Several people let me know about the well written article by Michelle Brier in the North County UT yesterday. It can be found here:
The Prop BB Town Hall Meeting focused on preserving the cohesive and collaborative culture that has brought so much success to the Bonsall school community. It was an innovation to avoid the divisiveness that election campaigns bring, and it worked just how we hoped it would. The Bonsall school community was a model of how thoughtful, civil discourse provides the deeper consideration that casting a vote requires.
The following is a summary that Jen Leung provided.
Bonsall Town Hall Meeting Summary
RE: Prop BB
October 30, 2012
Representing ‘Yes’ on Prop BB
Dr. Justin Cunningham, Bonsall School District Superintendent
Lou Riddle, Bonsall Board of Education President
Jennifer Leung, Yes on BB Committee Chair, parent and teacher
Representing ‘No’ on Prop BB
John Bossaller, Bonsall teacher and BTA negotiator
Dr. Tim Glover, San Diego County Office of Education serving 42 school districts
The goal of this Town Hall Meeting was to bring together all interested parties, parents, teachers, board and superintendent, to address any issues regarding Prop BB before the election and to ensure that the school community continues to work effectively together after the election, regardless of the outcome.
Superintendent Justin Cunningham pointed out how great it was that, in bipartisan spirit, Jennifer Leung and John Bossaller had co-located at the same table rather than taking sides. This is the spirit in which the evening was intended.
Dr. Tim Glover from the San Diego County Office of Education was introduced as the moderator to make sure the proceedings remained civil and fair.
Dr. Glover Introduction
Dr. Glover works on integrated education programs throughout San Diego County. He is excited to see democracy in action regarding high interest/high impact student issues. He pointed out that local signage re: Prop BB is already coordinating together by virtue of being just inches apart.
As moderator, Dr. Glover reviewed the ‘rules’ for the session.
Our Purpose: To maintain Bonsall communities’ cohesive and collaborative culture.
Goal: Engage in learning that helps people become more precise on their thinking re: Prop BB. Provide information to let everyone make up their own minds. Each person owns his/her own process.
Outcomes: Hope building on successes moving forward is still unchanged.
An expectation: Vote!
Each of the panel members gave opening statements. There were to be 6 members, 3 FOR Prop BB and 3 AGAINST Prop BB. The 3 FOR Prop BB were Board President Lou Riddle, Superintendent Dr. Justin Cunningham and Yes on BB Committee Chair Jennifer Leung. The position AGAINST Prop BB was ably represented by Mr. John Bossaller, who is the chief negotiator for the Bonsall Teacher Association union. Both sides were given 12 total minutes for opening discussion, 4 minutes each for the three representatives supporting Prop BB and 12 minutes for the one representative opposing Prop BB.
First speaker, Jennifer Leung, is an educator and active Bonsall school parent of 3 children (7th, 3rd, preK) whose many leadership roles include class parent, PTA treasurer, auditor, and Chairperson of Old Schoolhouse restoration. She explained the history behind the unification measure; it has taken 7 years from getting 25% of Bonsall registered voter signatures on a parent initiated petition to now having Prop BB on the ballot as a voter item. The driving force behind this grassroots movement was to allow students to continue in a very successful district after the 8th grade. Why should our children go to many different high schools rather than stay in our district and continue with the terrific teachers and phenomenal programs already in place?
Bonsall Schools Superintendent Dr. Cunningham emphasized the need to realize how much education has been changed by technology, especially in the past decade. In the next 5-10 years, over 50% of high school curriculum will be online. In order for our children to compete in a global economy, the high school model has to change. The Bonsall school district has already implemented many of these 21st century technology changes in our elementary and middle schools. The resulting API score increases each year show that this plan is working well. There are eight open classrooms at Sullivan right now, which provides plenty of room for a phased-in high school addition. The Bonsall school district has until July 1, 2014 to begin phasing in students. (Note: this date has been incorrectly represented as July 1, 2013 by FUHSD’s Dale Mitchell in various outlets.)
