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AISD: No Probs for Props

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 16, 2008

Board President Mark Williams
Board President Mark Williams
Photo by Brandon Bollom

Last summer, when the Austin Independent School District started putting its latest $343 million school bond package together, the economy was shaky but optimism remained high. Since then, both city and state sales tax estimates have fallen, and there was real concern that belt-tightening Austin voters might take the almost unprecedented step of rejecting one of the three school bond proposals. Instead, they passed all three, by an almost three-to-one margin, causing a sigh of relief in the board auditorium from trustees and staff alike. It was also a big night for North Austin school activist Christine Brister, who took the outgoing Johna Edwards' northside Place 3 seat on the board of trustees with an impressive 63% over Jerry Garcia; and for Superintendent Pat Forgione, but in a different way. He missed the party in order to watch his wife, Kaye Forgione, receive a distinguished alumni award from the University of Delaware.

The biggest fears for the bond had been for Proposition 3, which had received more muted support than the vital infrastructure and equipment investments in Props. 1 and 2. In the final weeks before the vote, there had been some debate about one of Prop. 3's big-budget items: not the $40 million district-wide performing arts center, but $32 million for land for a new undesignated south high school. Yet it too passed easily, with 68.9%. Board of Trustees President Mark Williams said he thought the passage had been eased by a last-minute sales push. "We were able to convince people there was clearly demand from each of the existing high schools which are already over capacity," he said. AISD facilities Executive Director Paul Turner, who had shepherded the bond through the yearlong process, saw the vote as a success for the district in explaining its needs to the public. "We're always very pleased, because this means you can put together some good environments for the kids," he said. "That's why you do this."

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