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Dubliners for Change Questions Whether Measure H is On Track (OPINION)

April 22, 2018

DUBLIN, CA–It has been almost two years since voters entrusted the Dublin School Board with $283,000,000 to, among other things, construct the initial phase of a second high school to prevent overcrowding at Dublin High School. This voter approval of Measure H was a substantial investment in Dublin schools amounting to approximately $1,000 from each Dublin taxpayer per year for next 40 years. The official argument in favor of Measure H stated that “Measure H will construct the initial phase of a second high school to prevent overcrowding at Dublin High School”. Months earlier in February 2016, the Dublin School Trustees unanimously approved a recommendation for the initial phase of a 2,500 student capacity school with the completion date of the first phase targeted for the fall of 2021.

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So are they are on track to deliver as promised? The answer depends on your perspective or expectations. If you expected a 2500 student comprehensive school by 2021 or shortly thereafter with sport fields and facilities similar to DHS, the answer is a clear NO. Over two years after passing Measure H, there still is no timeline, no programming plan and no clear path to the school they sold the community and we continue to pay for. And given the subsequent August 2017 Trustee decision to allocate one quarter (assuming land is $35 million) of the $262 million master plan estimate for the school, it seems unlikely that they will ever be able to deliver a 2500 comprehensive high school. The District has recently announced they are trying to acquire a 23 acre site (about half of the size of DHS) called the Promenade off Dublin Boulevard. When considering all factors including the sequencing of other pending projects and when funds will be available, what is more likely is an 800 or smaller student high school by 2026 or so with no clear path or possibly need for a larger school. Dubliners for Change does not think an 800 student high school by 2026 is consistent with the promises of H, however we recognize that others might. If this is consistent with your expectation, then your answer might be yes and there may be no need for you to read further. However, all of the following are based upon our perspective that it is not.
We attribute the causes of the failure to deliver to a combination of foundational governance issues, flawed strategies, and a lack of real commitment on the part of the Trustees to follow through on their pledge to a deliver a second high school to Dublin.

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From a governance perspective, the district continues to discuss matters important to the public in closed door sessions and has taken actions to limit public comments. Their plans to address overcrowding lack specificity and don’t add up. The district is forecasting a 5,000 or almost a 50% increase in TK-12 student growth over the next 5 to 7 years, yet they lack a coherent overall plan to provide adequate capacity and prevent school overcrowding. All decisions seem incremental or one-offs, and lack connection to a facilities strategy that makes sense. The community school approach for elementary schools makes sense, however the middle school approach of having two 6-8 schools and two K-8’s doesn’t make sense (parents and students will have an extremely hard time predicting where they and their friends will attend) and still doesn’t provide enough seats. At the high school level, they have pursued a 1,196 capacity expansion of DHS which if the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is approved in the next month or so would take the current capacity of approximately 2,800 to 4,000, yet at the same time they also claim that they will build a 2,500 second high school. This approach lacks credibility as we don’t need 6,500 high school seats and is fiscally irresponsible. So they are building toward excess capacity at the high school level and insufficient capacity at the middle school level. Additionally, with the critical need to address capacity and school safety issues, the board continues to discuss spending limited dollars on a pool which lacks credibility given the overcrowding that exists district-wide.
For the past year, the Trustees have been pursuing an arrangement to acquire a 12-acre site in the Dublin Crossing neighborhood. The developer of Dublin Crossing is benefiting from school impact fees that are $20 million or so lower than current rates. Over the past two years, the community has pushed for significant changes in the agreement including changing the purchase term from 5 years to 10 years to allow more flexibility to future boards. We are encouraged that on April 21, 2018 there are hints that they may make this change, however this has not been confirmed. This lease should only be approved after open public discussions about whether it is better to let the arrangement expire and if then the discounted developer fees would increase back to the normal rate of $20 million higher. This $20 million could be used to open the former Nielsen Elementary School. Thorough and open discussion is required so that the community is clear on objectives, alternatives and impacts of this decision.
The Trustees’ incremental actions since Measure H was approved have directly undermined the likelihood and feasibility of a second high school. Dubliners for Change is resolute on the need for good governance and fiscal responsibility. We also believe that the Mayor and City Council are being too passive on these critical issues. As one Council Member stated in his June 3, 2017 letter to the community, “If the District has no desire to build a second high school, they should honestly tell us that right now. I believe every city member of the City Council, including the Mayor, should immediately go on the record whether they support a second high school or not.” We agree and call upon Mayor Haubert as well as the other nine city council and school board members to step up and lead on this matter that will impact all Dubliners for years to come. If the school board oversold what it can deliver or has no intention and/or ability to deliver a 2,500 comprehensive second high school, they should say so now and appropriate alternatives should be considered. Think about how Dubliners will decide which students go to a 4,000 DHS and which go to an 800 student school. Will it be open-enrollment district wide, boundary based, program based or other?
If you want to help, consider the following:

  1. Attend the April 24, 2018 school board meeting, ask questions, and listen carefully to what is said and is not said.
  2. Comment on the EIR when it is issued in the near future for the 1,196 student expansion of DHS and challenge if it makes sense (traffic, needs, etc.) to both expand DHS and build a new high school. It is your money, set the expectation that it is spent wisely.
  3. Ask all city council and school board members and candidates to opine on these issues.
  4. Vote for candidates who are transparent, who put Dubliners first and are focused on fiscally responsible decisions.

This article was contributed as a Letter to the Editor by Dubliners for Change and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of OneDublin.org.

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