Posts Tagged ‘SPLOST’

And YES it is!

March 18, 2015

I told Muscogeee County School District Superintendent Dr. David Lewis after today’s Rotary Club of Columbus meeting, “You did it!” He smiled and said, “We did it.” 

He’s right, and I’m proud  of Columbus’ once again showing it supports its children and public education by approving the latest SPLOST.

And to those who voted “no,” I know that doesn’t mean you don’t support our children and their teachers. I hope you’ll accept that the majority has spoken. Now let’s pull together to make our school district as good as it can be.

 

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YES!

March 9, 2015

As I said before. I am going to vote for the Muscogee County School District SPLOST.

The school district does have its problems, but not providing adequate facilities and today’s technological learning tools is not going to solve them.

What will?

At the top of  my priority list is greatly reducing poverty.

How?

A lot of people  believe education is the answer.

It can’t be, though, if the kids don’t learn.

Why don’t they?

Bad teachers?

Are the best teachers assigned to top performing Columbus High and Britt David Magnets?

One teacher said, “Put those same teachers at Columbus High and Britt David in failing schools that are full of Title 1 kids and see how well they do.”

Kids with affluent, interested parents who read to them when they are pre-school, and support them intellectually and emotionally to help them meet high expectations when they go to school, for the most part,  perform much better than kids who don’t have that.  There are, of course, exceptions.

Public schools reflect society.

Anyway, public schools are the hope of  the future, and I’m going to support them. Hope you do, too.

 

 

SPLOST – Yes or No?

February 9, 2015

I am against the new SPLOST proposed by the Muscogee County School District School Board; however, I plan to vote for it next month.

I oppose it because it is a continuation of what is probably the most regressive of taxes, a sales tax.  Instead of “a regressive tax,” legislators of old called it the “poor man’s tax.”  A penny means a lot more to someone living on a minimum wage than someone who can afford to travel in his private jet.

So, if I’m not in favor of increasing the sales tax, why will I vote for the SPLOST? Because people, for reasons that I don’t understand, will more readily vote for a sales tax than a property or income tax increase.  The MCSD needs to do things like  building a new Spencer High School, providing better facilities for autistic students, repairing leaking roofs, buying some new busses, and other things.  It appears the only way of financing that is with a  sales tax. That’s reality.

As far as the Frank Myers  and John  Thomas opposition is concerned , I do have to say some of their concerns are worth considering. I see no reasons to pay for another audit when we already have two, but questioning the efficacy of some no-bid purchases is  reasonable; however, I don’t think that consideration should be used to trash the SPLOST. Yes, teachers do need a raise, but that comes from operational, not capital, budgets. You can place a great deal of the blame for the financial stress teachers are facing on a state legislature that has slashed public school budgets for more than a decade.

 

 

Would You Want Your Teenager to Play High School Football?

October 13, 2014

After learning that MCSD Superintendent David Lewis may propose building a new high school football stadium with new SPLOST money, I had to reflect on whether we should have high school  football.

“Concussion rates in the high school game are 78% higher than in college, according to  the Institute of Medicine,” reports an article in TIME, the same article that tells us that three high school players died within a week. A neurology professor says the teenage brain is still developing. The electrical wiring is not fully insulated. Neck muscles are weaker than college players.

When a University of Georgia player died from game injuries in 1897, the Georgia legislature passed a law banning college football.  The player’s mother asked the  governor  to veto the bill. He did.  Maybe he shouldn’t have.

If I had a teenager, would I want him to play high school football?  No. 

 

 

Why Jordan Auditorium Renovation is Special to a Lot of Folks

January 31, 2010

The architectural firm that will handle the renovation of the Jordan Vocational High School auditorium hasn’t been selected yet.  (It’s in the last 7 of the 15 SPLOST construction projects.  Architects for the first 9 projects were chosen Saturday.)  When it is selected, I am sure somebody will let its leader know just how important their project will be.  That’s not to say the other projects are unimportant, but we are talking some real history here.

1947 JVHS Red Jacket Band, Jordan auditorium, Columbus, Georgia

That Jordan auditorium, which, in my view, is probably still the most impressive of all of the high school auditoriums in Columbus,  not only served the Jordan student body, but was used by the Three Arts League and other organizations. For Columbus newcomers, or those not old enough to remember, the Three Arts League was an organization made up of  Columbus cultural leaders who brought in world-class symphony orchestras,  solo performers, and roadshow Broadway plays and musicals from the 1930’s to almost now.   I don’t recall when it was disbanded, but with the River Center now in operation, it’s not needed any more.  

I went to see a school play in the auditorum a couple of years ago and was impressed that it had a fairly adequate stage lighting system.  I’ll bet it dates back to when the Three Arts League used the auditorum. It probably needs some serious upgrading.  Hopefully, that will happen when the auditorium is renovated.

