Barbara Breazeale

Barbara Breazeale

Recently there was a front page article in the Advocate about Stroman School closing because of poor air quality. For the safety of the kids, they are going to Liberty which is in the same area, has plenty of room and a pool!

Call me cynical, but this came out the week kids are going back to school. Coincidence?

VISD has millions in the bank from Stimulus and other grants, why didn’t they fix the roofs, air conditioners and other “safety” issues early in the summer while kids were out of school? Hello, this is not rocket science.

I came from another state and almost yearly the school board would come up with some huge bond measure. The soccer moms would gush about how “little Johnny needs this and it is for the good of the kids” and they never looked at the repercussions on businesses and homeowners, whether there was mismanagement of funds or the fact that the tax increase never went away. In fact, I doubt if they even read the bond.

Two times in the past four years, the VISD School Board has tried to float huge bond measures. It attracted my attention when the first one wanted to tear down a stadium! They had a snack bar/ticket office for almost $250,000 while the median price of homes in Victoria was less than that! When I brought that up with Quentin Shepherd recently, he said the stadium is not ADA compliant. Really? So why not just fix that part of the problem and go on. I must be too simple minded.

The next bond six months ago, wanted $156,000,000 to tear down Stroman and Mission Valley plus fix A/Cs and roofs. The Advocate, which seems to be a one-sided ally of VISD, went on and on about how awful these schools were. Again, being simple I asked why this was not a priority a few years ago instead of the stadium. No answer. Why wasn’t there a maintenance plan in place so that when an A/C goes out it is replaced, roofs leak, replace or fix so mold does not develop? No answer.

I am a basic practical person and I look upon the school system as an important business. Each year they receive millions from State of Texas, the Feds and our taxes. They even received millions in stimulus money. They have a budget that is healthy. You don’t have an open- ended budget financed by the local taxpayer when you have not taken care of your buildings.

Every business has a product or a service that tells us whether their business is profitable and successful. The school system is a business whose product is an education. When I first came to Victoria, the Star Test results were published in the Advocate. I was shocked. Most of the schools had horrible test scores. One school’s science scores were listed as 13%!!! (This means that the school placed in the bottom 13% of all schools in Texas in Science!) Mission Valley had the highest scores. (I would like to note, this is the school they want to tear down and replace so obviously there is no correlation between old buildings and a good education.)

Next, the graduation rate in Victoria high schools is horrible, last I heard in the 80-plus percentile.

Now VISD wants a new bond. It will have several categories and you can vote on A) Tear down Stroman and build all new at an outrageous rate. B) Fix A/C systems. C) Fix roofs. D) Tear down Mission Valley and rebuild. In other words, it is the same bond as six months ago but items are arranged differently.

Again, VISD is seeming to miss the point with the voting public. We do not want to throw money at a system of education that does not have a handle on management of the money and facilities they have.

1. We need to know that new air conditioning systems will be maintained and serviced not left to disrepair and early replacement.

2. We need to know that roofs when they leak will be repaired so that mold does not occur.

3. If mold occurs, maintenance will clean it up, not tear down a school to repair the problem. (Maybe I have been watching too much HGTV?)

4. Money should be spent to give our teachers a raise so we can attract and keep good ones.

5. Priorities should be given to raise the education level in our schools through whatever means are necessary – discipline, higher pay to teachers, etc.

6. A building does not dictate the level of education a child gets. Faith Academy and St. Joseph’s are old, but they are clean and well maintained and they have a great graduation rate!!

7. We all witnessed the insurance debacle after Hurricane Harvey. Turns out VISD had risk pool insurance which covered little of the damage of Harvey. That goof caused VISD millions of dollars. I hate to beat a dead horse but this is why I wanted business people voted onto the board.

A Task Force was established by VISD to research the bond. A citizen’s group was established to help and give input. The citizens worked many hours and submitted their findings. They showed how we could get schools fixed without putting new taxes on our homeowners. I never saw the Advocate publish those findings. Instead, VISD comes back with the same demands, same costs and nothing changes. We should not call this a Task Force but Ground Hog Day Committee.

I don’t know if it makes you mad, but I get upset when I have people equate bond or no bond with caring about kids or not caring. Those are the moments I roll my eyes and leave because one of us is using facts and it only seems to confuse the other side.

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Barbara Breazeale is a mom to four and grandmother to seven. She is the Advancement Director for Victoria House of Palms, P.O. Box 4886, Victoria Texas 77903.

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Barbara Breazeale writes an occasional blog for the Victoria Advocate.

(3) comments

James Chandler

You raised many good points. The performance of our public schools across the country is a major concern to me (it scares me to death). My oldest daughter is a high school teacher in another city so I know most teachers are dedicated, hard working, and under paid. The teachers and the facilities are not the problem. I agree with what Bill Pozzi said in one of his columns that the problem is mainly at home. I don't know how to get parents more involved and committed to their children's education. Since I'm nearing retirement I have a dream to some day own my home. Even without a tax increase my taxes on my home went up over $1000 due to a value increase. Sadly I've come to realize even if a pay off my mortgage, I will still be renting my home from VISD.

Tim Foerster

I won't support or vote for this bond. Seems some are tone deaf as to what the voters truly want...

Brian Vandale

Barbara, thank you.

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