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Commentary: Why did 'vote no' school group hire consultant?

Editor's note: This commentary is written by Don LeSage, liaison for the B-E CARE Committee. The questions are from Echo Press and focus on the committee's decision to hire Paul Dorr as a consultant to try to defeat Brandon-Evansville's $38.75 million new school referendum.

Why did the B-E CARE Committee hire Paul Dorr?

ISD 2908 is a newly consolidated school district that is currently using one school building in the city of Evansville and another in the city of Brandon. In the years leading up to this current school bond referendum, there was a community task force that volunteered many hours of public service working with the school board to decide long term upgrades and a possible addition to house hypothetical projected increases in future enrollment. This task force came to the conclusion early on that each city should retain a school building, because that would be something that both cities could come together and support. On March 15, 2015, they voted 17-3 to approve the two-school option.

Instead of promoting that community supported decision, on March 1, 2017, the school board hired Warren Schmidt for $43,200 to push a single school building option to be built in the city of Brandon. In their proposal, they want to tear down two fully functioning school buildings that could last for hundreds of years with proper maintenance. It was a shock to many in the district that the school board just tossed out what their own task force recommended and then moved on to such an extravagant and wasteful proposal. The public really started to become aware of this change of course in late April after the Echo Press started publishing articles about the ISD 2908 K-12 demolition and construction proposal.

Since that initial shock of the school board going rogue, community members began meeting at the Evansville Senior Center each week. Because of being so far behind and kept in the dark about the process, we decided to get a petition circulated and signed to plead with the school board to stop this rushed process. "A shotgun wedding of sorts" is what Chris Kubesh at the MDE called it. After it was clear that they were not going to put this process on hold to listen to their constituency, the decision was made to hire our consultant, Paul Dorr. We then formed the B-E CARE Committee.

Where did you hear about him?

During a steering committee meeting, Warren Schmidt told us about a firm out of Iowa that specializes in defeating school bonds. When someone pressed him for more details, he gave us Paul Dorr's name. Even though Mr. Schmidt is trying to facilitate this proposed wasteful project that we feel would destroy families and businesses, we have to thank him for helping us get organized. The B-E CARE Committee wouldn't be here if he'd kept quiet.

What is/was your expectations about/for him?

We rely on his past experience to avoid making mistakes that will waste our members' valuable time. Since we started out so far behind the referendum proponents, including the big city firms that are incentivized to help this pass, we have to be as efficient as possible to make up for lost time.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Paul as well as our B-E CARE Committee feel that the consultants involved are not the story here. Anything that overshadows the impact that this proposal will have on the community is detrimental to both the YES and NO voters that are trying to get their message out.