The Jordan stage was home for the famous Bob Barr Red Jacket Bands that won national awards in places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.   Barr was the band’s first professional director, coming to the school in 1946 and leaving in 1963.  I was a member of the original band that he started in 1946.   Band practice was the highlight of every day. He was a hard task master, but also very entertaining, doing such things as breaking his baton when we didn’t play something right.  It worked. The band went from 17 pieces to 75 in about six months and played Beethoven’s “Eroica” in its first public concert before the Jordan student body.  He could be mean as a snake, and his expectations were very high, but he got results, and everyone in the band that I knew loved him.  Success means a lot to emotionally charged high school kids.  Remember when you were one?

MCSD Board Member John Well’s Resolution Calls for the Board to Stay Out of the Architect’s Pool

January 13, 2010

When the Muscogee County School District Board meets Tuesday, the architect’s pool will not be on the agenda, but the subject will, because board member John Wells is going to introduce a resolution calling for  Superintendent Susan Andrews to select an architect for a particular job.  “She then will have to defend her choice, as she should.  If she can’t get five votes, the choice should not be approved, but I think she can.”

This means that the board would have nothing to do with the pool selection. He believes there can not be a consensus on pool selection,  because each member of the board has its own constituency. That doesn’t mean there will be no pool.  She can have one which is selected by the staff, but the board won’t have anything to do with it. 

Will his resolution fly? He doesn’t know.

It seems to me that it’s important that this issue be resolved soon. Waiting too long to get the Special Option Local Option Sales Tax projects started can be quite costly.  If the economy improves and prices start going up, construction costs will increase.  All you have to do is look at how the delay in constructing the Mildred Terry Library doubled the cost to know what can happen.

Should being Local Count for More When MCSD Selects Architects for SPLOST Projects?

January 10, 2010

Should local architects get more consideration than out-of town architects when the school board decides on who will design and monitor the building of new schools and school improvement projects that are funded by $223 million of SPLOST money?  Or, should it simply be a matter of who can do the best job for the most reasonable price regardless of where their home office is located? Those are questions the Muscogee County School Board could deal with during Monday’s work session.

When the board was presented with the nine architects who were selected to be in the pool of those considered for the SPLOST construction jobs, board member John Wells wanted to know why there were not more local architects.  Of the nine, only two were local.

School Board Chair Philip Schley told me that he, too, would like to see more local architectural firms in the pool.  He added, “”The 9 that were selected were the ones that made the cut. If we add more local firms, we will have to alter the criteria rules.”  

MCSD Construction Division Director Robert Hecht  also says he would like to see more local architects being considered. However, proximity was a factor that was considered when the nine were selected.   5 percent of the grade was proximity to a building site.  30 percent of the grade was a firm’s prior record of experience in the planning and design of school building team members qualifications. 20 percent was consideration of a firm’s ability to provide services in a timely manner consistent with the schedule.  Another 20 percent is references satisfactory to owner, which in this case in the school board. 5 percent is a firm’s Leed certification experience with school building projects. Leed sets up criteria for building environmentally friendly buildings. And 20 percent of the weighting process is a firm’s value engineering quality assurance  approach and cost estimating methodology.  Using that weighting system,  the committee came up with the nine in the pool.

If the school board decides it wants more local architects in the pool, Hecht says he is prepared to add more.

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A Moment to Reflect on the Education SPLOST Victory

September 16, 2009

We’ll get back to our Media in Transition series shortly, but first, a comment on the education SPLOST that Columbus voters approved. 

First of all, hats off to Columbus attorney Frank Myers who worked tirelessly to get the SPLOST passed. He didn’t front the campaign, but he was very busy behind the scenes doing things like getting TV commercials made. 

The real hero, though, is Superintendent Susan Andrews.  She put her reputation on the line to get voters to approve the penny tax for Columbus’ schools. Obviously, she got impressive support.  Now she has to deliver.  She can’t do it alone, though. She needs a lot of help, the kind she got yesterday, and not just from the public, but,  from the school board, too. They also have to deliver.

Why I Am Voting for the Education SPLOST

September 10, 2009

Some of the complaints about the Muscogee County school system are, in my view, justified. That doesn’t change the fact that the system is going to get about 4,000 additional students over the next few years as Fort Benning’s troop strength increases.  New schools will simply have to be built to accommodate the influx, and old schools have to be renovated and maintained. 

Most people realize that education goes beyond core classroom courses.  Art, music, and sports play a key role in overall education. I have no problem with $17 million of the SPLOST money going to building new and upgrading old sports facilities.  I certainly have no complaint about the creation of an Arts Academy.  Being in the great Bob Barr Jordan High band was an extremely important learning experience for me, one that included music, but was by no means limited to that. It taught self-discipline, team work, and the desire to achieve. 

