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District needs citizen input to restore eroding credibility

Mike Anthony
Obtaining voter approval of Proposition P in November 2000 was a great achievement for the Mehlville School District and a real victory for the community and its children.

The primary reason for the successful passage of Proposition P was the community engagement process that was utilized by the district. After nearly seven months' work involving the participation of 3,500 community members, the district's Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities recommended placing a $70.2 million bond issue on the ballot.

The Board of Education agreed with the community's assessment of the needs of the school district. In fact, the board voted 6-1 on Aug. 15, 2000, to accept the facilities master plan recommended by the CACF with modifications, reducing the proposal to $68.4 million. The approved minutes of that meeting state: "Mr. David Gralike suggested that the board reach a decision on the amount of the proposal before discussing ballot language.''

This newspaper endorsed Proposition P as a nearly $68.4 million bond issue that would be funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

It's painful to hear a Mehlville administrator say today: "The voters approved a 49-cent levy. They didn't approve a $68 million project.''

Statements such as that are giving the Mehlville School District the credibility problem that it has today.

In recent years, Mehlville has valued community input, utilizing a variety of committees to help select administrators and make recommendations to the board on a variety of issues. But where has that input been on Proposition P? The Oversight Committee that originally was envisioned by Superintendent John Cary as "almost a watchdog to report back to the Board of Education,'' has been unable to do its job properly because of a lack of information.

We know today that the real cost of Proposition P most likely will total at least $86 million, possibly more.

While we don't necessarily disagree with the way the district has spent and will spend additional money on Proposition P-related projects, it's laughable to hear district officials say they've been up front and open with the community about Proposition P.

To restore its eroding credibility, we believe the district should engage the community before making any additional Proposition P-related decisions, particularly on what to do with the millions of dollars in excess revenue being generated by the 49 cents.

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