Superintendent Dr. Robert Newhart said voters made a statement by rejecting the proposed levy increase by a 72 to 28 percent margin.
“If there’s anything that is positive that comes out of that election, in my opinion, is… the large voter turnout. It was one of the largest for a school issue in recent history and it should be that way. The voters should have the ultimate decision on the direction of the school district,” Newhart said. “So from that aspect, it definitely gives us a direction and that statement that we have to basically do a better job, earn their trust, become more efficient, regroup, find out even further on what exactly did they not like or did we not present or what we have to do going forward.”
Newhart said he believes trust is still an issue after the FBI investigations and all the events over the past few years. According to Newhart, the Board of Education Monday night named three board members to work with the community to discuss last week’s election and what can be done differently going forward.
“You cannot be critical of the plan, but yet unwilling to be part of the planning process and we encourage and welcome all stakeholders to help us with this,” Newhart said. “If that even takes some mediation between opposing sides, it’s going to take that type of hard discussion to get the elephants out of the room and actually get the district back on course.”
Newhart said based on some feedback and discussion with parents within the last week, they did not understand the plan or the opposition’s plan leading up to the special election.
“It was this segment in the middle that… (is) still concerned about the 40 million that was unaccounted for and we’ve tried to explain that numerous times,” Newhart said. “Right, wrong or indifferent, it was an estimated number by the state auditor, it was over the course of a decade, it was for work performed legitimately, it just was not board approved that should have been board approved and the board retroactively approved those.”
“Today, all contracts, all agreements are board approved, they’re tagged to those agenda items that is publicly placed on our website and… that is something that has changed,” Newhart said. “Going forward we’ve got to do a better job somehow to get this all communicated.”
Newhart said it is unknown at this point if there will be another issue on the April ballot. He said the needs of the district, however, will not be going away and, going forward, the district will be focused on becoming more efficient in certain areas and listening to community and parent feedback.