Justin Cunningham further noted that in order for the unification process to have gotten to this point, The California Department of Education needed to approve 9 of 9 elements. This only happened after Bonsall school district addressed both the fiscal and programs impact on both Bonsall and Fallbrook districts. To meet these elements, a phased-in approach of one-grade-at-a-time was developed. The Bonsall/Fallbrook geographic area already has comprehensive high school, a magnet high school with Mission Vista and will now also have an academy-style high school choice if Prop BB passes.
Bonsall School Board President Mr. Riddle is the father of three BUSD children, two currently at Fallbrook High School, and is personally familiar with the majority of issues. He emphasized that the community of Bonsall has pushed for years and now demands a high school within the district. He covered some of the history that happened before the petition process got started. FUHSD purchased 50 acres of property for a new high school forty years ago, but never built a high school. FUHSD had a master plan done wherein their own consultants recommended a new school (back in 2004) and an ideal enrollment of 2000 at the current campus. FHS enrollment is over 2500 and nothing has ever been done based on FUHSD’s own expensive consultant recommendations. The Bonsall district decided the time to wait on FUHSD was over. Mr. Riddle stated that oppositional issues are logistical, and ALL can be overcome. The stated mission of the Bonsall School District is excellence for all students, and the district has always successfully worked together to bring about the best results for our children. To deny students in our highly successful district to continue on to our own high school would be a great injustice. Mr. Riddle believes most people will find they agree more than disagree regarding unification and Prop BB.
Mr. John Bossaller is a Bonsall resident for 20 years, a teacher at Bonsall Elementary School for 16 years, the Bonsall Teacher Association chief negotiator, and the father of a boy who went through the district and FHS some years ago. He stated that one of the teacher concerns was money; the district already has deficits and the possible failure of Prop 30 could mean further cutbacks. He said the district had no answers to how much implementing the phased-in approach for a high school would cost. How will the financial challenges impact the students? He said there are a lot of promises being made, but can they be followed through on? He said the teachers are most concerned about what is good for the students. Bonsall Elementary School is a beautiful campus that works so well with almost 1000 kids. How will adding middle school students to the current campus affect the students? If they are in portables, will they maybe feel like they are giving up things? How will high schoolers react when they don’t have sports and other activities that are part of the traditional high school experience? Mr. Bossaller believes the risk is not worth the potential reward. He still has more questions than answers.
Panelist Rebuttal Statements
Lou Riddle Rebuttal: Corrected that BB is NOT a bond measure. While noting that economic challenges are always present, he addressed the cost of development and noted that the number of enrolled students in the new unified Bonsall district will be the determining factor. Several plans are possible as to how to apportion students, but no plan would be pursued without fully engaging teachers, parents and community in prior discussion.
Dr. Cunningham Rebuttal: A survey was conducted with current 7th grade Sullivan families. When asked if they would attend a new Bonsall high school, 50 responded ‘Yes’, 40 responded ‘Maybe’; and 25 responded ‘No’. Administration would approve any Bonsall student interdistrict requests if the new high school wasn’t the best fit as well as approve Fallbrook and other surrounding community transfers to the Bonsall academy style high school based on enrollment capacity.
John Bossaller Rebuttal: Mr. Bossaller is most concerned that there really is no set implementation plan. He thinks that K-7 or K-8 at Bonsall Elementary School would be a potential disaster. Likewise, 7-12 at Sullivan site is truly scary due to limits on track size, parking, etc. Mr. Bossaller stated that a 2nd high school in Bonsall would be a great idea some day when increased population supports it. He asserted that teachers aren’t against a high school, but are just looking at what they think is best for the students. The district has a duty to inform the public, and teachers look at available info to say whether it makes sense.
Questions & Answers
The following Questions and Answers from the Town Hall meeting are not exactly transcribed but attempt to capture the key information.
Q: If we do not pass Prop BB, when could Bonsall ever have a chance of getting this unification on a ballot again?
