Issue 81: chump change?

To the Editor:

I believe strongly in good education and have been frustrated by the inadequacies in our district, as well as annoyed by the board’s constant harping in veiled words about the percentage of poor black students that makes our system so “special.”

What bothers me most about Issue 81 is that it is not about education. But I am not inclined to present my opinion based on my feelings. I prefer a proper analysis, which is what I have done after reviewing reams of records.

The telling documents that, to me, contain the “smoking gun” with regard to this issue and the plan it is supposed to fund are those referenced by the supporters of Issue 81 and the board: the state’s report.

The campaign and the board claim the state found the school buildings borderline in supporting current educational programs. In fact, that is not true.

Taking statements directly from the high school report, the state claims the following: Technology is adequate; science has sufficient space for equipment; learning spaces slightly undersized, but allow for small group activity and academic areas are away from disruptive noise; interior walls permit flexibility for most classrooms; and the library is an attractive space. Surprised?

Now, what about safety and security, a set of buzzwords in the literature supporting Issue 81? The state reported: Security system components range from adequate to good. Verbiage in the report noted the risk management system in good condition, motion detectors, cameras, recorders, and the computer controls; fire alarm system is fair and adequate, but the school needs a sprinkler system; exterior doors are equipped with panic hardware; emergency lighting provided throughout building with separate electrical circuits for them, though some exits require better lighting.

The claims of the campaign and the board are in alignment with the state’s report with regard to the conditions of the roof (it leaks and needs to be replaced); the walls (need tuckpointing, copings and lintels repaired or replaced, and one parapet rebuilt); electrical (needs to be replaced); water and drainage pipelines (need to be replaced).

Overall the structural elements of the roof, the walls, the floors and foundation are good. In addition, the state found ventilation was adequate, as well as the heating system.

I feel duped in some way, because I had been under the impression the report was based on an assessment of the school building conditions. The report, however, is a “quote” for renovating all buildings, and includes more than $14 million in construction overhead. As with any zealous contractor making a bid, this quote suggests replacing everything, even those items that are still working, adequate and good, as well as those items that are poor.

To pin down the actual scope of the plan has not been easy. The League of Women Voters, in its letter endorsing Issue 81, is also apparently confused about the scope of the plan, stating it will tear down the buildings to their cores. Yet a Sept. 19 article in the Plain Dealer now claims the plan will tear down only one-third of the six additions, and the cost remains the same—$73 million quoted by the state.

To actually address the issues that are poor, inadequate or missing, according to the state report, would require about $24 million. For this chump change we would have better décor, better desks, a new electrical system, a sprinkler system and all walls and roofs in tip-top condition. These aren’t Band-Aids. I have to wonder: How did we get from there to here?

Diane Hallum

Diane Hallum
Cleveland Heights

Read More on Letters To The Editor
Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 1:04 PM, 10.01.2013