Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Did voters reject the East Valley bond to try to save middle school?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Lately, even among ideal conditions, it hasn’t been easy to pass a school bond — a property tax increase in order to fund capital improvements. Bonds at Central Valley and Mead school districts both failed last February. But those bonds didn’t have nearly as big of a hill to climb as East Valley. After all, a bond hasn't passed there since 1996. Four consecutive bonds have failed.

Make that five. Last night, over 60 percent of Valley residents voted “no” on a new bond, which would have renovated five elementary schools, added 40 new classrooms and four gymnasiums, and used the East Valley Middle School building for administration, maintenance and as an enrichment center.

In this case, however, there may be more at work than a depressed economy and anti-tax sentiment.

In East Valley, Superintendent John Glenewinkel wanted to eliminate middle school. And the board approved his plan to do it.

He pointed to research indicating that a kindergarten-through-8th-grade model showed a number of benefits, but several parents (afraid the rougher side of middle school would spread to the younger kids) began to vocally oppose it.

We covered it all here.

Back in January, Glenewinkel told us two things: 1) A bond passing would be one indication of community support for his plan, and 2) Even if the bond didn’t pass, the district would still eliminate middle school. It would be more difficult without the funds to rebuild the school, but it would still happen.

But a lot of parents didn’t believe that last point. Opponents printed hundreds of yard signs against the bond, saying things like “Public School Closing Ahead – Vote No” and “Stop Rent Increases, Vote No.”

Last night, Parent Stacy Montoya celebrated the bond’s failure on the Facebook page of EAST VALLEY – CITIZENS FOR ACCOUNTABLE EDUCATION, writing, “Rejected 61.35% voted against the bond -- 500 votes still out but it looks like a victory!”

Montoya says there’s been a breakdown of trust with the district.

“I’ve been told the school district has said they didn’t get the word out enough. I disagree,” Montoya says. “I think the people of Spokane have spoken. They don’t want it.”

“It,” in this case, refers to the transition to a K-8 model. Montoya voted against the bond to stop that transition. So did Darren Stutzke. Art Tupper, a former teacher who has been at the forefront of the opposition to Glenewinkel’s plan, says he hopes, after this vote, that the administration will sit down and try to find a better way.

We have a call in to Glenewinkel to ask him what’s next for his plan. We’ll update you when we hear back.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...