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Will RRISD spending $25M lead to Success?

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The four candidates vying for two places on the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees participated in forum on Tuesday evening at the Round Rock Public Library. John Garrett, publisher of the Community Impact newspapers, moderated the forum and did a great job. A variety of questions were asked on several subjects during the event that lasted about an hour and a half. However, the main issue on which the candidates disagreed had to do with a recent decision by the majority of the current board to approve the expenditure of $25 million in excess bond funds to build Success High School in east Round Rock. Chad Chadwell, the incumbent board president and candidate for place 2, and Eric Pav, a candidate for Place 7, both supported the expenditure, while Tere McCann, a candidate for Place 2 and Pauline Law, a candidate for Place 7, questioned the expenditure.

Success School is an alternative high school for students at risk of dropping out, and includes many pregnant students. This is not to be confused with the another alternative school operated by Round Rock ISD, the Round Rock Opportunity Center, or The Rock, as it is not so affectionately called by the students. RROC serves students with disciplinary problems and is housed in a relatively new campus also located in East Round Rock. According to a story on the new Success School in the Round Rock Leader, “The 70,000 square foot facility would be designated for approximately 336 students and would include a child care facility for teen mothers, 21 classrooms for core and elective classes and a gym.”

At the forum, Mr. McCann and Ms. Law argued that such a large expenditure of funds should have been put on a future bond issue to allow voters a voice in the decision and that the decision to build the school was not consistent with the conservative values of the Round Rock community, perhaps referring to opposition from some conservatives for providing a taxpayer supported day care center for teenage mothers. Some argue that providing free day care for teenage mothers promotes teenage pregnancy. Mr. McCann also said that even though having the school housed in portable buildings at other campuses may not be ideal, that there are other less expensive options besides building a $25 million facility. Mr. McCann also said that some of the $25 million in unspent bond monies could have been used on some projects included in the district’s operating budget, such as building renovations. Mr. McCann said that if some of those renovation projects had been taken out of the operating budget, the board might not have raised taxes, as they recently voted to do. Ms. Law said that while she believes that having adequate facilities are important, but the emphasis should be on “putting children first.”

Both Mr. Chadwell and Mr. Pav said that the board was elected to make such decisions and they supported the decision and the expenditure of bond funds.

The candidates will be on the ballot for the November 6 general election. Early voting will begin Monday, Oct. 22nd and end on Friday, November 2nd. For details on the election, how to register to vote, how to request a mail-in ballot and more, go to http://www.wilco.org/elections.

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