Bond cost $21.85 millionPublished 10:18pm Thursday, January 26, 2012
Dowagiac Board of Education put a price tag of borrowing $21.85 million to implement by fall 2015 the educational plan developed to restructure the school system into three buildings with five schools.
The school board, which met in special session at City Hall Thursday evening, pending state approval, is expected to call a bond election Feb. 22 to occur May 8 for 2.7 mills. April 9 would be the last day to register to vote.
Commenting it makes “dollars and sense,” Supt. Dr. Mark Daniel said, “We as a school district have to find ways to improve the learning of our students. We know there are best practices and shining examples of success throughout our district. But we also know we have to improve the overall learning of our students.”
Gathering input from community leaders and stakeholders, including students, began Feb. 28, 2011, with storyboarding “The Disney Way.”
Adding a two-level high school onto the 2005 middle school, making Union High two schools for pre-kindergarten through third grade and using Patrick Hamilton for fourth and fifth grades will “get the most out of our building leaders, our teacher expertise and the benefits of their working together, leveling class sizes, updating and using 21st century technology — especially the internet — and using equipment that engages students and keeps their interest. These are reasons that make sense.”
As it stands, as many as half of students who start kindergarten do not graduate with their class as seniors. Retaining them would make Dowagiac a growing district. Each student who leaves drains the district of $6,874 in state aid.
“In 2012-2013,” Daniel said, “we’re looking at 247 kindergarteners and 132 seniors.”
Daniel said this proposal “needs to make certain we are using the dollars we have based on state funding we are receiving today — not what we received in the past. Every school district is trying to find ways to cut expenses. We are no different. What is exciting about Dowagiac is that we are finding ways to be more cost-efficient while being cost-effective. We are finding ways to improve students achievement so we are a ‘one in a hundred’ school district,” such as performance contracting to finance some improvements from energy savings.
Daniel, who serves on a community committee working to recruit physicians, said, “One of the major considerations for these prospective physicians to move to Dowagiac is the quality of our schools. As go schools, so go property values and economic growth of our community.”
President Larry Seurynck said, “Every classroom in Dowagiac will be renovated or new for every student in the district, with appropriate technology and integrated horizontally. All third-graders can be working on the same thing at the same time in the same building. Students come through more consistently than with different skill levels coming out of each building. By third grade, discipline problems are way down because causes are handled.”
Attrition would adjust staffing. “Nobody will lose their job over this, but we won’t have to hire to replace” with construction not starting until 2013, Seurynck said, adding, “It’s a great time to go out for bids.”
A preliminary bond application passed on a motion by Michelle Helmuth, supported by Mark Dobberstein, Seurynck, Claudia Zebell, Stacy Leversen and Julia Smith. Ronda Sullivan was absent.
Tags: Dowagiac Union Schools