EDUCATION

Killeen school Superintendent John Craft has said many times over the past four months, “It is critically important to the quality of education in Killeen ISD that we build a new high school.”

The Killeen Independent School District superintendent has pushed that project, and others, through bond steering committee meetings in November and subsequent KISD Board of Trustees meetings, saying the need is urgent, due to yearly increases in the student population.

Some of Craft’s recommended projects fell by the wayside when the bond steering committee voted Nov. 30 to recommend a $426 million bond issue to the KISD board.

That recommendation, made by bond steering committee members at the board’s Dec. 12 meeting, seemed fairly cut-and-dry.

Since then, concerns raised by the public to board members have caused changes to be made in how the bond issue might be approached.

The board conducted the discussion about the bond late Tuesday night during a board workshop which wasn’t broadcast on the public airwaves. Regular board meetings are broadcast.

The prospect of splitting the bond into two separate propositions — one for $235 million and another for $191 million — came up during that discussion.

The $235 million proposal would allow voters to approve funds for three projects on the bond issue:

• Renovations to bring existing campuses into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and address security/safety issues.

• A new high school to open for the 2022-2023 school year.

• A new elementary school to open for the 2022-2023 school year.

A $191 million proposal would separate consolidation of existing schools into newly built campuses, and renovate other schools over 50 years old:

• Consolidation of East Ward and West Ward elementary schools with construction of a new East Ward school.

• Consolidation of Pershing Park and Sugar Loaf elementary schools, with partial rezoning of Bellaire Elementary School, and construction of a new Pershing Park school.

• Renovation and expansion of Clifton Park Elementary School, with partial rezoning of Bellaire Elementary School.

• Renovations to Killeen High School.

On Tuesday evening, the bond issue update was listed as item eight of 14 on the agenda’s priorities.

In an almost empty board room at the KISD administration building, Adam Rich, KISD executive director of facilities services, and Megan Bradley, KISD chief financial officer, took their seats at a table facing Craft and the six board members present at approximately 8 p.m., two hours into the workshop.

As Rich presented a detailed overview of every project to be funded by the bond issue, the hours ticked past.

The workshop didn’t adjourn until after 10:30 p.m.

A late night press release, emailed to the media by Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer, declared the $426 million bond issue might be split into two propositions for voters to consider May 5.

Abbott, however, had previously emailed another press release, prior to the board workshop. That release focused on KISD approaching a student enrollment of 45,000 for the 2018-2019 school year, despite the bond being top priority.

When asked by the Herald on Tuesday afternoon, before the board workshop, whether the bond issue might be broken into two items on the May ballot, Abbott responded, “This groups the work into essentially enrollment needs and older building needs. We won’t know what final version the bond package will take for sure until Feb. 13 but I think there will be a discussion tonight of what the ballot could look like.”

Abbott did not confirm Craft would propose breaking the financing measure into two parts.

The idea of breaking the bond issue into multiple voting options wasn’t new, and wasn’t originally Craft’s.

At the Dec. 12 board meeting, KISD board member JoAnn Purser suggested that be done.

“Each project needs to be voted on separately,” Purser said Wednesday. “If we explain the facts to everyone, they will all be seen as viable, worthy propositions for the voters to support.”

Purser is grateful Craft chose to consider her idea, which is not detailed in the minutes of the Dec. 12 board meeting.

“To be forced to support all or none puts a bad taste in the voters’ mouths.”

If Purser’s idea had been considered earlier, the district would not need to have its contract law firm rewrite the draft bond election language, which was presented to the board at their Jan. 9 meeting. If the bond issue is split into two propositions, that language will need to be rewritten, with associated costs being paid to the law firm for their services.

HUCKABEE, INC.

The other lingering question: where is Huckabee, Inc. in this bond issue process?

KISD signed a contract with Huckabee, Inc. — the firm that has designed most of the newer schools in the district — on Oct. 25. The agreement runs through May 5, the proposed bond issue election date.

Huckabee is being paid between $45,000 and $49,000 for “Bond Planning & Community Engagement” services, an amount just below the threshold which would require the board to vote its approval or request competitive bids.

In December, the Herald sent repeated questions to KISD, seeking clarification about what this contract with Huckabee entailed. After an exchange of emails, Craft later included Huckabee in his answer to questions about how the bond would be marketed to the community.

Representatives of Huckabee, Inc. were present at Tuesday’s KISD board workshop. They spoke about the design of the new elementary school, which will be funded from existing KISD funds and not the bond issue.

The Huckabee representatives did not speak during the bond issue discussion, according to Board Member Susan Jones.

As for the possibility of splitting the bond issue into two propositions, “I am still thinking about the option of two proposals and evaluating the pros and cons of such positioning,” Jones said.

Purser remains optimistic about the upcoming vote at the Feb. 13 board meeting to call for a bond election, that vote could also happen during a special meeting scheduled for Feb. 15, which would meet the deadline of Feb. 16 to call for the bond election on the May 5 ballot.

