With the Mammoth Unified School District Special Measure S election less than two weeks away, The Sheet spoke with MUSD School Board Member and long-time local resident Greg Newbry to talk about the measure.
The Sheet: There has been some talk that the school board gave teachers raises last school year. People are wondering why the Board would do this if the District had a budget shortfall. Can you explain?
Greg Newbry: We didn’t give raises. It was a one-time lump sum from the educational stimulus package. We couldn’t hire or give raises with it because it wasn’t sustainable. Since our teachers haven’t had raises in three or four years, we wanted to give them something.
Sheet: So it was more like a bonus?
Sheet: How does Measure S relate to class sizes?
Newbry: You can’t clump all class sizes together and use an average. Schools are required to have certain classes for areas such as Special Education. If you have a Special Ed. class with one student, but then you have a standard English class with 34 students, an average doesn’t work. You can’t say that on average Mammoth classes have 21 students.
AP classes are also very small but are very important. We could cut these classes, and may have to if S doesn’t pass, but it would be such as mistake.
Sheet: How do second homeowners play into Measure S? Do they have a right to vote on it?
Newbry: By law (California Election Codes 321, 349, 2150) a second homeowner is not allowed to vote in an election if their primary domicile is not in the area where the election is being held. The suggestion that absentee owners whose primary residence is elsewhere, register to vote in order to control our town’s future is illegal.
Sheet: It seems reasonable to think, however, that second homeowners would be concerned about what is happening in a place where they are invested.
Newbry: Of course they are concerned about what happens, but when you choose to invest in an area that is not your home, you take obvious risks. There’s concern from both sides, but we want the people living here to control the town’s destiny. We don’t just want people that have money to buy a second home to control our destiny.
Sheet: Why did the school district choose to hold the vote on Measure S as a special election when special elections are so much more expensive?
Newbry: Special elections are expensive, but if we waited we would lose money. The District has already cut $900,000 from the budget. We need Measure S to slow the bleeding. We don’t really have the money [for the special election], which is why there haven’t been flyers sent out and we haven’t done a lot of publicity. If the District didn’t fund the election we’d just have to find someone else to do it, but the Board passed the resolution for Measure S so we have to fund it.
Sheet: What type of vote will Measure S require?
Newbry: A two-thirds vote.
Sheet: Can you provide a concrete example of the direct impacts on students and their families if Measure S fails to pass?
Newbry: If S does not pass class sizes would be larger, we could lose AP classes and busing and we may not be able to continue the recent upswing in student grade-point averages. It would impact students’ abilities to be college bound and would therefore impact families immediately and forevermore. Essentially MUSD would just turn into big buildings that babysit kids.
It would also have an impact on the community as a whole because people in the upper income brackets looking to move are looking for areas with good schools. If we can’t provide that the town would just turn into one big hotel.
If it fails to pass I may not stay on the Board. If the community doesn’t support schools, I’d feel like I was wasting my time.
Measure S is a renewal of the $59 parcel tax that property owners have paid annually, regardless of lot building or size, for the past eight years. Measure S, if passed by the voters on Nov. 8, would preserve funding for a specific list of school needs: high quality academic programs (such as AP classes), books and supplies, smaller class sizes, music and arts programs, technology, and highly qualified teachers.
All revenue raised by Measure S would be invested in Mammoth’s local schools and cannot be taken by the state. An independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee of parents, teachers and community members accounts for funds brought in by the Measure S. The measure would last for a limited period of five years and exempts senior citizen property owners 65 and older, although if these individuals wish to pay the tax they simply need not apply for the exemption.
Currently Measure S provides more than $600,000 in funding to the schools, annually.