A note from a concerned resident re: CFSD Budget overides

Dear Fellow Neighbor and CFSD Voter,

It is not lightly that I ask you to consider voting against the two budget override measures for Catalina Foothills School District on the ballot this November. As a 40-year district resident I have voted for every school bond election and budget override. Until now.

Despite being a district parent and advocate for public education, the fiscal irresponsibility and lack of interest in the community that the current administration and school board has demonstrated over the past several years demand a reconsideration of the blind support this community has shown the district.

The budget overrides are paid for by residents of district 16 through increased property taxes. For many years, buying a home in the district guaranteed a premium on your investment, because of the district’s reputation as providing top-notch education. However, because of the district’s current open enrollment policy, approximately half of the students currently reside outside the district. This results in a diminished return on your investment because children no longer must live in the district to take advantage of the superior schools. This is a direct result of giving the current administration and school board unfettered access to limitless coffers. Aside from the increasing problems associated with open enrollment, including traffic congestion around most of the schools on a daily basis, the current school board and administration has demonstrated little other than disdain for the residents and communities of the district. The profligate and wasteful attitude the district has embodied over the past decade or more is becoming increasingly problematic and without the voters tightening the purse strings it is likely to continue. I encourage you to investigate the facts and figures quoted herein.

They can be found in past school board minutes at:

https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1000530

another good website with sortable excel files can be found at:

http://transparency.schools.pima.gov/

Some examples of the fiscal mismanagement of funds include:

• Multiple board members attending multiple conferences annually costing thousands of dollars. Some examples include several school board members going to conferences in Phoenix, staying at the five-star Arizona Biltmore ( See e.g., Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) Annual Conference, December 2012).

• Salary freezes for teachers from 2008 – 2013; yet, new hire Chinese teacher in 2011 at $47,500 (thousands more than other teachers).

• Hourly employees (including teaching assistants) earning ~$8/ hour (June, 2011)

• Administrators earning +$100,000/year, plus bonuses not tied to community satisfaction or student performance. (Note: approval of alternate payment plan for superintendent Kamerzell made at a Thursday morning “public” meeting with three-days’ notice (July 28, 2011)).

• June 2012, $16,600 spent sending two teachers to China, with no evidence of any return on said investment.

• Review of Board minutes often shows significant expense vouchers being approved with little or no indication of what the expenses were incurred for. See e.g. January 25, 2011, $2.5 million approved; February 2011 $2.2 & $1.3 million approved; $7.5 million June 14, 2011 (these are typical “expenses” every month).

• $4 million spent on new buses (which based on personal experience are generally mostly empty). Originally the administration and board stated bus service would only be for district students, but they have now allowed open enrolled students to ride. Once again, district taxpayers footing the bill and seeing little benefit.

• 2009 Bond election called for a $436,000 improvement to the district bus facility which voters approved based on represented cost and scope, total actual cost exceeded $1,000,000, for a brand new facility in a different location.

Examples of lack of community interest:

• Decision to take, through eminent domain, land from the La Paloma Homeowners’ Association, in direct contravention with a previous agreement. This conflict resulted in an expensive lawsuit that lasted several years.

• Decision to allow High School Field to be lit seven days a week, without any input from surrounding community directly impacted.

• Traffic problems at all schools with high open enrolled student populations, district has been unresponsive in addressing this worsening problem.

• In October 2011, the Board unanimously rejected, at Kamerzell’s advice, 11 parental rights advocated by the Arizona School Board Association (including parental right to inspect district policies, and curriculum, means for parental involvement in the classroom, and parental involvement in education).

It is unfortunate that the district administration and board has abused the trust placed in them by the community. But that is the situation we, as a community, face today. Although I hope you will vote against the budget overrides, and any future bond elections until the district has demonstrated a responsible attitude, I encourage everyone within the community to support the FFO in its mission to reduce class sizes and improve student resources; donate your money there and directly to classrooms. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Will Pew

Lifetime Foothills Resident, CFSD Alum, Parent of CFSD Students, and Former President, Catalina Foothills Association.