Board discusses next step for Othello school bond

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OTHELLO — The next step for the Othello School District after the rejection of its construction bond was the subject of lengthy discussion at the Othello School Board meeting Monday.

The $61.4 million construction bond proposal was rejected in the Feb. 14 special election. The proposal needed 60 percent approval from participating voters to pass and received 53.24 percent, 748 “yes” votes and 657 “no” votes. The bond would have paid for a new elementary school, new middle school and upgrades at Othello High School.

“I guess the discussion we need to have is, where do we go from here?” asked board chair Rob Simmons.

The next time a bond proposal could be on the ballot would be April, but the proposal must be submitted to county election officials at least 45 days before the election. Othello missed that window, Simmons said. The other available election dates are the primary in August and the general election in November.

Board member Tony Ashton said 53 percent sounded like a relatively near miss, but in his opinion that was misleading. A lot of votes would have to change to change the result, he said.

Simmons said he was interested in a closer analysis of the results. “There are definite things we can do to find out what’s going on with our voters,” and would support surveying voters to find out their reasons for voting yes or no.

Board member Jenn Stevenson said she also favored an analysis of the results, looking at where the proposal ran well and where it didn’t. “Look at the where, and then possibly the why.”

But board member Tony Ashton said he would favor a different approach. “If the community supports the bond, it supports what the district is doing and they feel like our kids are successful.” Ashton said he understands there are people who don’t want to pay taxes. “I believe a bond passes if they (voters) think they’re making a good investment,” he said.

“Either we didn’t do a good enough job explaining how this improves our investment in our kids, or maybe we spent too much time talking about facilities and not enough time, as a district and as a board, talking about how we’re going to make kids successful.”

In his opinion, Ashton said, the board needs to start with its educational goals and work from there. If more buildings help the district reach those goals, then that should be the argument, he said.

“No survey, then?” Simmons asked.

“I don’t see any value in a survey myself,” Ashton said. In his opinion, he said, what mattered is that people voted “no.”

Board members Ken Johnson and Mike Garza said they favored a survey. “I’d like to know why they voted ‘no,’” Garza said.

Stevenson said in her opinion the board should play a larger role if there's another bond proposal, and Simmons agreed with that.

Board members will, Simmons said, have some time to think about it, since the next time the proposal could go before voters is August.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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