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Proposition S Chair: "Students, Staff Will Benefit by Voting Yes"

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: "As Rockwood School District parents and residents, we recognize the vast needs of our schools," says a Rockwood parent, who heads a group that is supporting the $38.4M no-tax increase bond issue on the April 2 ballot.

Rockwood School District Voters:

For more than 10 years, my family has been part of the Rockwood School District, and I have been involved in many of the district's efforts. Most recently, I was asked to head up the 2013 Prop S Bond Issue Committee, and of course, I said yes, to further show my support of the district and this initiative.

I know how important this bond issue is to district families. Our community needs to pass a bond issue to make improvements to the schools. While funding remains a concern for many school districts, this bond issue will assist in providing safety, technology and facility improvements, which will continue to assist Rockwood School District in being a premiere school district.

We, as members of the Prop S committee, toured the schools that were on the bond issue list for major improvements, and see firsthand the district and school needs. Dennis Griffith (Rockwood assistant superintendent/director of administrative services) took us on a tour of these schools, where we were able to see the needed improvements, and speak with the employees.

Prop S Projects

Funding from Prop S will provide safety, technology and facility improvements throughout the Rockwood School District. Descriptions for some of the major school improvement projects included on Prop S follow.

Project:  Renovate Stanton Elementary School’s Kitchen
Why this renovation is needed: 
With approximately 525 students, Stanton’s kitchen currently does not have the space to store enough food to feed students on a daily basis because the kitchen lacks any walk-in coolers. As a result, supplies must be ordered on a weekly basis, which causes a back-order for frozen items. Delivery drivers often make additional trips to neighboring schools to pick up food to serve the Stanton Elementary students. In addition, the kitchen lacks a storage closet. When deliveries are made, items are put in the kitchen manager’s small office and with limited space; this is a safety concern. The kitchen staff also only has an antiquated stove and have to come in earlier to make school breakfasts. There is also only one dated warmer to store the food after cooking, which is not enough for the cafeteria demands.

Project:  Renovate Uthoff Valley Elementary School’s Cafeteria
Why this renovation is needed:  With a student population of more than 480 students, Uthoff Valley must hold five lunch shifts between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to serve lunch to all students. With limited space, the school does not have a storage area. In addition, tables are used to hide a refrigerator that is stored at one end of the cafeteria. A make-shift wall is used to hide the floor cleaner, which is stored in the same space. The custodian’s office is in a small cramped supply cleaning closet near the cafeteria. Overall, the school has outgrown its current cafeteria space and renovations are needed to better serve the students and school employees. 

Project:  Renovate Eureka High School’s Locker Room
Why this renovation is needed:  Eureka’s locker rooms can only accommodate one-third of the school’s student population. Students have to carry their books and clothes with them to PE. Students are often late for class as there is not enough room for all the kids to be in the locker room at one time. The facilities were built in 1971 and then renovated in 1983 when Eureka had around 700 students. Today, Eureka has more than 1,990 students. In addition to the lack of space, the locker rooms are not handicap accessible and have poor ventilation. Renovation of these facilities will benefit the entire student population as the locker rooms are used on a daily basis for physical education classes as well as athletic programs. 

Project:  Update Eureka Elementary School’s electrical wiring and renovate its kitchen and cafeteria
Why these projects are needed:  The school’s electrical units are supported on three poles located at the back entrance of this school. This area is where parents pick-up and drop-off their children each day as well as staff parking. With funding from Prop S, the school will be able to put the electrical units underground, making the entrance safer for students, parents and staff.

Coupled with this need, the school’s kitchen and cafeteria spaces are too small to serve the needs of the students. There is only enough space for one person to walk through on each side of the kitchen. There are not enough ovens to cook more food or to keep the food that is cooked warm; there is also only one table to prepare their food. The kitchen staff needs more space to accommodate their breakfast and lunch routines. Currently, only three classes, or around 70 students, can be served lunch at the same time because of a lack of seating in the cafeteria, as well as the lack of ovens to cook food for students. Food has to be ordered and delivered on a daily basis, as there is no place to store it. When there is a higher demand for a certain item for the day, calls have to be made to other schools to get more food at the last minute. Similar to Stanton Elementary, delivery drivers often have to make additional trips to neighboring schools to pick-up food to serve the students at Eureka Elementary. 

