By Megan Wehring
DRIPPING SPRINGS – Dripping Springs ISD’s $481.13 million bond package did not pass in the Nov. 8 General Election, leaving several parents and the district to question what’s next.
The DSISD board of trustees held its first meeting after Election Day on Monday, Nov. 14, welcoming many concerned parents and members of the community to speak up about the failed bond package.
Lauren Naylor, parent and former middle school teacher, said she woke up the morning after Election Day devastated at the results that the bond did not pass.
“The ratio of students to teachers is already bad and knowing what was going to ensue and how many teachers would leave just made my heart drop into my stomach,” Naylor said.
John Adams, a teacher at Dripping Springs High School, said this was the first bond package that he has witnessed fail “in this fast-growing district” within the 27 years he has been with DSISD.
“I believe it failed because some of our trustees chose not to provide leadership by educating our community members in the face of this well-funded disinformation campaign,” Adams said. “Trustees see far more information than the average citizen and are in a unique position to refute falsehoods that circulate, should they choose to … Other than being able to say how disappointed I am in these board members, the failure of the bond proposals failure to pass has left me speechless.”
Nathan Kaspar, who voted in opposition, said that the people who voted not to approve the bond did so for two reasons: cost and trust.
“The vote to not send it forward and to defeat the bonds wasn’t against providing schools or against our kids, it was against these overpriced Taj Mahal schools that are not necessary,” Kaspar said.
He added that if DSISD says that the property tax rate is not going to increase, there needs to be data to back that up.
In his experience through email and in meetings, Carl Aubrey said that he has not received “clear and concise communication” with the board.
Leah Finn, parent of a Dripping Springs Elementary School first grader, said it’s time to get organized when it comes to the district’s future.
“I believe there is no better time to seriously take a look at creating a fundraising arm of the Dripping Springs Education Fund to address the needs of the district,” Finn said. “One of the big concerns for creating this initiative is manpower, but what I can tell you [is]where there is a will, there is a way. There are a lot of parents out there that want to get involved.”
Finn added that there was some misinformation about the bond that was circulating on social media and there should be a plan on how to better the communication moving forward.
The board’s perspective
Superintendent Holly Morris-Kuentz said that the board needs to start discussions about two topics: addressing district growth challenges and future bond planning.
For immediate responses to addressing growth, Morris-Kuentz said that the board could look at attendance zoning, portables and increased class sizes.
Rezoning is the last resort for trustee Barbara Stroud and some of the other board members echoed her point.
Stroud added that increasing class sizes may not be a solution for all campuses logistically.
“My understanding of the research is you do better with smaller class sizes,” Stroud said. “That’s obviously something that we have always tried to prioritize. But even apart from that, it’s not so much the class size as in terms of student to staff ratio; a lot of our classrooms are just simply not big enough to do that.”
Trustee Shannon O’Connor said that sometimes, rezoning is the best option for students.
“We don’t want them in a school where the classrooms are so overcrowded and they have no access to anything,” O’Connor said. “Is it desirable for them to be rezoned? No. That is a hard decision and we don’t like it but at the end of the day, sometimes that is the best thing for kids in that moment.”
Some board members felt ill-prepared Monday night and wanted more time to gather their thoughts for a future conversation.
There was no vote following the bond discussion. The board discussed improving communication with the community by scheduling more workshops and special meetings for a future bond.
“We have to unite as a board before our community is going to unite behind us,” said trustee Stefani Reinold.
To listen to the board’s full discussion, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrfoiL0mqIM.
The DSISD board of trustees will meet next on Monday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m., unless a special meeting is called for an additional date.