Pro-bond group becoming active
Peg Newton is one De Soto mom who plans to make sure the USD 232 bond issue will pass.
"It just makes sense that we take care of our children -- our most valuable resource," she said. "Businesses don't come to De Soto because of our seascape or our mountain ranges. They come because we have quality neighborhoods, quality education and they get excellent employees who are well-educated."
Newton has five children -- three are De Soto High School graduates, one is at Lexington Trails Middle School and one is at Starside Elementary School. She is part of a team of parents and patrons working on the vote "yes" committee for the De Soto school bond issue. The team is passing out yard signs, sending out mailers and has a Web site, www.voteyesforusd232.com
Newton said she's planning to vote "yes" on the bond issue because the school buildings are overcrowded. The $105.7 million bond issue would expand De Soto High School from 750 to 1,000 students, Mill Valley from 1,000 to 1,250 and build two new elementary schools. It would also pay for land acquisition for future schools and an additional early childhood education center in Shawnee.
"Riverview is at capacity, Clear Creek and Prairie Ridge are close," she said. "At Starside, because of our many special circumstances -- 46 percent are on free and reduced lunches, which makes their needs greater -- those children have greater needs and because of that we need more classrooms."
Newton said although Lexington Trails is one school that isn't overcrowded yet, she feels responsible for making sure children in all the De Soto schools have the same opportunities.
"I think this is almost a Band-Aid for what we really need," she said. "The most important thing is that we get classrooms. We're not looking for Olympic-sized swimming pools."
Newton said that getting a technical education is especially important for De Soto students with today's tough job market.
"When I graduated from the dark ages in 1972, it was OK that people graduated with enough education to go to the mill or the mine, but those jobs are not out there anymore," she said.
Newton said she disagreed with De Soto school board member Randy Johnson, who is part of a group called "Citizens for Responsible Education," that opposes the bond issue.
"How dare he vote in favor of this and come out against it," she said. "He's pandering to the people he thinks vote for him. I think he's going to find himself wrong."
Newton said that good schools would also lead to better property values and more businesses coming into the area, which could reduce the property tax burden on residents.
Vicky Needham, another parent on the committee, said the bond issue should concern more than just parents.
"I believe that educating our children is everyone's obligation and responsibility," she said.
Needham said her concern was not only overcrowded classrooms, but also a lack of teacher resources.
Needham said she also disagreed with Shawnee City Councilman Kevin Straub, who came out against the De Soto bond issue in the Mill Valley JagWire, the student newspaper.
"Kevin Straub is a city councilman who is well placed in the political arena and has all the facts and figures of the planning commission," she said. "He knows all about our growth issues and yet he's coming out against it."
Needham said accusations by the bond opposition group that De Soto schools are overspending aren't accurate.
"Our district is audited inside and outside, so how can they say they hope we'll spend it frugally?" she asked.
In their official capacity, De Soto district officials can't campaign for the bond issue. But administrators are presenting information at a series of meetings about the needs behind the bond. Those meetings are scheduled for:
- 5:30 p.m. Monday at Lexington Trails Middle School
- 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lexington Trails Middle School
- 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Monticello Trails Middle School
- 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at De Soto High School.
Election day is Nov. 7. Monday is the last day to register to vote with the Johnson County Election Office.
Advanced ballot voting is also available.