After more than an hour’s discussion on an agenda item to establish a bond-planning committee, the Hays USD 489 Board of Education voted Monday night to table pursuing a third bond proposal until next year.
The item on Monday’s agenda called for the board “to establish parameters for the committee that will design options for the board” and to form the bond committee.
Superintendent John Thissen led the early discussion, mentioning such parameters as how many elementary school buildings, whether or not existing elementary buildings could be added on to and how much money the community would find acceptable and a bond survey.
After more than a half hour of discussion, board member Paul Adams — who appeared via video on a laptop from Chicago, where he was attending a conference — tried to turn the conversation to the composition of the committee.
“But also the one part that I’m not hearing, although I’m hearing the word ‘parameters,’ is the charge to the committee. If we’re going to move forward, let us move forward to that,” he said.
The board could write that charge or direct the administration to do so along with suggestions of what sectors of the community the committee members should come from, he said.
The idea met some resistance.
“I was personally hoping to set the parameters before doing the committee. I’m really anxious to start talking about what numbers do we want to set,” board member Sophia Young said.
“To me, the parameters are not the charge to the committee,” Adams said. “We have to do that yes, before the first meeting of the committee. But we can begin to identify the people that we feel are needed on the committee and at the first meeting say ‘Here’s the charge.’ It’s not that we have an undue rush but time is slipping by,” Adams said.
Putting the committee together would take a few weeks, and in that time the board could create the charge, he said.
No other board members furthered Adams’ discussion.
Board member Greg Schwartz said the district needs to identify its needs versus its wants.
“One of the things I was hoping we were going to have tonight was definitive research that showed, like, if we went to three buildings or newer buildings or something that would say our kids are going to be better off. I don’t have that,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of speculation. Without that, aren’t we, just as far as needs, just speculating?” he said.
Young asked if the board did have a long-range plan, if it would reduce the flexibility of the process.
“I want to move forward with setting parameters and putting the committee together, but if we’re still digging into what we want everything to look like in the future, it seems like it gets muddled down,” she said.
After nearly an hour of discussion, Schwartz suggested another direction.
“I think we need to vote on does the board want to go forward with the bond or wait,” he said.
If the majority did, then the next step should determining if the parameters should be set before the committee if formed. Otherwise, he said, the board might just continue to talk and not take any action.
“I would make a motion that we do not move forward with any bond at this time and give it a year and see where we stand,” he said.
Board Vice President Mandy Fox seconded the motion.
“I would tend to agree with Greg. I am a person who likes to keep moving forward and not necessarily stand still and keep checking the boxes. But in this particular case, and the feedback I’ve receive and us not being in a strong consensus … I’m not sure a year is where I want to go, but I do feel we need to take our foot of the gas a little bit,” she said.
Board President Lance Bickle agreed with Schwartz and Fox.
“I feel like there’s too many questions on the table,” he said.
Adams and Walker disagreed.
“I believe we’ve invested the time in looking at it. If we move forward with this, we have the option to look at everything and say no,” he said.
“The foot’s been off the gas for six months,” Walker said, urging the board to put the committee together and get the process started.
“I don’t know who would want to be on the committee right now,” Fox said, citing the board’s disagreement.
Board member Luke Oborny said he agreed with not rushing the process but he didn’t want to wait a year.
Schwartz, Bickle and Fox all agreed it would be OK for the board to discuss issues related to a bond, or if members of the community wanted to put together a committee and approach the board with ideas, but they didn’t want the board to take action on a bond at this point.
Bickle called for a vote on Schwartz’s motion. It failed, 4-3 with Bickle, Schwartz and Fox voting in favor.
Adams then suggested the board direct the superintendent to present the board at its July 2 meeting with a charge, parameters and suggested composition for the committee, then changed that to a motion for the board to vote on. Only Adams and Walker voted in favor of that motion.
Schwartz then made a motion the board table the discussion on a bond until the first meeting in January. Young seconded the motion. It passed 4-3 with Schwartz, Young, Bickle and Fox voting in favor.