Letter to the Editor: John Graff Delivers Thanks, Statement on District 308's Near Future
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With heartfelt respect to the five communities that make up District 308, the vote last night has little to do about the extraordinary educational experience we offer our children and everything to do with scare tactics, misrepresentation and voter apathy.
Over the course of the next year, this board will face issues that have not been front and center during this election. They have to negotiate our contracts with all our unions, they have to deal with a transportation budget that has been slashed at the State level, they have to adhere to performance benchmarks for education that currently 9 out of 10 high schools in this state do not meet. They have elementary schools bulging at the seems that require additional classrooms or radically alter our boundaries. They have a State that is incapable of passing a budget, even with a 67 percent increase in our income tax. The third high school is one of many, pressing issues this board will be facing in the near term.
Now, we have three new members of the board with no School Board experience, who ran on the idea of halting the third high school. We have two board members with Union ties (one, a West Aurora physics teacher, the other a spouse of a District 308 employee), how will that affect our ability to come to terms on the forthcoming OEA agreement?
As a parent of an incoming High School student in the next few years, how do you feel about sending your child to a construction zone to attend high school? How will you feel when they cannot get on a high school sports team or in the band? These are real questions to consider.
In (2006), the voters of our district, by overwhelming majority (many more than elected this new slate) gave District 308 bonding authority of $450 million to build schools to meet the educational needs of our children. To date, we have issued only $166 million of the $450 million, of which, we have spent only $134 million. We did not waste anything, rather we invested dollars that have a direct and measured benefit to the communities we serve. Our focus has always been for the children of this district and, no, it is not just a catch phrase, it is a core foundational principle!
As we approach the pending transition to this new board, it is incumbent on us to take a more active and vocal role in this process of education for our children. 2,700 votes in a district of close to 30,000 or more registered voters does not a majority make. The majority of our school district voters did not choose you, your friends and neighbors did.
That being said, you hold the ability to right the ship, if you feel the third high school is not necessary now, but in the near future, as each of you repeatedly said, issue the bonds, close the purchase agreement on the property, and build the third high school. Do not Band-Aid the two high schools, determine alternate paths that do not cost this district and its taxpayers an unnecessary $50 million dollars. You will do an injustice to our children, their parents and all the taxpayers of this district.
In closing, it has been my honor and privilege to serve as a School Board member these past eight years. We faced insurmountable challenges during that time and I am honored to have been a steward for its success. I appreciate all the notes and call of kindness and gratitude since last night and am humbled by them.
To all members of the voting body that make-up this District, the next Board election is in two years and it is your responsibility to exercise your constitutional right to vote, so please do so for yourself, our children and the communities we serve.
John H. Graff, Oswego