Monday, February 05, 2001

Schools try bond issue again

Lebanon board hopes new openness opens wallets By Jennifer Mrozowski The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Past years' community distrust of the Lebanon City School District administration has made school bond issues difficult to pass. The present school board is counting on its recent openness and community involvement initiatives to help a $50 million bond issue for new facilities fly in May.

        The bond issue comes at a critical time.

        This 4,500-student district in Ohio's second-fastest-growing county is adding about 100 students each school year. New home construction is constant, and some classes are housed in trailers.

        The school system also has to contend with a slowing economy and rising heating costs, which may affect how people vote, said Superintendent Bill Sears.

        Christi Hall, the parent of 10- and 4-year-old children in the district, said she'll vote yes for the bond issue.

        “As far as communication goes, I think they've done a great job,” said Mrs. Hall, also a member of the Lebanon bicentennial committee.

        School officials soon will learn whether their openness will be enough to pass the bond issue.

        “We learned we have to communicate more frequently,” said board member Katie Poitinger, who was on the board when bond issues failed in May 1997 and November 1996. “We also knew we needed to have good community involvement. That is a major shift.”

        District officials have no choice, Mr. Sears said: They need new schools.

        The district has modular units at Dunlavy and Holbrook elementaries, Donovan Intermediate and at the high school. “We're at capacity. We're using every classroom every period,” Mr. Sears said.

        It's not enough to convince Darryl Davenport, who has a child in college. He said Sunday he won't support the bond issue but would back an income tax proposal.

        “Property taxes affect older people on fixed incomes,” Mr. Davenport said. “And a lot of people have farms.”

        Mr. Sears took the helm of the district in mid-1999. Within a month, he suggested holding community forums. After three months, he began coordinating random phone polling of residents on their perceptions of the school district. About 200 people showed up for each of two forums on the school district's facilities and program needs.

        The board's next steps: knocking on doors, sending out fliers and speaking to community groups.

        But a key component has been and will be the Superintendent's Community Council — a 30-plus group of educators, community members, politicians and business leaders. Mr. Sears organized the group last fall, and he's counting on its members to reach their corners of the community.


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