Although not all of the schools are receiving major projects, such as those just listed, here are the other items Prop S will cover for several schools in Rockwood:

Updates for security cameras (network wiring upgrade); Additional security cameras (200); Generator interface to buildings (back up for phone system); Improved visitor ID security; Check-in center upgrades; New lock system for interior classroom doors; Computer/Network wiring upgrades; Maintenance on projectors, audio, and SMART boards; Upgrades to network switches, access points and server storage; Fire alarm and electrical system upgrades; Fire sprinkler/code compliance; Roofing renovations; Upgrades and structural masonry repairs; Mechanical system replacements and energy savings improvements initiatives; Safety repairs and upgrades for bleachers and gym flooring; Safety improvements for play area surfaces, parking, and sidewalks; Infrastructure improvements; Upgrades to perimeter fences and walls; Upgrades to front entrances and cafeterias; Public address system upgrades.

As Rockwood School District parents and residents, we recognize the vast needs of our schools. Our students and staff will benefit by Voting Yes on Prop S.

Be sure to vote Yes on Prop S on Tuesday, April 2.   

Sincerely,

Rhonda Costa
Ballwin
Chair, Proposition S Committee

David Miller March 31, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Writing as a taxpayer and parent of two students in Rockwood, I simply do not trust them with millions of more dollars after the State Auditor has documented poor fiscal management. Changes in leadership need to occur before I will vote to give them more money. It's a difficult decision but I'm voting NO on Prop S. Here's a great quote from another recent Patch article that I feel sums this situation up perfectly: "This school district has strange priorities and, when the administration gets cornered, it tries the old guilt-trip with “it’s for our children!” In truth, this election IS about the kids. Our kids deserve to exist in an environment of ethics, leadership, and accountability. We need to elect new members to the BOE to ensure better decision-making in the future, thereby reestablishing the trust of the community and providing a positive example for students."
Tim March 31, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Why did they waste all the construction money on all the new entrances they just built at most of the schools, while all these "dire needs" went unattended to? They had to waste lots of money so the schools would look good for their pleasure. I don't believe anything this board says, so I will be voting no this time around.
Thomas Paine March 31, 2013 at 01:39 PM
I am writing as a concerned taxpayer and Rockwood parent. I plan to vote Yes for Proposition S. The Prop is the Prop and it should stand on its own merits. As for accountability, the small "RS for RS" group, of which Mr. Miller is a self-identified member (via Patch comments), has distorted the audit findings to promote its self-avowed agenda of defeating the bond issue. The Board has their own election on Tuesday, and each of us should vote our conscience. But we also cast a ballot for Proposition S. Please don't let this group entangle the two. The district needs the bond levy.
Thomas Paine March 31, 2013 at 03:47 PM
It is important to recognize the volunteers who's effort stands behind the Prop S bond proposal. Thank you Ms. Costa for your hard work, and thanks also to the many additional volunteers whom you represent. We rely on the self-sacrifice of informed and engaged volunteers to support our school district's needs and help bring district goals to fruition. Prop S represents the outcome of significant effort. Going into its make-up is information gleaned from numerous face-to-face discussions with stakeholders, as well as the outcome of 500 online survey results, 400 telephone survey results, and 740 patron feedback forms. Although the district is quite large, this demonstrates the commitment by leadership to include as many in the process as possible.
A M Speaker March 31, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Rhonda, thank you for heading up the Prop S committee, and for stating everything above so clearly. Artie, thank you for your continuous positive posts and support. I too will be voting yes on S. I've seen the needs first hand, I've educated myself on the processes, I've spoken to people at various levels. In short, I see the bigger picture. I feel like voting no based on 'timing' or 'trust issues' at this point in the game only serves to 'make a point' that has already thoroughly been made. It only serves to keep us standing still and looking backwards. It solves nothing. We have to move forward. It's time to vote yes.
Eileen Tyrrell March 31, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Rhonda, Thank you for heading up the Prop S committee. Since moving to Rockwood in the Fall of 2007, I have supported both the 2008 and 2010 Bond Issues, putting my faith and trust in district leadership that the projects most critical to meet the needs of educating our children we the priority. Unfortunately, that is not what was happening. Not until I began working with a conscientious group of citizens on ways to keep our district fiscally responsible and accountable, did I discover how many of our district leaders, past and present were allowed to operate with no checks and balances regarding bond construction, credit cards, district vehicles, hiring practices and contracting biding. Many of these issues were brought to district officials attention long before Mr. Schweich and his team began their audit, no real accountability or action was taken to rectify the problems. My NO Vote on Prop S is for the kids! I agree with the gentlemen who posted in Patch yesterday; "Our kids deserve to exist in an environment of ethics, leadership, and accountability. We need to elect new members to the BOE to ensure better decision-making in the future, thereby reestablishing the trust of the community and providing a positive example for students."
