When the Hays USD 489 Board of Education received the Facilities Needs Committee's report two weeks ago, there was no shortage of items to consider. The panel of community members provided a $100 million package of renovations, add-ons, replacements and repurposing it believed was the correct path for the district to take.
Whether a majority of the board believes that as well remains to be seen. For now, the only certainty is elected officials and administrators do not want to rush putting a bond issue before voters. At Monday's work session, consensus appeared to emerge that getting it on the April ballot might be too quick.
"I think that if we don't do our due diligence in the press, the PR and selling it (the bond), it's not going to matter; we're going to wind up at square one again," said Superintendent Dean Katt.
The district's top executive indicated a November 2015 election date would allow the necessary preparation. As we believe the education process and targeted campaign will be nothing short of herculean in order to be successful, buying some extra time makes sense. However, board members should not think of the extended timeline as a way to delay getting its plan off and running. Procrastination will not serve the cause or the district well.
The facilities committee, which spent more than 18 months gathering input from all stakeholders before deciding which items to include in its report, had the easier role in the process. Convincing a majority of all stakeholders this is what the district needs is a decidedly more difficult undertaking. And even pushing the election date back to November only allows 13 months to accomplish the task.
Board member Josh Waddell correctly noted a certain segment of the community will never be convinced the schools need such an overhaul. Known in political circles as C.A.V.E. people -- citizens against virtually everything -- these "no" votes will not be persuaded otherwise.
But there is a large portion of patrons who could be convinced if the overall district improved its image.
"I think you've got this large middle of the road group that is just desperately waiting to see that the school board, administration, everybody, is trying to do the very best and showing the very best with the money that is coming into our district right now," Waddell said.
We would agree with that assessment, and believe both the board and administrators know what is necessary.
Planning the campaign and thorough education of the public needs to happen concurrently. The board needs to take full advantage of the next 13 months. Champions need to be identified and put in place or there won't be even a remote chance for celebration.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Full disclosure: Lowry was a member of the USD 489 Facilities Needs Committee.