By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman voters will consider a $126 million, five-year bond issue Feb. 11 in two proposals.
To make sure they had all the facts beforehand, League of Women Voters of Norman members invited Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano to discuss the future of Norman Public Schools and the 2014 bond issue Wednesday at their Hot Topic Lunch.
The bond issue is the largest ever proposed in the school district’s history. For the bond issue to pass,it must carry a vote of 60 percent.
Voters will be asked to approve one proposal representing $122.5 million for renovations, safety and security, technology, athletics and annual expenditure projects, as well as a separate $3.5 million proposal for transportation. State law requires transportation be a separate proposal in school bond elections.
The $126 million bond issue is not expected to raise or lower taxes because other bonds will have been paid off by the time the new bond would hit the tax rolls. Additionally, by law, the bond issue is only allowed to be spent on capital investments. All bond issue projects will be completed in three years.
“We believe in a comprehensive approach to our school system,” Siano said. “The kids in school now will get to take advantage of the bond issue projects.”
Although the bond issue encompasses 90 projects, Siano focused on three key initiatives: maintaining current facilities with renovations and additions, technology and freshman academies and university centers in both high schools.
Siano said the district needed to maintain what it already has, which is why 47 percent of the bond issue would be applied to school facility additions and renovations.
“People may say, ‘What’s so exciting about new roofs?’ But it is pretty exciting for the teachers who have leaking roofs,” he said.
Siano said that this bond issue would continue to minimize the use of temporary buildings.
“With growth in our district, we will probably always have temporary buildings, but they are only meant to be a bridge until we can build permanent buildings like with this bond.”
The second large initiative that Siano discussed was bond dollars that would be spent on technology if the bond issue passes. Eighteen percent is dedicated to technology.
The bond issue would be used to purchase new technology for every school site, upgrade the district’s network and technological infrastructure and maintain and replace, as needed, the district’s current technology.
Siano said the bond issue would allow the district to move in the direction of eTextbooks where applicable. Also, additional technology could help with testing by using online assessments.
“Right now, we have to stop instruction to complete testing,” he said. “With technology upgrades, this wouldn’t have to happen.”
The last initiative Siano focused on was freshman academies and university centers. The 2009 bond issue focused on middle and elementary schools, and Siano said both Norman High and Norman North are in need of additional classrooms. The 2014 bond issue would spend about $44 million between both high schools.
“Freshman entering schools don’t look the same as seniors,” he said.
He said Norman Public Schools doesn’t loose students as seniors but as freshmen and that the district hoped to lessen this with the addition of a freshman academy. The bond issue would create a transitional environment that integrates freshmen into the high school atmosphere and provides students with more support.
Currently, the way NPS teaches freshmen and seniors looks the same, Siano said. The university centers created by the bond issue would help accustom seniors to having more autonomy.
“We want our seniors’ experience to be similar to where they’re going, not where they’ve been,” Siano said. The university centers would extend seniors’ learning opportunities and allow for more collaboration between students.
Additionally, Siano said equity played a big role in all bond dollar decisions.
“Whether you’re at our newest school, Reagan, or you’re at an older building, we have an obligation, once you get into that building, to provide access to the same opportunities,” he said. “Every school is impacted by this bond issue.”
Siano encouraged League of Women Voters attendees to vote for the 2014 bond issue.
“I think bond issues fail in communities because people get busy and think it will just pass. If you can support it, please do,” he said.
David Hooper, former Norman City Council member, said he thought Siano did a good job explaining the bond issue and that he would vote in favor of it.
Cathy Buchwald, retired NPS principal, said she too would vote in favor of the bond issue.
“The school district did a really good job of identifying needs and priorities,” Buchwald said. “It makes sense and seems like it will benefit students.”
To vote in favor of the bond issue, early in-person voting will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 6 and 7 at the Cleveland County Election Board. Polls will open at 7 a.m. Feb. 11 and close at 7 p.m.
Registration to vote closed last Friday, 24 days before the election, as required by law. Sample ballots are available at the Cleveland County Election Board website.
The Cleveland County Election Board is at 641 E. Robinson St., Suite 200.
For more information, call 366-0210 or visit clevelandcountyelectionboard.
For more information, videos, brochures and the Superintendent’s PowerPoint about the bond issue, visit norman.k12.ok.us/
For more information about the League of Women Voters of Norman, visit norman.ok.lwvnet.org.
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