Nancy Robinson March 31, 2013 at 08:22 PM
I respect Rhonda for doing what she feels to do by heading up the committee for Prop S. However, I do not feel this is the right time for Rockwood School District to ask the voters to approve another bond issue. In good faith, tax payers have already approved $225.5 million in 4 bond issues over the last 10 years. That may not seem like much to some, but the truth of the matter is, whether it is $38.4 million that we are asking of the community or $3.8 million, in our current economy, many families in the District are having to tighten their belts and make some tough decisions with their own finances. We need to be careful before we can ask the community to take on more debt for the school district. We must acknowledge that the issues uncovered with the audit are valid and many of the problems would have continued had the Audit not found these deficiencies. We need to get our financial house in order and tighten up the way Rockwood School District has managed our money for these many years. In the mean time, we have a surplus of $16 million. Part of those funds can be used on the projects that Rhonda described that are most pressing. We can't always take on more debt to fix a problem. I say wait. Implement the Auditor's recommendations so we can streamline our system and procedures. Have the Auditor review those recommendations and move forward smarter and better then we were before.
Mathew March 31, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Just to clarify, the auditor did not identify wasted spending in RSD. And to provide perspective the $225.5M in capital spending over the last ten years, averaged-out, represents less than 10% of the current operations budget. It includes computers, whiteboards, other IT spend, expansion of school space due to Rockwood population growth, roofing work, etc. For a district with 30 schools, some quite old (oldest build 1938), the figure is not unreasonable. The last prop failed despite a majority. The auditor did find issues with several processes and procedures, as he found issue with every single one of the ~15 or so audit reports that are available for reading online, representing school districts large and small, and non-school institutions as well. And the auditor's single word score incorporates the number of issues found, some listed as "potential" issues, and larger institutions, unsurprisingly, scored worse than smaller institutions. No surprise that one finds more issues with larger institutions than smaller ones. As for putting off the bond proposal, will these items become any cheaper or just add to the backlog? At least one (not Nancy) here argues vehemently against Prop S, while elsewhere complaining that not-included capital work for their child's school should be undertaken. Mental gymnastics here. Going forward do we form small interest groups and attack bond proposals because they do not address our own preferred projects? Happening now...
David Miller April 01, 2013 at 03:33 AM
The Missouri State Auditor’s report identified multiple areas of deficiencies resulting in a rating of “Fair” – only one step above the lowest rating of “Poor”. NOTHING about Rockwood should ever be “Fair”. If our teachers were found to be “Fair”, they’d be looking for a new job. If our students’ performance was “Fair”, this would not be tolerated. Why should we tolerate equally mediocre performances by the district? I simply do not trust them with millions of more dollars after the State Auditor has documented poor fiscal management. Changes in leadership need to occur before I will vote to give them more money. It's a difficult decision but I'm voting NO on Prop S.
Catherine Moser-Hartsfield April 01, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Mr. Miller: That "Fair" rating comes a the very small area that the Auditor examined. We would have gotten a much higher rating if the scope had included educational value and academic performance. Nobody is infallible, so the board has some areas for improvement. EVERY organization has room for improvement, and the district has a plan for improvement in the areas of concern to the auditor. The district also has a plan for technology improvement and facilities maintenance/improvement. I trust them to make these decisions. I am voting yes on Prop S. Thank you, Rhonda Costa for heading up this campaign!
A M Speaker April 01, 2013 at 04:23 AM
What does waiting achieve? How does that take care of -anything- that needs taken care of? How will these things be paid for if a bond is not passed? Prop R contained some important improvements, and failed by a tiny margin thanks to 'a conscientious group'. Important improvements that are now, again, part of a growing backlog of projects. The current bond projects list is not glamorous or fancy. They are pretty basic, and affect all the students in the district. 'Timing' and 'trust' just don't cut it with me anymore. That was last year's rally call. At this point it just sounds like people are trying to make a point by holding school improvements hostage. That's not voting 'for the kids'. I'm not turning a blind eye. Yes! There are changes that need made! But you can't place your foot on a new path if you're always looking backwards. You have to look forward to move forward. In my opinion, voting 'no' would cause far far more damage to this district than any 'point' is worth. There are better ways to take a stand. It's time to move forward.
Jess April 01, 2013 at 07:11 AM
