Campbell Union High School District

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Measure G Bond Investments

Campbell Union High School District Modernizes Educational Programs & Facilities thru Responsible Stewardship of Taxpayer Funds

 
An oversight committee for Measure G, a 2006 bond measure passed by voters, recently concluded that Campbell Union High School District (CUHSD) was in compliance with the requirements of the initiative.

This finding was especially relevant in light of the district's plans to request voter approval for a second general bond (Measure AA) on the November 2016 ballot.
Since 2006, CUHSD has worked to modernize and upgrade aging school facilities and to create new instructional spaces for art and career technical education (CTE) programs.

According to Patrick Gaffney, who oversaw the Measure G bond program as CUHSD's chief business officer from 1999-2012 and as superintendent from 2012-2016, the drive for better facilities and school environments starts with the goal of improving student achievement.

“I think that in Campbell we've always believed that the environments students are in shows students respect. It shows the community respect, and we know that when students are shown that and have the opportunity to succeed, students perform, and they achieve, and we've seen that with these bond measures.”

Some of the most noticeable facility improvements undertaken with bond money from Measure G are the performing arts centers at the district’s five comprehensive high schools, but Gaffney said there are also others.

“When you get into the campus, the quads were redone, these beautiful spaces where kids congregate and hang out and talk, and when you get inside the buildings we've redone the cafeterias, the gymnasiums. . .Locker rooms were redone, libraries, beautiful libraries were redone on multiple campuses, classroom spaces, science, art courtyards, beautiful spaces for kids to work in and live in.”
 
While this work was underway, the district also looked for ways to decrease property taxes for homeowners by refinancing bond funds at lower interest rates and returning those savings to the taxpayers.

Ron Wheelehan took over as CUHSD’s chief business officer in 2012.

“The district in 2012 and through 2015 refinanced the bond as interest rates became lower, therefore saving the taxpayers money by lowering their taxable rate per $100,000 of their assessed value of their homes, so that their tax bill would actually go down,” Wheelehan said. “Some districts take those savings and apply those towards projects. Our district does not do that. We prefer saving the taxpayer money by just lowering their tax rate.”

Wheelehan said the district employed additional strategies to stretch bond dollars by obtaining educational grants and matching funds from the state that could be combined with bond money to fund projects.

“Those are three ways of saving the taxpayers money,” said Wheelehan. “One, through refinancing the bond if interest rates should fall. Number two is leveraging state modernization funds, which we did for some of our buildings, and then the third way is applying for grants which requires more than just filling out qualification forms, it also requires us to put together an educational program to get these facility funds.”

This third strategy, creating educational programs to receive grant money earmarked for facility improvements, resulted in the establishment of an engineering/industrial manufacturing program at Westmont High, the refurbishment of a barn used by the school’s longstanding agricultural program, and a new information & communication technology program at Prospect High.
Plans for a new biomedical facility and program at Del Mar High School were also in the works, but Wheelehan said high building costs prompted the district to pull back temporarily.

“We went ahead and put that out to bid,” said Wheelehan. “The bids were way higher than the architect’s estimate, and so we felt that it was better to hold off on that one, to sharpen the pencil and rebid it.”

Students and teachers have been the main beneficiaries of these changes.

Prospect High theater arts teacher Kurt Meeker chairs the school’s performing arts department.

He came to the district in 2004 after four years at Gilroy High School under Principal Robert Bravo, who became CUHSD’s new superintendent in 2016.

Meeker said one of the things that drew him to Prospect High was the opportunity to build a more comprehensive theatre program.
 
Meeker's new classroom at Prospect adjoins a workshop where his theatre students can create and build their own sets.

The arrival of a new performing arts center via 2006’s Measure G bond had an immediate impact on his approach to teaching as well as the learning of his students.

“We’re looking at productions now that are more professional, and that the audience comes into a building that is dedicated to theatre, and this is a space that is clearly set aside for theatre and theater only. It makes a different set of expectations for the students and for myself as well. . .We are in a first rate theater, and we need to have a first rate production, and so my teaching goes to that as well where we’re really preparing students to be strongly successful in what could be a professional situation.”

The new building also facilitated the emergence of a new curriculum in the theatre arts program, one that hadn’t been possible before.

“The technical infrastructure of the theatre is honestly state of the art as far as theatre is concerned,” said Meeker. “Lighting system and the sound system are first rate, and I’m able to train students now on equipment that if they go forward from high school into college or into the industry they’ll have some background in the kind of instruments and control systems that they’ll be encountering in the professional world, so we’re actually training students now to be successful beyond high school as far as theater is concerned, which was something that really wasn’t possible as far as the technical things were concerned before.”

Is there a connection between school facilities and student learning?

Gaffney certainly thinks so.

“These environments are all about the correlation between environment and student success and the belief that these spaces demonstrate respect to students. It’s an intangible, but I think that students really feel that. It tells students that you have pride, and that you believe in them, and you want them to have the best that’s possible for them.”

The State of California may agree.

School climate or quality of life on campus is now one of the measures the state looks at as part of every school’s Local Control & Accountability Plan (LCAP).

Either way, Kurt Meeker sees a clear difference.

“I think that theater prior to the opening of the new buildings was seen as something that was part of the school culture, but it was not something that was of great interest to most of the population on campus, and that’s not only students but the rest of the faculty as well. With the new building, we’re seeing much greater involvement from students and especially from faculty. People want to come see the shows. The building is probably mostly responsible for that initially, but it’s just a comfortable place to go watch a show, and the level of performance has increased, and the technical expectations have increased to the point where we’re able to satisfy a lot of people in a lot of different ways, and the work becomes much more satisfying for the students involved as well.”
Former CUHSD Business Officer and Superintendent Patrick Gaffney discusses the importance of facility improvements to schools.
Prospect High theatre arts teacher Kurt Meeker talks about what it was like at school before and after the passage of 2006's Measure G bond measure, which brought needed facility improvements to Prospect and CUHSD's four other comprehensive high schools.