Voters need answers before vote on levy

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In a few months taxpayers in West Bonner County School District will be asked to vote for a levy. The state pays a portion of what it costs to fund our schools. Local tax dollars make up the difference. Without levies our sports programs, extracurricular activities, funding for new buses, maintaining our buildings, upgrading computers and much more may disappear. I have advocated for every levy that our school district has run. This year though, I have to ask our school board to answer a few questions before I can get onboard with the next proposal. My questions all have to do with demonstrating that our district is not wasting money or refusing to look for sources of funding that do not come from local property taxes.

For many years three WBCSD junior high teachers, including Paul Anselmo, used teacher prep-time in the middle of the school day to work out. They were supposed to be in their class rooms prepping for classes. The equipment, purchased with athletic department funds was off limits to students. What did this cost your taxpayers? We paid approximately $22,198 each year for these men to work out. This went on between 3 to 7 years. The school board should demand this be paid back to the district.

Why has the school board been giving Mr. Anselmo 3 percent annual raises when he has been reported saying “due to shortfalls in state funding — with respect to classified employees — the district is forced to cap the earning potential for long time employees and cannot afford the two percent raise to employees.” Why did the board agree to pay for his certification, something he should have had coming into the job, $500 a credit, up to 30 credits, to get his credentials to fulfill his job qualifications?

Why is GEAR UP gone? GU was two seven- year grants that the two former superintendents got for our kids. GU starts with kids in the junior high teaching the importance of completing high school and going on to at least one year of technical school. Sixty percent of jobs now require training beyond high school. GU paid for trips to visit colleges/trade schools which increases a kid’s likelihood of going on to post-secondary education by 50 percent. GU paid for ACT tests, offered community service opportunities to make our kids connected to their communities and good citizens. To inspire kids, it exposed our kids to professionals and craftsman in well-paying jobs. GU offered every Priest River kid in the cohort free money for post-secondary education which amounted to over $150,000 for our kids in the 11 years. I asked junior high principal Johnson why Mr. Anselmo did not reapply. She said, “The JH advertised for a part -time, Near-Peer counselor last year and had no applicants. Since no one applied we thought that no one would apply for the GEAR UP so we did not apply for a grant.” That is a snowjob! The Near Peer job was part time at about $9.88 per hour with no benefits. The GU position was $15 per hour, full-time and had benefits. The process goes like this. You apply for the grant, which only took Mike McGuire, the former superintendent, one morning to complete. If you get the grant then you advertise the position. I speculate that the reason Mr. Anselmo did not apply for the grant was because in 2013 he and three other teachers at the junior high were formally charged in a grievance which outlined 14 paragraphs of harassment against women and students of which he was part of which included, “Our GEAR UP coordinator, has been singled out for extreme harassment, including name calling, complaints and teachers displaying this behavior in front of students.” My and the former GU coordinator’s treatment sparked the grievance which 11 women at the JH signed with their own examples. I speculate Mr. Anselmo was prejudiced against GU based upon how he treated me and my predecessor and that is why he was he would not spend a few hours reapplying. His behavior hurts our kids, some of whom could have had a large portion of their tuition covered by GEAR UP grants which are now not available to them because of his refusal to reapply. I have more questions which will appear in future editorials.

BETTY GARDNER

Priest River

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