NBS Facility Levy
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 08 October 2013

An Open Letter to the New Bremen Village

14 October 2013

Dear Fellow Resident and Taxpayer,

On November 5 the New Bremen School’s replacement K-6 building, plus a 7-8 relocation and High School modifications will be on the ballot.  

Last year’s attempt to pass that levy failed, approximately two-thirds voting against passage, virtually unprecedented for New Bremen’s usually accommodating voters. The reasons were diverse but likely reflected voter skepticism about the immediacy of need and the material tax bite.  What was never an issue is that the present K-8 facility would require replacement.

The upcoming levy, to the Board’s credit, appears to correct most of last year’s issues:  There is an alternative rational site; the plan abides by OSFC’s (Ohio School Facilities Commission) ground rules; and taxpayers' overall cost of the levy has been reasonably transparent.  

End of story, just pass the levy?  A necessary though less than optimal answer is vote "yes" to at least protect the Village's children. This building plan has sputtered, but with a three-year lead time for occupancy even a plan with warts is needed.

The usual yard signs are being plastered around the Village, a lame game that assumes our voters are neurons short of critical thought.  Last year’s building plan would have been educationally obsolete before the structure’s footers were poured.  Public K-12 schools across the nation – with the smarts to piggyback their own reform on alleged corporate reform and dysfunctional testing – have been matching new physical facilities to changes in contemporary learning strategies.  The proposed NBS facilities, with a potential life of three decades, by default won't allegedly reflect even the rest of this decade's changes in learning approaches.  The hope is that enough flex is built into the present plan to accommodate ongoing real K-12 reform.

This building project has been in process for at least six years, now seen urgent should Ohio curtail matching OSFC funding.  Not the most noble education value, but arguably pragmatic.  Even less noble, some numbers that do not compute. OSFC will contribute $6.9MM, normally one-half of a building's cost.  That makes the K-6 building's cost $13.8MM.  But the project is cited as costing $21.5MM.  Is $7.7MM required to add grades 7 and 8 to the high school's structure?  What part of your $7.7MM in taxes is actually going to education, what part without full disclosure to unnecessary sports' spending?

Lastly, not at all kosher, most of the planning of this levy was allegedly conducted outside the School, off the books, and possibly in violation of both Ohio's open door and open records laws. One can speculate that if there had been greater transparency, with an open marketplace for ideas, the plan might be better.

So the argument is, vote for the levy, because in this instance at least a majority of it likely is "for the children."  Then participate in NBS Board meetings in force, and especially after three new members already de facto selected by an allegedly rigged Board election are sworn, to demand better and more open Board oversight of a System that spends far more time feeling good, more time and resources on marketing and hype, and less time and assets improving real learning, than systems that can actually claim excellence.

This November 5 vote is a demonstration that we live in an imperfect world, full of trade-offs. As challenging as this choice has been made by NBS Boards and Administrations that have been short on transparency and accountability, the end game has to be giving the next generation the tools to be and do better.

Hold your nose, but vote yes as an affirmation of support for learning.

Dr. Ron Willett
New Bremen

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 October 2013 )