|Bonham ISD Board of Trustees expected to ask voters to fund school improvements Nov. 3
By Allen Rich
Aug 11, 2009
Indications are that a unified Bonham School Board will soon make a decision to ask voters to go the polls and approve a bond issue that would allow Bonham ISD to make notable improvements at several campuses.
The most likely scenario would call for a bond referendum during the general election in November and there are several reasons school officials feel it is in the district’s best interest to target a date only 11 weeks away.
Perhaps the most important reason is that this decision would have the undivided attention of Bonham ISD voters on November 3, 2009. A hotly contested gubernatorial race is expected in 2010. At some point in the future, voters in Bonham and across Fannin County will go to the polls to decide the fate of the Fannin County Courthouse restoration. Bonham school board members would prefer to make school improvements the focus of local voters instead of sharing the ballot with several difficult decisions.
Another important reason this might be the right time is that Bonham ISD performed well in Texas Education Agency campus and district accountability ratings. Finley-Oates Elementary School received a rating of Exemplary from TEA, I.W. Evans Intermediate received a rating of Recognized, while Bonham High School and L.H. Rather both received ratings of Academically Acceptable.
“The teachers have worked hard, the administration has worked hard and the students have worked hard,” remarked board member Jim Simpson.
“We have to, at some point, ask our county to support our kids,” superintendent Sonny Cruse stated.
“We’re asking the kids to perform, but we’re not giving them what they need,” echoed Linda Staton.
As the former principal at Finley-Oates and the current principal at L.H. Rather, Mrs. Staton is capable of offering unique insight into the challenges that teachers, students and administrators face at those two schools.
At their next regular meeting scheduled for August 18, the Bonham Board of Trustees expect to release definite information about the date of the election as well as the dollar amount voters will be asked to approve. School officials have until September 2 to get this issue on the November 3 general election ballot.
One of the obvious challenges facing those in favor of campus improvements at Bonham ISD is educating voters about what they see as a glaring need to bring facilities up to par with other districts in the county. Just drive around the county, an audience member suggested, and look at the relatively new schools in Trenton, Leonard, Honey Grove and Savoy. Dodd City, Sam Rayburn and Ector all offer students impressive facilities as well. Particularly in a county where all the school districts usually allow students to transfer, a healthy competition exists to attract students.
Representatives from Claycomb Associates, Architects have been retained by Bonham ISD because of the firm’s extensive experience with master planning, bond elections and architectural expertise.
“The county will support what they understand,” said Claycomb’s Dixie Parris, adding that this could potentially be the 58th bond election in which her services have been enlisted. “I’m not a rookie at this.”
One important point Parris made was the need to explain that voters past the age of 65 have their taxes frozen regardless of fluctuations in property evaluations.
If voters will back the school board’s decision, a very different district could begin to take shape. Board members repeatedly stated that district-wide improvements were not only necessary, but would even encourage greater support for the bond election.
Although plans are very tentative at this juncture, here are some of the changes Bonham ISD Board of Trustees is considering.
Bailey Inglish would be solely dedicated to Pre-K students.
A new I.W. Evans Intermediate School would be co-located beside L.H. Rather Junior High on the west side of Main Street. Having the two schools side by side would allow them the cost-saving option of sharing some facilities.
The building that currently houses I.W. Evans, considered to be the facility with the most troubling issues, would be renovated and turned into offices for administrative personnel.
“We’re the nomads,” Supt. Cruse said.
Students enrolled in the Disciplinary Action Program would make the move from Stephenson School in south Bonham to share space with administration in the old I.W. Evans building.
Any remaining funds would be directed to Bonham High School. Instead of prolonging continuous repairs to an aging facility, board members seem to prefer constructing new buildings that can be added onto in the future.
“We are only as good as our schools are,” remarked Bonham Mayor Roy Floyd. “I think it is what Bonham deserves and what Bonham will support.”
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