Public Education is based first and foremost on trust. There is confidence granted in school districts by the tax-paying public. Our community’s most precious resources, children, are entrusted to us along with funding to provide them a high-quality education.
In SUESD, we take this trust very seriously. Nothing is more rewarding than being able to deliver a concrete example of this public promise. SUESD’s 2016 General Obligation Bond, Measure C, is just such an example.
When I started as SUESD Superintendent in 2016, I became immediately aware of how important this bond measure would be to our district. I was fortunate to have a board, staff, and community thoroughly committed to improving the facilities.
Before the November 2016 Election, just a little more than three years ago to the month, I wrote an article in this very newspaper expressing the facts regarding our facilities. Our small district was using 40 portable classrooms, most of which were between 30-40 years old (long past their expected age of usage). These temporary buildings were in bad shape, to put it mildly. We thought our students and teachers deserve better learning spaces. We would be asking for $42,000,000 to accomplish replacing all of the portables with new rooms.
On November 8, 2016, our community demonstrated how much they trust us by approving Measure C with a 71.56% yes vote. Our talented team of in-district staff and construction partners immediately sprang into action. We set ambitious goals, new play structures installed at our elementary schools by the beginning of school in 2017 and that students would be in new classrooms by August of 2019. Every step along the way, we felt compelled to work hard to prove the community’s trust in us was warranted. There was a “proof will be in the pudding” mindset. We achieved our goals. All of the old portables are gone!
There were so many good folks who played a part in the success. There’s not enough room here to mention everyone, but they are all truly appreciated. I want to note a few folks, though, who were crucial in the process. I first want to acknowledge Harley Robertson. He is now retired, but in 2016, he put the original plan for Measure C into action as SUESD’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. I was new at that time, so feel forever indebted to Harley for putting together, as he called it, a Measure C “Dream Team.”
That Dream Team included bringing our then Maintenance Supervisor, Jim Dupré, on as Bond & Facilities Manager. That was the best decision ever! Jim knows every corner of the facilities in SUESD. Even more importantly, he had a burning desire and commitment to make sure our teachers and students had better facilities. It was a passion for Jim, not just a job. By the way, if you happen to know Jim, wish him a bon voyage as he will be retiring at the end of December 2019. He is riding off into the sunset with Measure C as a perfect capper to the end of a distinguished career.
Two construction partners played vital roles for our Measure C Dream Team, too; MADI Architecture and Kramer Project Development Company (now RGM Kramer Inc). These two companies worked hand-in-hand to design our new buildings and then execute their construction. Most importantly, they helped to make it all happen on-schedule and on-budget!
Finally, I couldn’t write this article without mentioning the enormous contributions of Michelle Kennedy. Michelle took over for Harley as SUESD’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services and Chief Business Officer (CBO) in 2017. She took the reins from Harley and never looked back. She began her first stint as CBO, and that was daunting in and of itself. Ms. Kennedy took this on as well as the Measure C Construction Projects. She immersed herself in learning all things related to construction and took painstaking steps to ensure every penny of Measure C funds was spent responsibly. Michelle was the backbone of the entire Measure C Construction process.
Recently, we celebrated the completion of the projects by having ribbon-cutting ceremonies at each of our school sites. We were honored to be joined by elected local officials such as County Supervisors John Leopold and Zach Friend, as well as City of Capitola City Council Members Ed Bottorff and Mayor Jacques Bertrand. SUESD’s Board of Trustees all participated in the Measure C Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies as well.
We also had students create time capsules that will be buried by the new buildings. The time capsules will be unearthed over fifty years from now, so students in the future can see what it was like to attend our schools in 2019.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity that the SUESD Board of Trustees gave us by placing Measure C on the November 8, 2016, ballot. Thank you, SUESD Community, for passing Measure C. The new classrooms are serving our current students and will be a legacy serving generations of students to come.
For more information: www.suesd.org