A: Mr. Riddle: If Prop BB fails, he doesn’t see unification of the Bonsall school district ever getting on a ballot again in his lifetime. It would have to go back through the petition process and he doubts the San Diego County Office of Education would consider it again in the foreseeable future if it fails this year. The reality of repeating the process through SDCOE, state, etc. again when the first effort failed is, in reality, nil. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Bonsall community.
Q: If the Bonsall School District unifies, do we then have to offer a high school? A: Mr Riddle: Yes, within 5 years.
Q: Would the development happening in the area supply Bonsall with a brick and mortar school? A: Mr. Bossaller: Development is not beneficial to the small-town feel of what Bonsall is now. He said it is going to happen against the best wishes of the community. There is no guarantee that these developments would build a school at no cost to us.
A: Mr. Riddle: there will be two development sites with approximately 3000 homes. There is no denying that this is going to happen. These two sites are in the Bonsall School District. The schools built in those developments would be within BUSD. One could be the high school we need. If we don’t pass unification, building a high school will not be an option on the table. The only way to deal with the unknowns is to be fluid and flexible with planning.
Q: Is it true that if we don’t unify, developers won’t be able to help us with a HS? A: Mr. Riddle: There would be no high school permitted as part of the Bonsall district. Only under unification would we be recognized by the state as eligible to have a high school.
Q: Why didn’t parents who wanted unification first try to get a bond for a comprehensive HS?
A: Mr. Riddle: The first step has to be unification. It’s a matter of putting the cart before the horse. Unification must occur or no high school at all is possible.
Q: If people want something different than the academy-style high school, is that a future possibility?
A: Dr. Cunningham: Prop BB began as a community effort and ultimately how the high school looks will also be determined by the community.
Q: Can unification increase property values in both Fallbrook and Bonsall? A: Dr. Cunningham and Mr. Riddle both said that no one has a crystal ball, and that property values are impacted by larger economic issues, but it makes sense that having another school choice would help property values in both communities. Dr. Cunningham cited what happened to Poway’s property values after the effective K-12 programs were in place – people specifically sought to buy in the Poway district. Already, Bonsall receives several calls per week verifying if a property address is in the district boundaries, with the potential buyers stating they would not purchase it if it is not.
Q: Bonsall School District still owes $2,000,000 over and above the Prop C 2006 30-yr bond. How can it afford the costs now associated with a high school?
A: Mr. Riddle said that the district currently has $600,000 in development fees that cannot be used for teacher salaries. This can be used for many portables and the interim requirements for a phased-in high school.
Q: The district will be required to have a continuation high school if unified to K-12. Where would that be located and at what cost?
A: Dr. Cunningham explained that a new fire station has already broken ground. When the old fire station property was purchased from the school, it was written into the deal that the school could purchase it back for the same price. There would be limited enrollment at this school so this location will meet those needs well.
Q: Bonsall had a failed charter school many years ago. How will this high school be different?
A: Mr. Riddle said that the charter school lacked community support and the budgets were inflated by unrealistic enrollment projections. This high school being proposed now is what the community wants. 25% of registered voters signed a petition to pursue unification. The district is the servant of the community, and together the community will make this unification work.
In discussing some of the questions the issue came up that John Bossaller felt that this interim plan for a high school was given to the teachers at the last minute. Mr. Riddle answered that this process started seven years ago. Mr. Riddle said, “It has been discussed in every regularly scheduled board meeting, with a Bonsall Teacher representative present for the last three years. That this has come up out of nowhere is simply untrue.” The current implementation plan was announced back in 2009. Mr. Riddle said he would have been happy to talk to the teachers if he had been requested to do so. But he does feel that both sides could have made a better effort to communicate earlier in the process.
Q: How will interdistrict transfers be handled? A: Dr. Cunningham said that interdistrict transfers to or from our district would be honored whenever possible. He noted that close to 10% of the student population within the district (closer to 20% at BES) is interdistrict transfers because families want to come to Bonsall. If there were severely impacted situations, then that would have to be taken into consideration. Mr. Riddle said that he doesn’t see interdistrict transfers being a concern for at least the next two years and that it’s very unlikely that FHS won’t accept transfers. They need the money the students would bring. Mr. Bossaller questioned whether Bonsall would retain its desirability with potential overcrowding of the sites?
