Fundraisers such as the Dollar-A-Day campaign and Schoolapalooza, as well as the passage of Proposition W in November (a parcel tax specifically aimed at maintaining school programs), have helped to maintain funding for teachers, librarians and science programs.
Even with the extra money, some community members are still concerned about district finances.
The Davis Joint Unified School District board of trustees decided with a 4-1 vote to prioritize the building of a new stadium at Davis Senior High School as part of the new Facilities Master Plan at their Dec. 18 meeting.
“Metaphorically put in terms of baseball, the new stadium [Halden field] is not even on base, it’s at the plate because it has not yet been approved,” said Mike McDermott, Davis schools alumnus and president of the Blue and White Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the high school.
Some parents and community members at Emerson Junior High School say the stadium should not be the top priority when repairs are desperately needed at their school.
Superintendent James Hammond addressed the issue of the reasoning for prioritizing the stadium rebuilding over other projects.
“Building the stadium is fiscally more feasible at this point,” said Superintendent Dr. James Hammond. “Emerson is structurally sound, but there do need to be updates in cooling and heating systems, along with refurbishing. This is one of the district’s priorities; it’s just that the stadium is best suited for plans now. There are already redevelopment funds from the county for the stadium remodel.”
Board president Gina Daleiden, who voted with the majority, told the Davis Enterprise that she believes “one project does not exclude another.”
McDermott, the foundation president, disagrees with those who think that the Emerson funding and the stadium funding are connected.
“Funding for the new field and Emerson are not connected. Emerson is funded by the general fund [paying for teachers, librarians, etc.], while the facility funds [paying for the building of new structures] are completely different,” McDermott said. “The stadium would make money for the school district as well because it would generate money for the general fund.”
Still some Emerson Junior High parents fear that the prioritization of the building of the new stadium at Davis High will leave the junior high under-funded, leading to its closure and consolidation with another school.
“Emerson should be the priority for funding,” Emerson parent and Chipotle owner Joe Herman said. “It’s neglected and old. They talked about closing it last year, and with the funding going to the new stadium it’s an excuse to ignore the situation at Emerson. There isn’t even a bus system for these students, so they’d have to ride their bikes across town.”
The Board of Education and superintendent clearly disagree with those who think that Emerson’s closure is imminent if modernization of the school is not prioritized as highly as the stadium.
Hammond also addressed the possibly of Emerson being closed last year, a major reason for fear among those who oppose the building of the stadium.
“The closure last year of Emerson was simply a discussion in consideration of balancing the budget. There are no hidden agendas in the building of the stadium,” Hammond said.
With controversy over where funds would come from, there are also certain restrictions on which sources can be used to fund the project.
“An oversight committee comprised of the general public is charged with insuring that parcel tax monies are used properly,” said Yes on W campaign manager Kingsley Melton. “The W money would not be used for the building of the stadium, as it would be a misuse and have disastrous consequences for any future parcel tax campaign.”
Some see other reasons for the building as justified.
“The priority of the school district should always be to provide the best education possible. [That said], education doesn’t always happen in the classroom,” Melton said.
“Other schools won’t even play on the field because the conditions are so bad. There’s safety issues as well,” McDermott said.
Even with administrators receiving raises during the financial crisis, there are loopholes that make it hard to avoid the extra expenditures.
“The school board should not approve expenditures it doesn’t have the money for, but if the raises were approved before the budget woes there’s nothing you can do,” Melton said.
In the Davis Enterprise, trustee Tim Taylor expressed concern about the “constant pitting of Davis against Davis” when facilities projects are discussed. “For every program that gets a voice of support, there’s another program or group or constituency that comes out in opposition…. I’d like to hope that as a community, we can get past that.”
Funding for the potential new stadium will be discussed at the Jan. 8 Board of Education meeting.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.