Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
Invest in our kids. Impact our kids. The sweet sound of those sentences. Of course I want my three children to be positively impacted. Equally as wonderful would be if each community member was invested in my children as if they were their own. Upon first glance at the eye-catching “For our kids” yard signs that are proudly displayed around town, my vote is yes! There is a deep sense of longing when my heartstrings are tugged on by emotional advertising.
Relocating to Ripon several years ago, we had no idea what to expect from this small town. Fondly known by the locals as “the jewel of the valley” and “the almond capital” we were excited to embrace everything Ripon.
Living in Ripon is very different as compared to living in Portland, Oregon. Our first observation was how often we saw the sun (daily). We also noticed a change in the school dynamics. In Oregon our children attended newly constructed, state-of-the-art elementary and middle schools in a top-rated district. Teachers were motivated and parents were gloating. These new schools represented us and were a benchmark in safety, security and technology.
The only elementary school that had availability when registering our children for school in Ripon happened to be Ripon Elementary. Upon voicing my initial hesitations regarding safety and outdated facilities, I accepted the fact that the oldest elementary school in town would now be our new norm. A meeting with the principal assured me that our kids would be welcomed. We quickly learned that life at Ripon El was just as good if not better than the new schools we had left behind.
Schools in the Ripon district have proven to be a standard of excellence in many ways. Staff dedication, a sense of belonging and the family-like atmosphere are among the extraordinary ways the “old school” on Main Street welcomed my children and our entire family. Our oldest has now graduated from Ripon high school, our middle is a senior this year and our youngest has entered his final year at Ripon Elementary. We do not take for granted what both Ripon El and Ripon High have taught us.
A few key facts we’ve encompassed along our journey:
1. Fantastic teachers reside in all Ripon schools no matter the demographics of the town
2. Kids will achieve their excellence through loyal staff and committed parents
3. Students graduating from Ripon High are accepted into top colleges such as UCLA, Cal
Poly, Stanford, etc
4. Ripon High does not offer many electives, but enough to be competitive
5. Ripon High does offer AP (advance placement classes offering college level curriculum) that are taught be highly qualified teachers who prepare the students to succeed in passing the
6. Safety concerns at both schools are taken seriously and addressed immediately
7. Through large and small scale fundraising efforts, there have been significant improvements made at both campuses, from the high school Stadium Project to Choose Kind at Ripon El
8. A new science lab with corresponding classrooms at Ripon High would be justified
9. It’s possible to achieve a 4.0+ grade point average in outdated schools with overcrowded classes, two of my children have done it
10. Our family has developed a close friendship with staff from both schools
It’s not popular to stand-up against the majority. As parents we have a moral obligation to teach our kids to educate themselves on facts; and to do that we need to lead by example. Before I answered the call to action letters that were sent by my friends on the grassroots committee, I did my research. What are ways that California schools currently improve and update their facilities? RUSD has a maintenance fund, shouldn’t that be used for replacing leaky roofs? Then I asked the question of fund management and why is deferred maintenance allowed to pile up? Shouldn’t district growth be automatically considered when budget planning? When the money isn’t available or poorly managed, the options I found include: California school bonds, parcel tax, sales tax, fundraising, 501(c)(3) foundation, Mello Roos, philanthropists who donate specifically to school districts, and grants for school safety and security.
Is the Measure I bond the answer for RUSD needs? Weigh the facts. What I know is that I’m uncomfortable as a parent and property owner taking on a general obligation bond for 30+ years. This bond is written under the premise that it will allow our students to “… better compete and be prepared for college, career, and competitive job opportunities after high school.” How does $700,000 new stadium ticket booth and restrooms factor into that? Or the vague $10 million line item stated on the Conceptual Project Cost Estimate that includes the wording “…to improve student learning environments and better prepare students for college and well-paying jobs upon graduation.” We will be paying more in interest than principal for someone’s opinion that these monies may assist all of our children in being better prepared for college and future jobs. We must take into consideration that some of the statements made on the RUSD mailings and drafts are merely opinions of those in favor and not proven facts. It’s wonderful wording that appeals to the masses.
My senior has a 4.31 GPA, has passed all of her AP exams to date and is ranked #7 in her class. She accomplished this without bond Measure I, in outdated schools and with the current resources offered by our school district. We have and will continue to see children in Ripon schools achieve this same performance, it’s nothing new. These kids are “invested in” and we have “impacted them”. What you are witnessing by the Yes On Measure I movement is emotional campaigning at its finest. When you capitalize on emotional marketing, you manipulate feelings which cause emotional triggers. I urge you to set your emotions aside, even if you think you may offend a friend with a different opinion. Consider the facts, educate yourself and vote. With certainty we know that there are maintenance issues, outdated schools and growth to deal with. Ask yourself if $38.5 million is an overabundance of principal to cover these issues while keeping in mind you’ll pay an additional $50 million in interest for this general obligation loan. Gifting millions of dollars in tax free interest to the investors of the bond is absurd, but will happen if Measure I passes. Remind yourself that you will be paying off RUSD debt for the next 30+ years by passing Measure I and that you are already funding multiple bonds, which are listed on your property tax bill.
I’m a no vote. RUSD will have my continued support through volunteering and financial contributions towards fundraisers, classroom projects, campaigns, and auctions. I will in turn be gratified by knowing exactly how the money was spent.