The group pushing for the bond says they are a grassroots movement of parents and concerned citizens who want to make sure Tyler ISD's students are getting the best they can.
Tyler Proud President Mark Randall says this bond election is about one thing.
"It's really time to take the opportunity to improve our facilities," Randall said. "When the bond issue came up, we felt like this is a great opportunity, it's a rare opportunity that we have right now with a bond package that can affect 8,000 of the 18,000 students in TISD."
The group filed as a political action committee in January, and soon after, blue and white "It's Time" signs started popping up around Tyler.
"It's time, It means a lot of things," said Leslie Strader, Tyler Proud's Vice President. "It's time for 21st century schools for Tyler. It's time to unite together as one voice in support of our children and our city. It's time, because we believe great schools make a great community, it's time to vote for the bond now is what it is."
In presentations throughout the spring, Tyler Proud argued in favor of the bond to address the overcrowding at middle schools and reduce the number of portable classrooms the district uses. Tyler Proud cites data collected by the 21st Century School Fund, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C., that says a 10 percent reduction in portables results in an 11 point increase in test scores.
"The core facilities at Moore are the same size they were when that school was built in the 1950s," said Tyler Proud board member Mike Starr. "They don't have lockers for all those kids. They've got classrooms for them, but they don't have all the facilities that a child needs to succeed in education. And they don't have the facilities that teachers need there to maximize their ability to help these children succeed and achieve."
Another major feature Tyler Proud supports is the proposed Career and Technical Education Center.
"It will be the only one of its kind in East Texas that will have a direct economic impact almost immediately, as soon as the doors open," Strader said. "There will be kids from both high schools streaming in there, learning culinary arts, 21st Century energy, oil and gas, biomedicine, criminal justice, auto repair and collision, things that are hands-on, that are workforce ready skills where they can go straight back into Tyler and the surrounding area and make their contribution."
But for Tyler Proud, this bond election is also about Tyler ISD's future - and making sure the right people want to come into the district.
After Superintendent Randy Reid left TISD last summer, the district spent months searching for his replacement before hiring its Interim Superintendent, Gary Mooring, who had already been superintendent once before. At the same time, the board spent several weeks trying to decide whether to put a bond package before voters in November. They ultimately decided to wait.
"Are facilities needed to attract new candidates in the future?" I asked Tyler Proud.
"Gary Mooring is absolutely the right superintendent for TISD right now," Randall said.
"I don't think the facilities held us back there, but only because Mr. Mooring knew us so well," Starr said. "He won't do this job forever. We hope he does it for a long time. But some day, years from now, there will be another search for another superintendent. We need to be able to demonstrate to candidates that our community is completely invested in public education."
Tyler Proud says the school board was smart in putting together a bond package that didn't raise the district's property tax rate, which is currently $1.375. But they also know that tackling other projects they believe need addressing in a timely way, like building additional middle schools or new high schools, would cost more than that tax rate would cover.
"When will the time be right for us to actually have a tax rate increase? The voters of Tyler Independent School District have already approved tax rate increases in the past. We're thrilled that they don't have to deal with that in this election," Starr said. "But you're right, the time will come when our district will be faced with a bond election where we have to consider raising the tax rate. We're going to look forward to working with the school board and the district about the timing of that."
For now, Tyler Proud says it will continue working - whether the bond passes or fails - to continue to foster communication between the community and the school district.
"It matters to every one of us, wherever we live, wherever we go to school, wherever we work or however we think, the school district and its quality of it, the quality of our school district, the quality of our teachers, how well our children are learning, what our buildings look like and feel like is important to everybody who lives in Tyler," said Strader.
Tyler Proud says they are also concerned about the safety of the middle schools and the older elementary schools.
They say that the controlled access points in the new and remodeled elementary schools make them the safest in the district.
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