October 19, 2014

Web designer hopes to provide context for school bond issue

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Brett Limer hopes voters will have all the facts when they fill out their ballots for a $73 million Gardner Edgerton School bond issue. The mail-in election ends on Jan. 31.

Courtesy of Brett Limer

Limer attended a few district presentations on the bond issue.
“Some of the things they’re saying – they’re not necessarily lying, but they’re not telling the whole truth,” he said.
The district’s public presentations allow for limited question and answer, Limer said, but he hopes a Web site he’s created, www.gardnerschoolbond.info, will fill in some of the blanks for voters.
“The school presentation and usd231.com give half the information,” Limer said. “I’m helping to give the other half.”
For example, district’s web site and a recent mailer says that Moonlight Elementary School is exceeding its capacity. The mailer says the district built four modular classrooms on the elementary school’s property in 2010 and another modular classroom in 2011.
But Moonlight’s enrollment actually decreased between 2010 and 2011, Limer said.
“There’s actually decreased enrollment at three of the six elementary schools, including Moonlight Elementary. There are more students in trailers this year than there were last year, yet student headcount is down,” Limer explained.
The district projected that Moonlight would gain 13 kids in 2011. Instead, the school’s headcount decreased by 34 students.
The projection was short by 47 students, Limer’s web site explains.
That’s a concern for the parent of two students, because school officials See are saying the bond issue is necessary based on future projections.
Limer said USD 231’s growth projections are inflated.

Courtesy of Brett Limer

“(The projections) have been shown repeatedly to not be true,” Limer said. “In the 2005 bond, they projected we would have 1,000 people more by this year than we have.”
A graphic on Limer’s website shows 2005 bond issue projections layered with projections for the 2012 bond issue.
By 2013-2014, the school district would need to add 365 elementary school students to meet the school district’s projections.
According to the website, USD 231 has added less than 90 students for three of the last four years. The highest number of elementary students added in one year, 2005-2006, is 150 students.
“USD 231 is not going to add an average of 180 elementary students each of the next two years,” Limer writes on his site.
He also raises concerns about the district’s plans to build a new athletic facility and to put turf on the football field.
According to the USD 231 website, artificial turf reduces expenses related to the maintenance of grass turf. Currently, the district pays approximately $30,000 each year for things like fertilizer, watering and mowing.
But Limer said nothing in the school’s information discusses replacement costs or how long artificial turf lasts.
“These are basically large outdoor carpets,” Limer said.
He’s spoken with the director of field turf at the University of Missouri, and Limer estimates the life span of artificial turf is about 10 years.
“You can’t just throw it away. These things are made of tires. That needs to be factored into the maintenance cost,” he said.
The site isn’t intended to persuade voters to vote against the bond, but Limer believes voters with all the information will draw that conclusion.
“On the Web site, you won’t seen anything that says, ‘vote no’ or ‘vote down the bond,’” he said. “This isn’t me wanting to covert people from yes votes to no votes. This is me trying to provide context.”
Ideally, he said, the bond will be voted down and residents and school officials can immediately start work on a new one that better addresses the district’s needs.
School officials were unavailable for comment.

Comments

  1. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    I applaud Mr Limer for providing an alternate site to review school district data. I encourage all voters to carefully consider all information available and after thoughtful deliberation exercise their right to vote according to their personal conclusions. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

  2. ThePatriot says:

    “According to the website, USD 231 has added less than 90 students for three of the last four years. The highest number of elementary students added in one year, 2005-2006, is 150 students.”

    Again, what is the souce of these numbers? This site can be informative only if the numbers cited are not bogus. I cede the point about artificial turf expense maintenance. That should have been included the USD 231’s site. However, what the actual numbers are regarding maintenance and replacement is still not factually set.

  3. @ThePatriot, its been said many times that the numbers come for the schools site. not sure what else you want. The facts from his site seem good

  4. ThePatriot says:

    Saying it come from USD 231’s site and proving it does by providing link are two different things.

    I have searched the school district’s site and haven’t found this data. I can entirely be looking in the wrong place. So providing a simple hyperllink to the USD 231’s website can answer my question.

    That is what I want.

  5. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    @ThePatriot, there lies the problem; you cannot find comprehensive historical student enrollment data on the USD231 website, nor could I, probably because it has not been posted there. However, this information is reported annually each October to the Kansas State Department of Education, who audits the data and posts it to the KSDE website the following April or May. A USD231 official has offered to provide me the 2011-2012 headcount information, which I hope to receive early next week.

    School year 2003-2004 through 2010-2011 figures are available at
    http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1870

    Under “School Finance Publication Categories,” select “Headcount Enrollment (Public Schools). From the resulting database select a school year and then sort the displayed Excel spreadsheet by “USD #.” You can then copy and paste each school year’s data into your own spreadsheet to be merged, sorted and analyzed.

    After first viewing the District’s bond issue presentation at the Aug 1, 2011 Board of Education meeting, I went straight home to look for the data actually reported to KSDE and created my own spreadsheet. Try it and see for yourself. Mr Limer and I do not personally know each other, but I have reviewed the enrollment information on his website and what he has reported on other forums and I believe his information almost exactly mirrors what I see on my spreadsheet.

  6. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Correction: The Board of Education approved the 2012 Bond Election on Aug 1. Dr. Gilhaus’ powerpoint presentation on the bond issue was presented during the Jul 16 board meeting. I apologize for my error.

  7. ThePatriot says:

    Thanks, Mr. Kellogg — I will be working on this toay.

  8. Judith Rogers says:

    Keep in mind citizens that last year I believe it was that I asked Gilhaus for dropout numbers for each of the past 5 years. He advised he would have to charge me for this information.

    I then contacted the statistcal department of the Kansas State Dept. of Education. They showed me how to get that info from their website and the information had been previouslysubmitted by USD 231 School Dist. so Gilhaus knew he had that information on file when he talked to me on this matter. At no time when I was corresponding by e-mail to Gilhaus and the School Board did they advise me this information was available to me for free through the Kansas State Dept. of Education. I had to do that research on my own – they offered no assistance to me whatsoever in getting the information – they only wanted to shake me down for money which I believe was their further attempt to stonewall and for the people to not be informed as they should be.

    For the 5 year period the dropout rate was running about 5 or 6 kids for the oldest 3 years and then in year 4 and 5 it jumped to 36 and 38. The rate was increasing tremendously.. Do you think perhaps that is the reason the school district was not cooperating in giving out the information? That is what I believe.

    I contacted the Kansas Dept. of Education Director on this issue and she was most upset with how I was treated with respect to my request for information. She stated she would talk to Gilhaus about the matter. I never heard anything more from anyone on that issue but the experience was just added along with my other adverse experiences with the school district and school board members.

    I share this information with the citizens again to make sure they have knowledge of my experience on this particular matter. Can only hope no other citizens are treated in a like manner -this is not right in my opinion and I can’t believe any citizen would want this type of handling considering how they have and continue to support education so much for our youth. I believe a change of the guard is in order and I sure won’t be voting for that school bond in January.

  9. Gary from Kansas says:

    Well, this is the kind of data a newspaper should gather…But most local papers seem to act as PR directors for the local school district, rather than watchdogs for the citizens who fund them..

  10. KC Race Girl says:

    Thank you Brett for all the great information!!! I too just want the “truth” about this bond issue and I don’t think we are getting it from the district office. I wouldn’t have an issue with passing this bond issue if it was truly for education and providing our kids with a great, quality education. I don’t believe that a sports complex and turf on the field is considered helping provide a quality education. Thanks for giving us the other half….

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