Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Port Arthur ISD Bond

The Port Arthur School District wants another 190 million dollars to finish what it couldn’t do with the last bond election.  Now, I won’t say much about the BISD bond, I don’t live in Beaumont.  I do live in Port Arthur and I do feel both qualified and obligated to comment about PAISD.  I worked there for three years, in the high school, as a teacher.  I’ve been in the trenches and gnawed a few ankles.

My three years at Memorial High School were spent in a portable building.  After Rita, we didn’t have insulation or even ceiling tiles.  That winter, the temperature in the classroom was about 45 degrees when I got there.  By the end of the day, it was almost 60 sometimes.  When March rolled around, it hit 100 in the classroom during 7th period.  I asked for heaters, it was suggested that I buy one (which I did).  I asked for an air conditioner (the portables had their central units destroyed long before I got into them).  I was given an air conditioner, a 1500 BTU window unit.  That lowered the temp about 3 degrees.

With those experiences, you would think that I am in favor of the bond issue.  Heck NO!  Port Arthur ISD doesn’t have a clue about how to manage money or take care of facilities.  They are more concerned with appearances and athletics than anything else.  Admittedly, that applies to any Texas school district.

PAISD wants 24 million to finish a high school that hasn’t even been started yet from the bond election before Rita.  Tens of millions of dollars have been wasting away while political infighting prevents a school from being built.  Even after the bond, there were arguments about where it would be built.  Now they want 24 million to build science labs, an auditorium and career technology classrooms (CATE).  What about the athletic complex?  I bet that’s already approved with the current bond money so they can get the new one approved because science labs are critical to TAKS.  What about CATE?  That’s career training (you remember; shop, welding, (surprisingly) art).  Doesn’t Stillwell tech center take care of that?

Speaking of which, the bond wants 120 million for ‘campus renovations’ and to turn Stillwell into a ‘full service Educational Center’.  What exactly is a full service education center.  The brochure fails to specify.  Does it mean classes will be held there?  Because they already are.  Does it mean things like English and Math will be taught there instead of at the high school… then we can convert those classrooms to science labs.  What campus renovations?  I know they want a big chunk of change to rebuild Woodrow Wilson.  Please believe me when I say that school should be torn down.  It is in miserable shape.  I know teachers that were there after Rita and the conditions that they had to work in were beyond frightening.

Finally, they want 45 million to replace Franklin and Washington.  Which brings us back to a major issue that was discussed even before the last bond issue… “What will they do with Franklin?”  It’s not like they can sell it to anyone.  Who wants an ancient and run down school building?  So that building will still be on the roles and still have to be taken care of.

I understand the need for quality education, but believe me, there is very little of that in PAISD.  My favorite example comes from a senior who asked me, “When I divide, do I put the big number in the calculator first or the little number?”

I’ll be the first to admit that the school board seems to be turning around, but it will be years before the schools are turned around.  A friend at Memorial says that this is the worst year ever.

Until everyone, including the students, the teachers, and the staff of the schools are back in-line, any money spent is just wasted.  For me, I’m voting NO to all three.  I will reconsider when I find out what the current status of all the athletic projects are in the ISD.  If those are going full blast, then forget it.  Athletics are EXTRAcurricular.  Use that money to pay for science labs, and refurbishing the elementary schools.  Don’t waste my money on sports when your TAKS scores are in the toilet.  Don’t waste my money when 1/3 of the senior class doesn’t pass TAKS.

New schools won’t change that.

November 4, 2007 - Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics

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