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School board reviews ideas for November bond measure

It’s by no means a done deal that the Claremont Unified School District will place a bond measure on the ballot in November 2016. It is, however, a possibility that’s on the table.

At a special workshop meeting held on January 18, the board asked staff to explore the possibility of floating a bond initiative. A meeting followed on February 9 where several district stakeholders—community members, association representatives and district staff—discussed what a successful bond effort might look like.

Attendees, including recently-retired board member Sam Mowbray, were selected for their knowledge of the district’s vast facilities needs and of the bond process. They discussed a potential timeline and pondered what it would take to get taxpayers to ante up on behalf of local schools. 

The meeting yielded some distinct opinions, many stemming from the district’s failed attempt to pass a $95 million bond measure in 2010. They were shared, for discussion only, at the February 18 gathering of the school board.

Those who took part in the preliminary meeting advised the district and the board to keep the process transparent and candid throughout. They urged that the scope of the bond be kept small and realistic. Another stipulation is that every school should be improved or modernized in some way.

During the public comment following the bond discussion, Mr. Mowbray shared his view of the February 9 meeting.

His appearance at the dais, his first since leaving the board earlier this year, should come as little surprise. He noted at his final meeting that, given his consuming interest in Claremont schools, he would continue to make his views known.

“There was not a negative statement by anyone in the room,” he said of the focus group. “There were timing issues and strategy issues, but all discussions were in light of the needs of the school district,” he said. “I didn’t hear anyone say don’t do it.”

Board member Beth Bingham added a word of caution, advising the board and the district to take the enthusiasm expressed at the gathering with a grain of salt.

 “Having this group be positive is critical, but it has to be on a much wider scope,” she said. “It’s an august group, and extraordinarily active, but it’s fairly narrowly defined. We need to make sure we include the people not normally reached for input.”

Superintendent Jim Elsasser emphasized the exploratory nature of the discussion, noting that the board won’t vote on whether or not to attempt a bond measure until June, during the last meeting before the board room goes dark for the summer.

The next meeting of the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education will be held on Thursday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center, located at 170 W. San Jose Ave.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com