254-501-7568 | jferraro@kdhnews.com

(5) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
In my opinion, we have gotten so incensed by the new 3,750 home project, just across the city limits, the new water plant, the new chemical plant,and the increase in new roadways and the delimiting of old existing roadways, and the fact that it always been said that 'the southern range is the only way that Killeen can expand. Have we forgotten that observation???? But we don't seem to grasp the fact that 'there is a 3,750 home development project in that direction. Does this seem to 'lock in the city of Killeen to this size with no growth potential???? We also do not seem to remember that 4 years ago it was stated that we could not expect for this housing project to be incorporated into our city, but we want to finance a new water plant anyway. I want to ask the question: 'does the count in total water meter to be installed count as in the city of Killeen or should that be carried in another limit???? But where does that leave us???? If this housing project will not be in the city limits, and the term that was used, and I paraphrase here: 'was for the next 20 years if ever'. Then why are we patronizing this group of individuals???? Are we to build the new city hall on county land???? I believe the new high school and elementary school will skirt the city limits also. As has been said, the city can only expand in a southerly direction. Why are we selling ourselves short by all of this expansion conversation and not maintaining the properties that are within the city limits????
This I believe should also be a consideration of what to do to the roadway expansion and the new high school expansion. I do not see this as an equitable arrangement and say vote 'no' on all bonds until this city and this school board can see over the horizon.
This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

Copy: 'Killeen school Superintendent John Craft has said many times over the past four months, “It is critically important to the quality of education in Killeen ISD that we build a new high school.” End of copy.

Why has John Craft said many times that it is critically important to the quality of education that we build a new high school. Why???? Is it the fact that a new high school in the south of Killeen will be all of the rage, that school being built in the next 4 to 6 years. What about the other schools in the area, are they going to be substandard with the building of this new high school???? What if the bond/bonds, plural, now the count stands at 2,maybe, maybe 4, who knows where the count will end up. And why does the location, in reference to the quality of education mean that much???? It' just 'why will an educated man say some of the things that educated men say'.
And to think that prior to say September or October, this was not a thought, that a new high school should/must be built in order for the 'quality of education' to be elevated such as this I implied.

Copy: 'Subsequent KISD Board of Trustees meetings, saying the need is urgent, due to yearly increases in the student population.' End of copy.

Again, 'Why'???? What is so magical about the school being placed on the south side other than 'there is a 3,750 home project to be built on the south side and for access to that school and an elementary school, that is the impetus for the impending location of the school. I can't see any other reason for the demand.
What about some other courses of action such as what would be the projected student load if the 3,750 home projection is declined???? What about double shifting one or more high schools to compensate for the increase load in student density???? These are just two alternate suggestions and there could be many more.
The fact that a new high school is called for to the extreme comparison is just not a fact. With the demise of a bond, or bonds that may not pass, this would simplify matters for the city of Killeen in regard to the act of maintaining existing roadways and infrastructures giving them some breathing room in their planning and scheduling activities.
And the fact that 'it was not known that this was going to be a pressing matter before September and all of a sudden, there was no room for anything but the new high school, and the city had similar objectifies. Weird isn't it....
And also the fact that the company, Huckabee, was paid between $45,000 and $49,000, just below the threshold to require competitive bidding. Weird isn't it....
And as Purser recommended, it matters not whether or not you split the bond into many factions, the fact remains that it is still the full value of the bond proposal which the school board wants no matter what the how you slice the pie. If one art of the split bond was to pass then the school board would try to entice the city residents for the rest of the money.
In my opinion, the school board should look at alternative designations as to if they really want this large housing project at this time, look at other funding mechanisms, and look at means of supporting the growth of the school system through alternate means and methods.
@eyewatchingu: and @SnowWhiteNThe7Thieves: I support you in your quest for no new bonds at this time. The city just can't afford it.
To this city and school board, There are other ways to skin the cat', so maybe you should study the possibilities. And stop all of the secrecy and be more open and above board with the citizens of Killeen. You may find that 'there is some pretty good ideas out there.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

eyewatchingu

Pretty shameful when you have sitting kisd member lan cater, inviting candidates to a private group on facebook. She might want to read the rules on this. Pretty shamful, I have a snip picture of this, also just go to facebook and type in her name. Seems once again the democrats are Violating rules Maybe they should educate themselves before running for office. Go to face book and type in Lan cater or Kathy richerson and lans post will pop up. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TexansforPublicEd/about/

VOTE NO ON ALL BONDS, STOP PAYING FOR THIER FAILURES, keep the money in your pocket.

centexdave

Lan Carter is not a sitting KISD board member.

SnowWhiteNthe7Thieves

KISD's bond might be shrouded in secrecy, but citizens' answers are clear, NO.

Just say NO to anymore money grabs from KISD or KILLeen.

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