DURANT – After four failed bond attempts in a year, Silo School is ready for some new ideas. A group of concerned citizens met February 5 to form a plan for how to address the serious space and security issues at the school. The primary order of business was deciding whether or not the current $2.3 million bond issue is a feasible plan, or should be reconfigured.
To help the citizens make this decision, information on the school’s current situation was reviewed: the school is growing, with no more physical space to grow into. This growth is not due to a high number of transfer students, as many people believe. Only 80 students transfer into the district, including open transfers for teachers’ children. In contrast, 364 students live in the district, but transfer out to other schools, mostly to Durant. In the past year alone, Silo Elementary has grown by 13%, or 54 students.
Many residents seem to believe that the high school has the largest number of transfer students, due to a championship baseball program. However, the high school has seen the smallest comparative growth in the past year, or 6.4%. Since 2001, the whole school has grown by 60%, putting 857 students into a school built for 400. Committee member Kate McDonald, academic advisor for 7th through 12th grades, mentioned that the current high school has 12-year-olds using the same halls and classrooms as 18-year-olds, which leads to dating between middle and high school students, and exposing the younger students to “too much, too soon.”
General funds cannot meet these space needs—those funds are needed for books, technology, and infrastructure, and they are almost exhausted, due to the recent addition of four portable buildings to house overflow classrooms. In addition to physical space needs, there is a dire need for a better security system and new heating and air units.
Ross Thomas, Silo graduate who is now a Southeastern student doing his student teaching at Silo, said that the security system at Silo “is abysmal, and has been since I was here.”
The committee next reviewed the tax impact of the proposed issue. The 10-year bond would require an 8% increase on each resident’s property taxes for the first year, and would decrease each year after that. This increase is $0.71 per month for each $100 paid.
A homeowner who pays about $500 a year in property taxes would pay $42.60 the first year, or $3.55 per month. Committee member Jolene Reid mentioned that there is a lot of misinformation in the community about these figures, with many residents believing that the taxes will increase after the first year.
The committee members agreed that the problem with this bond is not the increase in property taxes, but the widespread unfounded fear that taxes will increase. Superintendent Dr. Bill Caruthers pointed out that this increase would take Silo school district from having the lowest property taxes in Bryan County, to being tied with Achille for the second-lowest.
The decision was then put to the committee of whether or not this bond issue needs to be reconfigured. Dr. Stewart Mayers, education professor at Southeastern, said he thinks the plan is “well-thought-out, but lacks focus and understanding with the public.” McDonald pointed out that since the school has not had a bond issue for classroom space in 30 years, she thinks the plan must accommodate future growth, since there’s no knowing how long it will be before another bond passes.
The committee therefore agreed that their focus must be on marketing and education, with possible modifications of the bond plan to be discussed at the next meeting. The committee then discussed the opposition to the school bond, and the associated misinformation. In addition to some residents being fearful of increasing taxes, a small group, mostly in the Mead area, is dedicated to misinforming the public on how funds will be spent.
The committee decided that the message of why the bond is necessary and how taxes will increase must be simple and truthful. Other committee members in attendance not already mentioned are Tom MacEntire, Technology Director at Silo School; Glenn Price, local retiree; Lynsie Bourne, Silo graduate and Southeastern student; Chris Coder, local retiree and Silo grandparent; Jenniffer Hendricks, Silo teacher, and Kim Mauck, Silo Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization representative. Any concerned citizens who would like to serve on this committee are invited to attend the next meeting, February 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Silo High School.