At last week's Round Rock School Board Meeting, the Trustees and Administration went on an interesting spending spree. Last year, School Superintendent Jesus Chavez was telling anyone who would listen that any cuts to the State Education budget would be devastating to his schools and that the district would be forced to lay off teachers. This year, however, the district seems to have discovered some extra money. Lots of it.
Apparently the district has some funds leftover from the 2008 bond package, $36.5 million, to be exact. In addition, board members noted that they have another $22.5 million lying about for spending.
While some of the funds will go to a roof repair for Grisham Middle School, the board voted to spend $46.4 million to build two additional wings at Round Rock High School. The reason? Due to growth and the way the district has been zoned, RRHS is on-track to be over-crowded. (As is Stony Point High School, and Cedar Ridge High School is already over capacity.) The new wings will 'super-size' Round Rock High School to 4,142 students.
The solution the board has embraced is a marked deviation from previously stated ISD goals to keep high schools below 2,400 students. What is especially disturbing about this move is that the board did not hold any public hearings or take public comments about this shift in planning for RRHS. Do parents want a mega-high school? Were any studies done in conjunction with the City of Round Rock regarding traffic flow in and around the school?
Oddly enough, Superintendent Chavez told the board last fall that the next most urgent need for the district would be an additional middle school. Right now four different elementarys are feeding into Cedar Valley Middle School which will very soon be over-crowded. Why isn't the district using the bond funds to address the most urgent needs?
Could it be that the Administration and some board members know that voters would not approve some of these projects? Another pet project still on the table is the construction of a $25 million 'Success High School' for about 600 at-risk students (thus boosting academic ratings at other schools). As one Trustee noted at the April 24 board meeting, voters just "don't understand' about these projects.
So they have to sneak them in?
Of course, once Cedar Valley Middle School is bursting at the seems, then the voters are more likely to approve a new bond package for construction.
These projects may well be justified, but shouldn't the parents and taxpayers have been involved in the surprise spending of over $46 million?
On a final note, the lone dissenting vote was cast by the ostracized Terri Romere. Is no one else listening to the families of Round Rock?
I guess on the upside, it's good to know that RRISD doesn't have any fund shortages...