ELECTION DAY Editorial: Why Ysleta ISD needs $430m bond

As voters in the Ysleta Independent School District prepare to head to the polls to cast their ballots in the November election, I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on the motivation behind YISD’s proposed $430.5 million bond referendum.

New Project 21Contrary to what some may believe, the proposed YISD bond is not a “second bite of the apple” by district leaders – nor is it another chance for the district to impose a point that was previously lost in the May election.

It is simply a unique opportunity for our community to help rebuild, repair, and restore our aging campuses to a level that enables us to provide safe, secure, and modern learning environments for students districtwide.

It has been 11 years since voters last approved a bond for YISD, and this proposed bond would benefit every student, teacher, and campus.

If approved, the bond would fund a combination of facility improvements districtwide, including:

  • New, 21st-century schools where campuses are being consolidated;
  • Safety and security improvements to all schools, including secure front entries and upgrades of all fire alarm systems;
  • Repairs and renovations to existing schools, which range in age from 25 to 98 years old; and
  • Upgrades for athletics, fine arts, technology, and safety/security that include the installation of artificial turf at all high-school stadiums.

When our bond was narrowly defeated last spring, we learned a valuable lesson. Both the Board of Trustees and YISD leadership came to understand that any future pursuit of a bond referendum would have to come from the very same community that helped defeat the May bond.

New Project 41To accomplish this, YISD launched plans to bring forth another bond referendum by relying on a more inclusive, consensus-building process by a third-party facilitator. We brought together 73 civic, business, and community leaders over several weeks to reconsider the merits of a future facilities bond.

This group of YISD stakeholders was called the Bond Advisory Committee, and it not only represented a cross-section of our community, but included staunch opponents of the failed May bond – even some determined to oppose any future plans for a YISD bond.

This bond committee spent 1,148 hours collectively visiting schools, reviewing demographic studies, interpreting engineering reports, and considering the recommendations of past committees. They studied previous project lists and understood that without consensus, these facilities projects would not survive and would be dropped from consideration.

The committee was afforded the latitude to delete, modify, and amplify the bond project list with full discretion. Projects that may have been important to district leaders and included in the May bond were eliminated from consideration, while other projects were added.

Admittedly, the committee’s early discussions were lively debates – but within weeks, the initial resentment and opposition held by some members eroded as they received more and more information on our deteriorating facilities.

Ultimately, these discussions gave way to a shared vision and a spirit of solidarity around what Ysleta ISD students deserve and should expect from the adults in their lives and their community. When the proverbial dust cleared, the $430.5 million bond proposition on the Nov. 3 ballot had the unanimous support of the bond committee.

This proposed YISD bond represents extensive work by the bond committee to develop a fair and responsible proposal for voters that also serves the educational needs of the district’s students.

Among the major projects that would be funded by the proposed bond is a new Bel Air Middle School that would house students from Hillcrest and Ranchland Hills middle schools; a new Del Valle Middle/Mission Valley Elementary combo school that would house students from Camino Real and Valley View middle schools on one campus adjacent to a new Mission Valley Elementary School; a new Thomas Manor Elementary School that would accommodate students from Cadwallader and Thomas Manor elementary schools; and the renovation of the oldest parts of Eastwood High School.

New Project 27Technology would also be significantly upgraded to complement the district’s new “Engage Me” initiative to put laptops in the hands of every student in YISD over the next few years.

Kitchen/cafeterias would be replaced at some schools, while fine-arts areas and classroom additions would be built to others.

A complete list of all projects is available on our website.

By working together to compile a comprehensive list of bond projects to repair and modernize our aging schools, the Bond Advisory Committee has done something remarkable – something profound, lasting, and undeniably beneficial for our children. They have become “game changers” for future generations of YISD students.

Coupled with Proposition I – the state proposition that calls for an increase in the state homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000 – YISD’s proposed bond could not come at a better time. Should Texas voters essentially approve a tax cut by voting for Proposition 1, the average YISD homeowner could theoretically support a property-tax rate increase of 12 cents; secure $430.5 million in upgrades and improvements to our schools; and pay fewer taxes next year than they currently pay this year.

De La Torre headshot 2 wide pin stripe 5 30 14In the end, this proposed bond before YISD voters in the Nov. 3 election is the product of a collective group of our community members, not the district’s leadership.

By far, those who will benefit the most from our plans to revitalize our 100-year-old district are the 42,000 students we serve.

The greatest investment we can make as a community is in our future – in the next generation of Americans.

Author: Dr. Xavier De La Torre, Superintendent Ysleta ISD