Our new superintendent, Dr. Susan Andrews, promises to work diligently to correct the problems facing the schools that are, in my view, being left behind because so many of the kids in them are from poor families. She recognizes that poverty is a great handicap for children, but she believes they can still learn, and she will intensify an effort to see that they do.  We need to give her that chance.  

Yes, it is for our kids.  Yes, it is for the future of our city. I am voting for the education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.  I hope you will join me.

$17,750,000 of E-SPLOST Money Will Go to Athletic Facilities Improvements

August 10, 2009

A NEW $7 MILLION STADIUM,  A NEW $5 MILLION GYM,  AND OTHER  UPGRADES FOR ATHLETIC FACILITIES WOULD BE FINANCED BY NEW E-SPLOST

When I was growing up in Columbus, all of the school football games were played at Memorial Stadium.  Now,  seven are played there, and 40 at Kinnett Stadium, which is much smaller.   Seven games is all the system can get at Memorial because of other events there.  The City of Columbus owns the stadium,  but the school district owns Kinnett.

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr, Gary Gibson, Director of  Athletics for the MCSD says Kinnett is used so much that it needs artificial turf for the football, soccer, lacrosse field,  and a new 9-lane track, plus a new scoreboard, and sound system.  He wants $17, 750, 000 of the proposed Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax to pay for improving Kinnett stadium and other projects,  including a small, new stadium at Brewer Elementary. That stadium, plus a track, tennis courts,  and parking will cost $7,500,000. 

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

The Brewer Stadium will be small,  but Dr. Gibson says, “There are a number of games that don’t draw very large crowds.    Kinnett will hold about six thousand people,  and Memorial Stadium seats about 16,000.  There are games that just don’t draw crowds that large.”

He says the Brewer stadium, which, like Kinnett,  will be used for football, soccer, and lacrosse,  will take some pressure off Kinnett.

The total cost for Kinnett upgrades is $2,750,000.

Part of the Kinnett expenditure will go for a new scoreboard to replace the broken and obsolete one now in use,  and for a new sound system. The old sound system doesn’t work any more. Portable speakers are brought in and mounted on top of the press box  for games.  Dr. Gibson says, “The new scoreboard will be better, but not in the class with the high-tech ones at schools like Valdosta High, which have digital screens that show instant replays.”

Kinnett Stadium obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Kinnett Stadium's obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium-sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Dr. Gibson has greater plans for Kinnett,  but realizes that the SPLOST won’t cover those expenses.  For one thing, he wants to build a new dressing room facility.  “The old one is inadequate,” he says.  “It will only hold about 20 members of each team so the coaches have to talk to them at half time by having the offensive team in for one session, and the defensive for another one.” 

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, or showers,  and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, nor showers, and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

He hopes  to pay for the new locker room facility and other upgrades with what he calls licensing.  Businesses or individuals can license a facility, which means they will get its name on it  by making a financial contribution.  He said, “You know, maybe the new locker room could be the Aflac Locker Room.  The renovated press box could be the Synovus Press Box, for instance, and so on.”  While explaining that idea, he emphasized how greatful the system is to the Kinnett family for its contributions in getting the stadium built.

But, all of that will have to wait.  The projects that the SPLOST will pay for have the top priority. 

Besides the big ticket items at Kinnett and Brewer,  Fort Middle School will get a new system-wide gymnasium that will have four locker rooms, and seat 2,500 people for $5,000,000.

Spencer will get $650,000 improvements, including track and baseball field upgrades, and a new softball field.

Northside, Jordan, and Kendrick will get track upgrades, costing $200,00 each.  

Columbus High will get $200,000 for an upgrade of the softball field at Lakebottom.

And the new Carver High school will receive $825,000 for its baseball and softball fields, and a warm-up track around the football practice field.

What does he have to say to those who say that academics should come first. Is it a good idea to spend all that money on sports?

“Studies have shown,” he told me, “that students who participate in programs, on average, perform better in academics than those who don’t. Also, schools with good athletic programs have fewer behavioral problems. And programs engender strong school spirit, uniting students and faculty to support he school teams.”

I think he’s right.  Bands do that, too.  I told him about the Bob Barr Alumni Band doing a memorial half-time show at Kinnett a few years ago and the huge crowd that it attracted at a Jordan-Columbus football game. Dr. Gibson said he understood the importance of music programs.  He said,  “While I was a high school athlete, I also played the piano and sang in the chorus.” 

I said, “That’s good. In other words, you were well rounded.” 

He replied, “My mother insisted on it!”