A NO vote here mainly to stop the district from going deeper in debt. The districts debt was $117 million in 2000, and is now $223 million. Interest payment is nearly$10 million this year. What's the final cost of this bond with interest? With no debt, that $25 million per year payment would go a long way and be cheaper. Not supporting this one, or any future debt votes.
Larry Lazar April 01, 2013 at 07:05 PM
The question that we should be asking ourselves is "What kind of community are we?" Do we understand that we are privileged to be in one of the very best school districts in the country? Do we consider our schools to be the heart and lifeblood of our community and do we support them accordingly? Do we understand that the very best investment we can make is to educate all of the children in our communities, even if we don’t have any of our own currently in school? Do we understand that schools that are supported by the community increase property values for everyone, and not just those whom have kids in school? Do we allow an unelected, self-appointed, organized, and apparently well-funded group (from whom?) to repeatedly attack our great schools and our school leaders in the media? for more on this question, please see this post: http://eureka-wildwood.patch.com/blog_posts/the-real-choice-this-tuesday
Kim R April 01, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Your argument that a No vote is for the kids fails to make sense. You are punishing the students of Rockwood for problems created by adults. Seems to me you are punishing the sons for the fathers crimes. That just does not make sense. You are punishing 30,000+ students for your preceived wrongful actions of 6, 7, 8 people?
Kim R April 01, 2013 at 07:23 PM
"Do we understand that the very best investment we can make is to educate all of the children in our communities, even if we don’t have any of our own currently in school?" This seems to be a major sticking point with RS for RS. They seems to spend a lot of time reminding peope that 19% of Rockwood district residents have students in the dictrict. They seem to have trouble understanding that those students are the future doctors, teachers, mechanics, accounts, lawyers that will be willing to pay a premium to live in the district and retunr the tax dollars spent on them to educate the next generation.
Dennis Hourcade April 01, 2013 at 10:09 PM
And so you would rather have a group whose management style you do not trust spend up to 16M of unencumbered money as they see fit rather than approve the bond funding that is earmarked for specific needs? Even when over 99% of the previous bond funds passed the state audit? I don't understand that reasoning.
Dennis Hourcade April 01, 2013 at 10:31 PM
If the proposition fails, that could justify spending the surplus on whatever the then-existing leadership considers to be urgent needs. And how will that work out as far as fiscal management? At least bond funding would be earmarked for specified projects. I think there would be fewer points of accountability in the use of the surplus.
Mathew April 02, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Here is a quote from the MarketVolt (the bulk email company used by "RS for RS"). Readers, who undoubtedly have also been the recipient of "RS for RS" broadcast campaigning emails (SPAM), where RS for RS purchased the RSD parents' email list from RSD (who could not refuse) can read for themselves the policy of this company: "We do NOT allow you to upload a purchased list into the MarketVolt system and treat that list as part of the house list to which you repeatedly send email campaigns." You just can't make this stuff-up.
Thomas Paine April 02, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Mr. Miller, Trying but failing to follow your logic. Continuing your parallels analysis, a teacher teaching at 30 schools (RSD) would be considered a poor performer if his/her teachers scores were lower than a teacher instructing at 5 schools (e.g. Mexico school district)? The point being that the auditor does not scale the number of findings to the institution's size. And the only two school districts scoring higher than Rockwood were much, much smaller (one being Mexico's), and they received a "good". Below I paste-in a portion of the auditor's definitions: "Poor" = "...the report contains NUMEROUS findings. "Fair" = "..the report contains SEVERAL findings...." "Good" = "...the report contains FEW findings..." "Excellent" = "...the report contains NO findings...." No offense, but it seems that Chicken Little has been at work with the auditor's report.
Mathew April 02, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Eileen, I have a bone to pick with you and "RS for RS". I just received my second e-mail blast from this "RS for RS" group. I expect that all reading this received them too. I checked with Rockwood School District and found "RS for RS" obtained the e-mail list from the school district. I then went to the web-service (Market-Volt) used by "RS for RS", and read their rules. They require that users of their service (i.e."RS for RS") first obtain approval ("opt-in") from persons included in the e-mail list to receive the mass mailings. Their policy is clearly explained. It appears that "RS for RS", members of which are commenting in this thread, have unethically misrepresented the facts. In no way have I ever opted-in for "RS for RS" to use my e-mail. Unhappy to be receiving this drivel too? Consider filing an ethics complaint with the school district. BTW, I am more convinced by e-mails from that guy in Nigeria who keeps offering to share his millions with me if I send him a deposit....
Michael Rhodes April 02, 2013 at 01:23 PM
I will be voting yes on this Prop. I am still deciding which two board members to vote for out of the three I am considering. Mr. Morrell (sorry if I spelled that wrong) lost me when I read some of his comments on other articles. Just didn't seem like a person I would want to represent me on the school board.

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