Fayette board of education member can’t support bond

When I was elected to serve on the Fayette County Board of Education, I was elected to represent all of the residents of Fayette County. While I admit that I am an advocate for my home Valley District, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to the entire county. As such, I feel it necessary to explain why I cannot support this current bond issue.

It is true that I have been a long-time advocate for Valley High School getting a football field. Prior to Serena Starcher’s closing Collins Middle School, she promised me that she had over $400,000 to finance the construction of a new football field in the valley. Then, when she closed Collins Middle and drafted this bond issue, she recanted and told me that we would have to vote for the bond issue to get a football field. Now this bond levy claims the board will spend $2.7 million for a project that originally was to cost a little over $400,000 and the bond proposal leaves open the possibility that any money not spent on the field could be spent elsewhere in the county. While I definitely want the much needed and long promised field for the valley, I don’t feel this is the right way to get it. We taxpayers should not have to keep paying higher taxes in order to get the benefit of our taxes that have already been paid in the past.

Prior to the Collins Middle situation, Dr. Starcher told me that she thought she could get a bond passed if she had the support of the voters in Oak Hill. Now that she has closed Collins Middle plus portions of Mt. Hope Elementary and Meadow Bridge High, she refuses to allow a second opinion on these buildings’ structural status. This creates many questions as to the justification of these actions.

While I am opposed to consolidation for the sole purpose of closing schools, I am not opposed to consolidation when it is the right thing to do for the benefit of the children. However, in this situation, it is not logical to close Fayetteville High and Meadow Bridge High Schools and bus the children to Midland Trail High School. Also, there has been talk about creating two magnet high schools at Oak Hill and Midland Trail which brings into question if the board will want to close Valley High School in the future and bus children to those two magnet schools.

Starting in 2001, Fayette County started closing schools so that we would have less costs. In 2010, the State Department of Education took control because we would not pass a bond issue and consolidate our high schools. The cost savings from our closings since 2001 have not gone into repairing and maintaining our buildings, and the state has not spent money on repairs and maintenance since taking control.

I believe this bond issue is contrived to gain votes to get it passed, and unfortunately it has turned our communities against each other. I believe there are many unanswered questions about the future of our school system that Dr. Starcher refuses to answer. I don’t believe this bond issue will provide a better education for our children. As a real estate professional, I don’t believe this bond will enhance my ability to sell homes; nor will it enhance our economic conditions. These are just a few of the reasons I don’t support it.

Lou Jones

Member of the Fayette County Board of Education

Gauley Bridge