Q: How will moving middle school students onto elementary campuses affect the students?
A: Mr. Riddle: The Bonsall School Board is envisioning a different plan than the one that was laid out 3 years ago. The current vision is to have K-6 at the elementary schools and 7-12 at Sullivan. These have been found to be very effective alignments of students at the different campuses in several school districts around the country. He added that the final plan would involve including everyone in the discussion as to how to best carry out the implementation, fully engaging everyone.
Q: How will portables be added to BES as needed for middle school student additions? A: Mr. Bossaller thought it might be necessary for portables to be added to the infield of the new track at BES. Dr. Cunningham and Mr. Riddle both emphatically stated that would not happen. There are other pads available in other areas of BES. Mr. Riddle again reassured everyone that the community as a whole would be involved in how portables would be added to any campus.
Q: Will the new high school have AP classes and courses required for UC/CSU applications? A: Mr. Riddle and Dr. Cunningham: Yes, to both questions.
Q: Will the new high school have sports? A: Mr. Riddle: The fact that sports are parent-funded would allow some smaller sports to be possible – golf, tennis, cross-country, soccer. An academy style school means that the Bonsall Bears running out on the field on a Friday night is probably a ways out. Bonsall wants to meet the needs of students as much as possible.
Q: What is the immediate cost associated with implementing this new high school?
A: Mr. Riddle and Dr. Cunningham said that the cost will be determined on the actual enrollment. Q: I have heard that teachers are worried about losing their jobs if proposition BB passes? Can Dr. Cunningham assure that teacher jobs will not be lost but will in fact be ADDED?
A: Dr. Cunningham said that this unification alone will not cost teacher jobs. Mr. Riddle commented that this will indeed add many teacher jobs. Dr. Bossaller said he knows of no teacher that is afraid of losing his/her job by this proposition passing.
Q: Aren’t you concerned about mixing middle school kids with elementary school children?
A: Mr. Riddle: No one is suggesting mixing older students with younger students on a regular basis. We might look into to having the older students participate in a mentoring program, but speaking for the school board, no one is in favor and it is not our plan to co-mingle elementary and secondary students. But he stated again that the phased-in 7-12 model at Sullivan would be an approach to pursue in the short-term.
A: Mr. Bossaller stated that there would be cafeteria issues, MPR issues and other areas affected by adding more students to the elementary schools. Mr. Bossaller later commented that K-8 isn’t necessarily bad if enrollment is limited to 1000, rather than adding 300-400 students.
Q: What about parking and traffic situations if we try to have more students at each campus?
A: Mr. Riddle: There could be staggered start times. If there were long traffic delays on county roads, the county would look into making improvements. Dr. Cunningham stated that there will be a different entrance into BES with a stoplight built as part of a new development going in around BES. Mr. Riddle also added that we can address any logistical issues by working together in a cooperative way.
Q: If the education propositions such as 30 and 38 do not pass, how will this affect the district budget?
A: Dr. Cunningham said they prepared a budget assuming that prop 30 does not pass. The district is prepared for that.
Q: What was the cost to bring unification to a ballot measure?
A: Dr. Cunningham: The district was required to do a CA Environmental Quality (CEQA) study at its own cost. This was actually a success story. For the first time in history, because of the strained State budget, the State told our district that we would have to pay for our own CEQA Study. These usually cost anywhere from $50,000 – $400,000 dollars. But the Bonsall district was able to complete it for only $12,000.
Q: Is it true that unifying into a K-12 district will increase the amount of money received from the state per student?
A: Dr. Cunningham: Bonsall will see an approximate $275 increase per student in all grades per year if we are a K-12 district.
Q: Why should Bonsall students have to go to Fallbrook high school?
