SHUSD discusses security and parcel tax; Jeff Henderson appointed to board

Dave Brooksher

Redwood Times

Miranda resident Jeff Henderson was appointed to the Southern Humboldt Unified School District on an interim basis at this month's meeting of the Board of Trustees on Thursday, Jan. 10. Henderson is stepping up to fill in for former treasurer Susan Thompson, who served more than a decade before resigning late last year. Voters will have the opportunity to reaffirm Henderson's appointment, or field another candidate later this year in the November election.

Back in November, the board approved a third round of bond sales from the $25 million dollar bond approved by voters in 2010 under Measure L. Financial advisor Greg Isom, of Isom Advisors, was brought in to answer any questions about the bond sale in light of recent coverage of high interest CAB's in McKinleyville.

Isom also made a presentation on possible funding measures for the 2014 election cycle, including both a parcel tax and a school bond measure. The city of Arcata recently passed a flat-tax at a rate of $49 per parcel, but the dollar figure might be higher or lower in Southern Humboldt, depending on how it polls during research.

Arcata also approved a $7 million school bond measure. It's hard to say how much annual revenue a successful parcel tax might generate in Southern Humboldt. There are 12,487 parcels in the Southern Humboldt Unified School District -- but many of them might be eligible for exemptions if they're not buildable or occupied by senior citizens.

Despite the recent controversy sparked by critical coverage of high interest capital appreciation bonds (CABs), Isom was optimistic based on the district's voter demographics. In his presentation, he told trustees, "95% of Humboldt County school districts have received 50% or higher on their bond and parcel tax elections. Which means that you're always really close."

"Do I think that a parcel tax could happen in Southern Humboldt?" Isom asked. "I actually do. But it has to be the right time. The right time, the right amount, and the right needs."

The board is currently in the process of crewing-up a citizen's oversight committee to provide transparency and public involvement in the administration of school bond funding secured by Measure L, which passed in the 2010 June Primary by a margin of 61% -- just over the 55% required for school bond measures. They're still actively seeking a representative from a "bona fide taxpayer's association" to balance out the committee's collective point of view.

Last week's meeting took place at Weott's Agnes J Johnson Elementary school more than 500 miles away from the scene of a school shooting that had taken place earlier that day at Taft Union High School, in Taft, CA, but the subject came up repeatedly. Jennifer Kubik, a teacher with the SHUSD, called recent school shootings a form of terrorism.

There are also concerns about transients and unauthorized community members wandering through campus. Those present expressed an interest in adding additional fencing, increased signage, and electronic security measures like an intrusion alarm.

During a discussion about adopting a policy on "outsiders" checking in with the office on SHUSD campuses, district superintendent Catherine C. Scott said, "In light of events in Connecticut, and then again today," Scott said, "I received several calls from parents who expressed concerns about our lack of a policy (or lack of implementation of a policy) around this point."

Scott also pointed out that the adoption of a policy on this matter is complicated by the fact that some of the school campuses only have secretarial staff in the office to check in with for part of the day.

"Put up a fence with a sign that says ‘closed campus.' I don't think we need gates. I don't think we need locks. I just think we need proper signage. We need to post it in the papers, maybe," said trustee Blake Lehman.

He added, "Look, when you come on to campus, you need to check in at the office before you go into your kid's classroom." Lehman also felt that a fence with the appropriate signage would deter transients from accessing school grounds without authorization.

The policy before the board dealt with outsiders on campus, but the shooter at Taft Union High School is believed to have been a student there.

The next meeting of the Southern Humboldt Unified School District's Board of Trustees has been scheduled for Valentine's Day, Thursday, Feb. 14. The meeting was moved to 3:30 p.m., an hour earlier than usual, to accommodate personal plans for the holiday.