Opponents, supporters: Trust needed before next VISD bond

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Nov. 11, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.
Updated Nov. 12, 2017 at 6 a.m.

   mct graphic for The Victoria Advocate

Trust is crucial when it comes to crafting a multimillion-dollar Victoria school district bond, said resident Michael Kuhn.

"They didn't trust us with the study results," said Kuhn, who has a background in construction and voted against the school bond. "We should have been involved more in the process."

Voters - both supporters and opponents - said Friday trust and social media were reasons the bond was rejected in Tuesday's election.

Social media played an important role in the results, said Lou Svetlik, school board president.

"Many people we heard from, we never got an opportunity to see in person," Svetlik said.

Battling misinformation became a struggle, he said.

Board members will discuss at Thursday's board meeting how to earn the community's trust, Svetlik said.

"We are going to back up, look at those things and include the community in the discussion so next time there is more broad support," he said.

According to unofficial results from the Victoria County Elections Office, the VISD bond lost in 27 precincts.

The bond lost by more than 70 percent of the vote in several precincts.

In Precinct 18, which covers the Raisin and Quail Creek areas, the bond lost by 218 votes, and in Precinct 22, which covers Mission Valley, the measure lost by 114 votes. Mission Valley Elementary School was one of four buildings that would have been replaced if the bond had passed.

The bond won in:

Precinct 7, along the U.S. 59 corridor that stretches to Inez, by 31 votes.

Precinct 31, the area near Sam Houston Drive and Houston Highway, by 38 votes.

Precinct 32, south of Red River Street and east of Ben Jordan Street, by 11 votes.

Precinct 34, south of Port Lavaca Drive and Southwest Ben Jordan Street, by 20 votes.

Precinct 35, the southwest corner of Victoria, by four votes.

The bond tied in Precinct 4, which includes a part of downtown Victoria, with 61 votes.

Precincts 12 and 13, which cover Bloomington and Placedo, are not in VISD.

The district's board members should have embraced the opportunity social media presented to engage with people, said Scott Koonce, a Victoria resident who favored the bond.

"If you don't embrace social media, then you're probably not going to win," Koonce said. "It gives a voice to people normally not heard."

People latched onto misinformation on social media because there was a lack of engagement with school officials, he said.

"If there were more of that with our leaders, I think that maybe next time, it would pass," he said.

Koonce, a Victoria High School graduate, supported the bond because his children and extended family members are enrolled in the district.

The pros in the bond were rebuilding schools and the stadium and sports complex because those things are important to the students and the city's growth, Koonce said.

Polls and phone calls could have been additional ways of gauging the community's response to the bond, he said.

Although there were community presentations, there was not much back-and-forth discussion, he said.

"It didn't feel open to the public," he said. "They have that fear for a reason; they need to gain that trust back."

Kuhn, an opponent, said more evidence about the bond's necessity should have been presented.

He said minimal floor plans could have been created instead of artist renderings to justify the costs behind the new schools.

A greater emphasis on new schools, not a list of maintenance needs, would have sold the proposed bond better, he said.

"There is no educational improvement in that type of work," he said. "Build new - don't waste money on dolling up old buildings."

Board members are committed to including the public more in the next bond package, Svetlik said.

"We are going to look at how and what was presented," he said. "Somewhere in between, we can all come to an agreement or compromise."



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