A: Mr. Bossaller: He said he has lived in the community for 20 years. His son went to Fallbrook High School, and he doesn’t think Fallbrook High is as bad as people say it is. All schools have “bad” students, and FHS is no exception. No place is an exception. For many kids, FHS provides a good high school experience.
A: Mrs. Leung: When we started this effort, it was not about how “bad” Fallbrook is rather how great Bonsall is. FHS has been in program improvement for years and its inability to get out of program improvement or show budget solvency for the next three years is information that strongly concerns many parents.
Q: Fallbrook was to build a second high school by now. If we don’t unify now and create that second high school, won’t a bond be necessary in order to do so?
A: Mr. Riddle: If BB does not pass, a bond for Bonsall district residents to pay for another Fallbrook high school is a possibility as enrollment exists to support another high school being required. Prop BB would separate Bonsall and Fallbrook into separate school entities and any future educational bond measures on behalf of Bonsall district taxpayers would go specifically to the Bonsall Unified School District.
Q: Re Fallbrook Facilities master plan: Wouldn’t a second high school in Bonsall help in reaching the ideal enrollment of 2,000 at FHS?
A: Mr. Riddle: Yes!
Q: To Mr. Bossaller: Who would you rather see run a high school in the area: Fallbrook HS District or Bonsall HS District?
A: Mr. Bossaller: Would we need some new talent to implement the new school? Yes. Do we have that now? Maybe not. But I think the talent can be added and additional staff would be needed to implement a new school. I would hope that that the future would allow a comprehensive high school in Bonsall.
A: Mr. Riddle: Agreed. Good point. Unless BB passes, the future can’t hold a comprehensive HS. The first step has to be the unification. I do feel the future holds a comprehensive HS, but it will be at a time when the economy and situation supports it.
Q: How does the Fallbrook amount of money spent per student compare with a typical high school?
A: Dr. Cunningham stated that Fallbrook spends almost $1700 per student and still has poor academic results. Mr. Riddle added that BUSD has had 130% more growth in academic performance (as quantified by API testing) than FUHSD while spending far less money.
Each of the panel members had a closing statement.
John Bossaller reiterated that teachers aren’t angry, fearful or worried about the process. Whether BB passes or not, they’ll work with the district for the success of the students. Teachers just wanted to see more plans and know the costs and student impacts. Teachers were concerned, so they spoke up. Mr. Bossaller finds himself representing the ‘no’ side, but he hopes that if Prop BB passes none of the concerns comes to pass.
Jennifer Leung noted that her eldest daughter was in Kindergarten when this process started, and in another 7 years she will be a freshman in college. She said that time flies by quickly. In that seven-year time span, she can see a Bonsall High School, even in its beginning stages, producing high caliber students ready to face their futures. She hopes the Bonsall school community can share the town meeting information so that everyone can make an informed vote.
Lou Riddle would also like more answers and fewer questions but notes that what the Bonsall community does have is an unprecedented opportunity. He hopes that everyone will act to move the unification forward on November 6th. His worst fear when he joined the board 10 years ago was to finish his term and then look back and say, “I wish Bonsall has a high school”. He can’t promise everyone no uncertainty, but he can promise solid leadership from the Board.
Dr. Cunningham said that the Bonsall district is on the cutting edge of what is required for 21st century education in order to effectively compete in a global economy. The district just won the Golden Bell award to honor its achievement in integrated learning environment. The children in the Bonsall school district need a continuance of this highly successful plan at the high school level. Our students should not be held back by education methods that have not evolved into what is needed in today’s world. We have a rare opportunity to determine our future in Bonsall. He is grateful for the ability to discuss this in Bonsall in a clear way that isn’t possible in every school district.
At the conclusion of the Town Hall Meeting, moderator Tim Glover complimented all involved for their civility and fairness shown throughout. He reiterated that he works with 42 school districts throughout the county and that calm discussion isn’t always possible. Having moderated many other such events, our town hall meeting to discuss Prop BB was by far one of the best handled by all parties. Kudos to our school district as a whole!