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Archive for Saturday, April 12, 2003

Three newcomers to join board

April 12, 2003

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Voters listened to Scott Morgan, Lawrence school board president.

He said before the April 1 election that if the community couldn't support the board's $59 million bond package for school construction and renovation, folks should skip his name on the ballot.

Well, the bond was defeated, and Morgan lost his re-election bid.

"Elections are funny things," said Supt. Randy Weseman.

In voting on April Fools' Day, three newcomers and a lone incumbent were elected to the school board to help sort through the wreckage of the district's failed school bond.

More than 54 percent of voters darkened the "no" oval on the bond question.

College history teacher Leonard Ortiz, child program advocate Rich Minder and banker Cindy Yulich won seats on the board. They'll join the board July 1.

Incumbent Sue Morgan, a church business manager, earned a second four-year term.

Lawrence school board incumbents Scott Morgan, left, and Sue Morgan
react after learning ballots will be recounted during the April 1
election. Sue Morgan earned a second four-year term to the board.
Scott Morgan, no relation to Sue, was not re-elected. At center is
Sue's husband, Jeff.

Lawrence school board incumbents Scott Morgan, left, and Sue Morgan react after learning ballots will be recounted during the April 1 election. Sue Morgan earned a second four-year term to the board. Scott Morgan, no relation to Sue, was not re-elected. At center is Sue's husband, Jeff.

Yulich and Sue Morgan campaigned for the bond package, which would have financed construction and renovation at 15 schools. Ortiz and Minder opposed the bond, but support some projects contained in it.

Scott Morgan was ousted along with Mary Loveland, who was seeking her fifth term on the board. Other candidates finishing out of the running were Michael Pomes and Cille King.

"That's how the system works," Scott Morgan said. "What kind of message that sends? I'm not sure."

The election postmortem will include examination of the board's decision to mix a school board election with a bond vote. An assessment will be made of inclusion in the bond package of closure of East Heights and Centennial elementary schools.

Questions will be raised about whether the board miscalculated the public's willingness to pass a property tax increase at a time when the economy was weak and the nation was at war.

"We're going to have to go back with the new board constituency and look at it," Sue Morgan said.

The new board will have a 5-2 majority that favored this $59 million bond. In addition to Yulich and Sue Morgan, bond supporters on the board are Austin Turney, Leni Salkind and Linda Robinson.

Weseman said elections often prompted the district to turn a page and move on.

Leonard Ortiz chats on his cell phone at the County Courthouse
while voting tallies were being posted. Ortiz was the top
vote-getter in the Lawrence school board race. He'll join the board
July 1.

Leonard Ortiz chats on his cell phone at the County Courthouse while voting tallies were being posted. Ortiz was the top vote-getter in the Lawrence school board race. He'll join the board July 1.

"Come July 1, there will be three new members of the board," he said. "If they want to redirect the course of the district, they can do that."

Ortiz said the school board would be wise to table discussion of shutting down East Heights and Centennial, at least until the newly elected board members take office in July.

However, the current board has indicated a willingness to consider closing these schools at the end of this academic year to balance the 2003-2004 budget. The district's boundary committee is already working on details of options for pulling the plug on both. In addition, the board previously voted to close Riverside School in May.

"This election didn't change the budget situation," Weseman said.

Debate about consolidation and the budget will be watched closely by the same Lawrence residents who expressed their opinions at the ballot box.

Bob Blank, a vocal opponent of the bond and all candidates backing that plan, said election of Minder and Ortiz should shake up the district.

"My view is the administration is the tail that is wagging the dog. They've got the school board so propagandized they don't know what they're doing," Blank said.

However, the election a disappointment for Kristi Lewis, who voted for all four candidates in favor of the bond.

"A vote for education is a wise investment in the future," she said. "We definitely need it."

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