike Stewart, a grandparent in the district asked the board what the purpose of a maintenance and operations levy was for, explaining he was “always under the assumption it was to maintain the facilities.” Voters have always passed levies in East Valley.
“It really shouldn’t be ‘maintenance and operations,’ ” said board member Justin Voelker. “It’s local funding for operation of the district.”
The board explained the state allows the district to ask for local funds, up to 28 percent of the budget, to cover programs and staff the state no longer pays for.
Rondy Alexander has lived in the East Valley area for 50 years and she has no children who attend the schools. She said she didn’t think the district was communicating exactly how the money from the construction bonds will be spent. She said when a bond comes before her as a voter and she sees, for example, $65 million, to her, it’s an “automatic no.”
Harris said the bond information to the public addresses the larger issue of how East Valley communicates with the community as a whole.
“Yeah, we need to find better ways of connecting to our community,” Harris said.