News Column

Texas Hispanic Leaders Oppose $163M Schools Bond

Oct. 23, 2012

Meredith Moriak, Midland Reporter-Telegram, Texas

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A dozen Hispanic leaders who live in southeast Midland and feel Midland ISD trustees and administrators have ignored the need for a South Side elementary school are opposing the $163 million elementary schools bond proposition.

A letter voicing opposition to the bond was delivered to MISD Superintendent Ryder Warren Thursday. Reasons for the opposition included in the letter are lack of District 2 representation during bond-planning process, misleading information about the location of new schools and the need for an additional school in south Midland to prevent students from being bused across town.

The letter was signed by residents Max Cuellar, Kathy Guerrero, Abraham Gutierrez, Laura Houston, Michael Laing, Felipa Lara, George Lara, Moises Martinez, Ignacio Ortega, Guillermo Pacheco, Annabell Ramirez and Luis Sanchez.

A copy of the letter was provided to the Reporter-Telegram Monday.

Sanchez, who currently serves as Precinct 3 County Commissioner, said he's one of many District 2 residents who feel like they were left out of bond planning meetings.

"Many of us served on the first MISD Community Strategic Planning Committee, where it was decided a new South Side school was needed," Sanchez said of the committee that delivered recommendations in 2008 when Sylvester Perez was superintendent.

"However, when the bond planning process started, none of us were invited to planning meetings and the South Side school was left out because of lack of representation."

Unlike Perez, Warren did not form a specific committee to research facilities plans and deliver a recommendation. Instead, he used data from the 2008 community recommendation and held dozens of meetings with community leaders and residents who could voice their opinions.

"We created this bond package based on the feedback we received from community members and worked on this for a year and a half," Warren said. "We put the package together on what we heard during the town hall meetings and there is clear evidence of us taking the time to listen to constituents."

Warren said he thinks all groups and residents were given ample time to voice their opinions on what should be included in the bond package.

While former MISD District 2 trustee George Lara did voice his desire for a South Side elementary school during a town hall meeting, Warren said that was one of the only instances when the need for a school was expressed.

"I would have expected anyone concerned with the package to be at every single board meeting, every single special workshop and town hall meeting we had, voicing their opinion to the board just like many other community members did to create the package we have presented to the community," Warren said.

Lara said it's been difficult for community members to contact District 2 trustee Angel Hernandez, who "would not show up to meetings, return emails or phone calls."

"We feel that we don't have a representative who is engaging the community and that the administration at this point has not come out and has not addressed District 2," said Lara, who served on the school board from 1999 to 2008 and served as president.

Though work commitments occasionally prohibit Hernandez from attending trustee meetings and always prohibit him from answering calls on the road, Hernandez said he tries to be as accessible as possible and encourages constituents to email him.

The bond proposition calls for the rebuilding of Bunche Elementary -- a District 2 school -- and the creation of two new campuses on the south and north sides of Highway 191 in west Midland.

"I am disappointed that MISD did not take the South Side into consideration in the bond," Sanchez said. "They're building schools in neighborhoods that aren't built yet, yet not building new ones on the South Side, where the people have been. It seems to me like they purposely left that school out."

While reopening Bunche is a positive move, Lara said it doesn't change the fact that many students living in the county must be bused to schools in the city each day, something that could change if there were another South Side school.

In Lara's eyes, the need for a South Side campus is much greater today than it was in 2003 when voters defeated a proposition for a new school in that area.

"We have had a huge amount of growth in South Midland during the last 10 years," Lara said. "The growth has been astronomical, and there's still a need for schools that has not even been addressed."

District 2 has the average number of schools that all other MISD districts do, Warren said.

"There's no evidence that this school district has neglected District 2. I disagree with the notion that this board or myself has overlooked a group of kids," he said.

The few discussions school board members had about a South Side campus revolved around the fact that water, trash and sewer facilities would not extend to any sites.

However, Lara said those are weak arguments for deciding not to build a school on the South Side.

"Back in the 1980s and 1990s when they built Scharbauer, Santa Rita and Greathouse, those infrastructures weren't out there either," Lara said. "They can get the services out there, but they have to put in the infrastructure, which they've done before."

Delivering the letter was a formal way to ensure Warren and the board acknowledge the need for a South Side elementary school in the future, Sanchez said.

"Now that we've written this letter, no one can say they've never heard about it or weren't aware of it before, because that's what we've kept hearing," Sanchez said. "We're also going to make sure we elect the right person to represent District 2 and be more active with the board."

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 the Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)


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