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School Board goes for trimmed-down bond measure

After a bond proposal was soundly trounced in November 2013, the Corbett School District Board of Directors is going back to voters with a $9.415 million bond request this month.

Voters will decide in the May 20 primary election whether to approve the trimmed-down bond that would replace the 90-year-old middle school and make seismic, fire protection and energy upgrades to the cafeteria, gym and high school.

The bond has been cut back from last fall’s $15 million proposal. Opponents such as school board member Annette Calcagno said at the time they would prefer to see a bond measure in spring 2014 or later of $8 million to $10 million with a more developed plan.

The board voted 4-1 in March to place the bond on the May 20 election ballot.

A $9.415 million bond would cost an estimated $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed value, which if approved, would not increase the property tax rate for Corbett School District residents from 2013-14. The bond would mature over a period not to exceed 21 years.

In 1994, voters passed a $6.5 million bond to construct a new elementary school. Besides the elementary school, district buildings are between 35 and 90 years old.

The vote on the bond comes amid a year in which district personnel were called into ethical question and which has seen heated debate over its leadership, charter school, AP philosophy and alleged lack of communication with the community.

The bond is opposed by the political action committee Save Our Schools, which says the bond lacks a developed plan, transparency and community input.

In particular, members of SOS have expressed concern that the school board and district administration is trying to grow Corbett schools with out-of-district students.

Conversely, the bond is supported by Safe Corbett Kids, which says the bond protects Corbett property values with a new and safe building, makes economic sense with no new tax increase, will reduce congestion and responds to community concerns.

In its literature, the vote yes campaign references keeping “small but strong schools.”

Charter lease agreement

At its Wednesday, May 7, special board meeting, the Corbett School Board accepted a renegotiated Corbett Charter School lease agreement, following months of negotiation between the district and charter parties.

For one year, the charter school may lease Corbett’s library for $115,000 in total from July 1 through June 30, 2015.

In emailed correspondence, Bob Dunton, charter director, said the charter will not be able to offer its primary or high school program.

The library space will accommodate 75 students in fifth- and sixth-grades on campus.

“We had to make decisions regarding where one year could make the greatest positive impact,” Dunton wrote. “We also had to consider what age students would do best in the space that is available to us.”

Sheri Dunton, Dunton’s wife and a charter teacher, specialist and administrator, will serve as the on-site principal, he wrote.

Dunton has written that he will manage the charter’s organization, personnel and budget from afar, as he is not allowed on campus through the lease agreement.

Lindy Sims, Larry Swanson and Sarah Dummer will serve as charter teachers, he wrote.

On Jan. 22, the board voted to renew the charter school, but entered into a 90-day period of negotiations about the school.

Emotions ran high last February as the Corbett School Board voted 5-2 to pull the plug on Corbett Charter School’s lease after this school year.

A spiral of controversy has surrounded the charter school, with many teachers, parents and members of the public calling it divisive.

And yet even some opponents of the charter school said while they wanted to see the charter go, they wanted to do what was in the best interest of students and avoid a potential lawsuit from Dunton.

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