Frustration, anger and disappointment was the message shared at the Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent Francis Scruci listed the many excuses he has heard over the last six years since the district asked for taxpayer support for its first of four bond issues for new buildings.
The district’s latest attempt, which was a $70 million request for a new high school and renovations to the existing building, was defeated by 457 votes on Nov. 8.
“Another disappointment for the community of Bowling Green,” Scruci said at Tuesday’s meeting.
The process began six year ago with the request for a new, consolidated elementary and partial new construction at the high school, the repurposing of Crim Elementary as a preschool and central office at a cost of $72 million.
Since then, three more requests for new money to fund new school facilities have failed.
Scruci said the excuses he’s heard over the years have included it was too much money, parents didn’t want all of their kids in one elementary school, it was being funded by only a property tax, and the location of the elementary was wrong.
With the most recent request, a committee with formed and recommended a new high school with a combination of funding.
“This time we were told it was too much money, inflation, the turf project, we support our schools but not this plan, and just the wrong time,” Scruci said about the reasons he heard for the recent defeat.
“At this point, I honestly don’t know what’s going to resonate with this community to gain support,” he said.
There is new construction on the Bowling Green State University campus, as well as new senior center and city building in Bowling Green, Scruci said.
Meanwhile, the schools lag behind, he said.
“Our kids deserve a fighting chance in a global economy and yet we refuse to give them that opportunity,” Scruci said.
“Some may say I’m not voting until the superintendent is gone. That’s OK. I’m not voting until the board changes. That’s OK. While these reasons are some of the ones being used, they’re not punishing us, they’re punishing the students in the district. They’re punishing the future of this community and using individuals as scapegoats,” Scruci said.
Personal agendas have won over concern for what’s best for the community, students and staff, he said.
Something needs to be done soon or the time will come when the costs increase to where the community can never afford it, Scruci said.
“It’s now time for our community to decide what is needed to move Bowling Green forward and into the 21st century,” he said.
Board President Jill Carr said that the elementaries are not going to improve without renovation and/or replacement.
“The longer it takes to achieve this, the more run down these buildings will be and the more expensive it will be to repair or replace,” she said.
The cost of the first bond issue for multiple buildings was the same as the most recent request for just the high school, Carr said.
“It’s a clear indication it’s not going to get any cheaper for us to build a new high school or renovate or repair our elementary schools,” she said.
Carr asked each of the board members to address the levy loss.
“As a community member, a board member and a parent, it saddens me that we have been unable to address our facility needs,” said board Vice President Ryan Myers.
He, too, has heard various reasons for the no votes, including not going after state funding, dislike of the administration, anger at past decisions, and it is too expensive.
“I certainly don’t want to judge anyone on how they voted,” Myers said.
However, as adults continue to fight, name call and question motives, the buildings still need addressed, he said.
“As we move forward, let’s keep the students the focus of our conversations,” Myers said. “The students of this district deserve for the adults to figure it out.”
The conditions of the buildings are non-negotiable and are the sword on which he is willing to die on, Myers said. He said he will keep advocating for new facilities.
Board member Ginny Stewart said a small, organized group of individuals has managed to sabotage the district’s efforts for new facilities for the fourth time since she has been on the board.
Despite the deteriorating schools, the district has staff and administrators who are focused on providing programs to help student have the tools they need to be successful past high school, she said.
“If you want to say it’s the superintendent and the board that is at fault as your reason for not supporting a bond issue, I’m not going to ask you to believe that the seven years that I’ve spent on this board has been for any other reason than the benefit of your children,” Stewart said.
“To all of you who have supported the bond issues and the levies, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for being willing to invest in your children. Thank you also for being willing to invest in long-term viability of the City of Bowling Green.”
Stewart said new facilities are critical to the health of the city. They would prevent families from moving to Perrysburg and Findlay and stabilize home values.
“At the end of the day, it boils down to our students,” said board member Tracy Hovest.
She thanked everyone who supported the bond issue.
Students are the reason she wants new schools, Hovest said.
“Giving them the facilities they deserve to learn in, just like you want nice facilities to work in — our kids’ learning conditions are also our teachers’ working conditions,” Hovest said.
“I continue to believe the people in this district want a new high school,” said board member Norm Geer. “I think we have to come up with a plan that addresses the concerns the community expressed to us.”
He said once those concerns are addressed, the issue has to be put back on the ballot soon.
“There’s no reason to kick this can down the road. We need to stay on top of it. We should do whatever we can to fulfill our obligations, which is to provide the best education possible for the children of this community,” Norm said.
“The message is clear that we are all disappointed in the outcome but we will continue to fight this until it becomes a reality for all of us, that we can improve our buildings and improve the experience for all of our children and teachers and staff,” Carr said.