District renews Spanjer’s contract

Published on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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The Blaine school board voted 5-0 at its regular monthly meeting Monday night to renew superintendent Ron Spanjer’s contract until 2013; the next time it will come up for renewal.

Seeking a $40 million capital projects bond initiative for the Blaine school district will most likely be the first item on Spanjer’s agenda. The bond, if approved, would pay for numerous Blaine school building upgrades.

Voters rejected an almost identical bond in March of 2008. However, Spanjer presented a report making the case for a renewed push to get the bond initiative on the February 2011 ballot.

“It is important to make clear to the public that the school district is only asking for what they really need,” Spanjer said.

Spanjer suggested splitting the bond request into two parts; one that contains more immediate needs totaling $30 million and another for less critical items for $10 million. This might prove more acceptable to voters who otherwise might be inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The major points of Spanjer’s report included the pros and cons of presenting the bond initiative to voters in February 2011.

Reasons for a 2011 initiative included the condition of some of Blaine’s school facilities, such as the main high school building and track field, and the low projected costs of construction within the next few years. Reasons for a later date for the initiative included the poor economic climate and the public perception of the Blaine school district’s needs.

The report is the result of work done by a facility review committee, which was formed in April. The committee, which Spanjer headed, met three times over an eight-week period from April 27 to June 1.

As part of the committee’s information gathering, the district posted a survey on its website at the beginning of June in order to gage public opinion on a bond initiative.

Spanjer said the survey results cited the current economic climate as the major roadblock to passing a bond initiative. The results also showed that the majority of respondents did not have children enrolled in Blaine schools, which might account for a possible misconception of the school district’s state of need, Spanjer said.

Despite a theme of economic caution, Spanjer said the results also showed a general sense of pride for Blaine’s schools. He said the key to a successful capital bond initiative in the future is effectively educating the public that the school district is not asking for anything more than what it feels it needs.

The school district’s operations supervisor, Jim Kenoyer, made the case for improvements to Blaine’s high school. The most pressing upgrades include modernizing the high school’s science and administrative buildings. The $30 million to pay for the most critical needs also includes money for an addition to the high school.

In addition to the high school buildings, he said the high school track field and tennis courts are falling apart and will need complete replacement within the next five years.

Jerry Bladies, a facility review committee member, stressed the need for improvements to the high school’s library. Bladies said voters need to become more educated about the condition of Blaine’s school facilities. “The library is in bad shape,” he said.

The board’s reaction to Spanjer’s proposal to split the bond initiative was generally positive, with a few members of the board suggesting caution with using this method.

This caution stemmed from election results from surrounding school districts presented as part of Spanjer’s report. Board member Charles Gibson cited the difficulty other school districts had encountered when they presented split bond requests on the ballot.

“We don’t have any expectation of [a second proposition] passing,” Gibson said.

Despite his doubts, Gibson joined the other board members in supporting Spanjer’s plan for presenting the $30 million/ $10 million split bond to voters in the February 2011 election.

For the initiative to make it to the ballot by February 2011, Spanjer said he would have to submit a formal proposal to the board by November of 2010. After board approval, the initiative would have to be ready for the ballot by December 23.

Spanjer said he plans to bring more detailed numbers on a $30 million and $10 million bond initiative split to the board of directors at the regular meeting in July.