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December 8, 2013

HISD bond forum set Monday

HUNTSVILLE — The Huntsville Independent School District on Monday is holding the first of two scheduled community forums to receive public input on a proposed bond election next year.

HISD Board of Trustees and administrators are expected to gather at 6:30 p.m., in the Mance Park Middle School auditorium. Superintendent Dr. Steve Johnson said last month that the district needs to hear from citizens in order to realize what a realistic bond package could be.

Voters in May elected against a $65.5 million bond, which would have consisted of building a new middle school, expanding and renovating the Huntsville High School cafeteria, auditorium and adding a video production lab. There would have also been a new cafeteria, kitchen and 10 additional classrooms for the intermediate school, as well as million dollar sports, agricultural science and technology facilities.

Board members and administrators got the message that it could take some downsizing to make a plan work. But communication is going to be essential to the planning process.

“We want to really open it up and get the citizens involved,” Johnson said in a November meeting with the Item. “We want them to help us recommend a document to the trustees that the public will accept. In the last bond, there were citizens who had issues with not feeling included in the process. We’d like to hear from all of them.”

The district is collecting responses through an online community survey on why the previous bond failed and options for possible solutions. The link can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/s/hisdbondsurvey, or on the district’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages. The survey will remain open through the second week of January, according to HISD Director of Communications Shannon Duncan.

Another community forum is scheduled Jan. 13 at Scott Johnson Elementary.

HISD will conduct a staff survey in early January. At the regularly scheduled board meeting Jan. 16, bond committee members will be finalized.

The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23 at Huntsville High School, when the district will share the needs identified by last year’s planning committee, review the community survey and set a timeframe for future work.

They will consider bond options at the second meeting, Feb. 3 at Gibbs Pre-K Center. A third meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 at Huntsville Intermediate School, where the committee plans to formulate a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

The board will host a workshop at the Hawkins Administration Building on Feb. 17. An election could be called as early as Feb. 20, but possibly Feb. 25.

Johnson and trustees are expected to conduct presentations within the district following the call for the election.

The more problematic facilities, according to HISD administrators, are Gibbs and Scott Johnson. Most of the Gibbs facility being used was built in 1959.  Scott Johnson was built in 1962 and hasn’t seen renovations since 1985.

“Our voters spoke loud and clear about what they won’t support during the last election,” Duncan said. “It’s time to put that behind us and come together as a community to find solutions that our citizens can and will vote for. The district must continue to advocate for better and improved facilities for our children and staff members of today and tomorrow. We encourage and appreciate everyone’s participation and input by attending our scheduled meetings and completing our survey.”

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Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae, right, presents Claude Williams with a plaque and challenge coin from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office. Williams was being thanked for his actions in helping an arresting officer detain a suspect.

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