Several Lompoc Unified School District administrators and supporters gathered with community members early Tuesday afternoon to discuss aspects of Measure E — the district’s $79 million bond that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot — during an informal gathering that ended with passionate attacks on the district’s proposed sexual education curriculum.
The meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, was titled “Coffee with LUSD” and was held at South Side Coffee Co. About 30 people, including some LUSD officials and staff members, attended the get-together, which began with an hour-long open conversation about some of the specific facets of Measure E.
The final half-hour of the meeting, however, consisted of a few community members, including a couple of people who identified themselves as parents of LUSD students, raising concerns about the age-appropriateness of the sex education materials that were set to be discussed, and potentially adopted, by the LUSD board of education later Tuesday evening at its regular meeting. (Update: The item was pulled from Tuesday night's board agenda.)
LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald responded to some of the comments about the sex education materials, though he acknowledged that he was caught completely off-guard by the sudden shift in subject matter.
“I didn’t come into this expecting this,” McDonald said, before telling the speakers that he and district leaders would be willing to address their concerns in a different setting. “I had no idea this was coming.”
The gathering had been scheduled as a way for LUSD leaders and Measure E supporters to answer questions and clear up perceived misconceptions about the bond measure, which is similar to the two measures that went before Lompoc voters in November 2016 and June 2018 without success.
To that end, attendees were given papers that listed many of the specific projects that will be undertaken at specific school sites if Measure E passes — it will need 55-percent support from voters — as well as timelines for those projects, which ranged from the “first strike” in February 2019 to the start of the fourth and final phase in June 2022.
Bree Valla, an 18-year LUSD employee and treasurer for the committee that’s campaigning for Measure E, noted early in the meeting that the district could be eligible for up to $40 million in state matching funds if Measure E succeeds, potentially bringing the total haul to nearly $120 million.
“Our surrounding communities have already (passed bonds) and are tapping into that pot of money, while we are not yet able to,” she said.
Some of the main points hit by the LUSD officials at the meeting were that if the bond is successful, it is not expected to increase, but will rather extend, the tax rate that property owners are already paying on Measure N, Lompoc’s last successful school bond in 2002; that the bond funds will be used on upgrades that will have a direct affect on students; and that none of the money gained from the bond would be used on salaries.
“We spend $120 million a year and 85 percent of that to 87 percent of that is people — salary, benefits, retirement,” McDonald said. “So, if we do the math, that leaves a small chunk left over (and) over time the facility (needs) become so big, you really are Band-Aiding it.”
Among some of the specific projects that will be performed at most or all of LUSD’s campuses, according to the list provided at Tuesday’s meeting, are the installation of security fencing, turf/landscape upgrades, the addition of exterior signage and security cameras in public places, as well as ceiling tile and door replacements, repainting, and upgrades to windows, restrooms, security alarms and intercom systems.
Also listed were upgrades to technology, heating, ventilation and air systems, fire alarms and classroom furniture.
“If you look at the project list … what you see there is a lot of stuff that is up-close and personal with the students, whereas during Measure N … the bulk of those projects were infrastructure and (Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades),” said Doug Sorum, the district’s manager of maintenance and operations.
McDonald also noted during the meeting that an oversight committee will be formed to help ensure that the money is spent properly and strongly spoke against the accusation that the bond will amount to a blank check for the district.
Following the discussion of Measure E, the meeting seemed as though it would end. The tone quickly shifted, however, when a woman who identified herself as a parent of an LUSD student raised concerns about some of the concepts and terms used in the district’s new proposed sex-ed materials that are set to be utilized by students in the fifth, seventh and ninth grades.
The speaker said she was embarrassed to say out loud some of the things she read in the proposed books and raised issues, specifically, with the mention of flavored condoms and masturbation. Local attorney David Mirback then joined the discussion and argued that teaching kids that using condoms amounts to safe sex was wrong since he felt like abstinence was the only truly safe sex.
Mirback passed around a paper to collect names and contact information from other parents who also felt that the materials didn’t reflect their values, and he suggested forming a parent council to fight back against the proposed instructional methods. He also vowed to reach out to local faith leaders and to try to work alongside LUSD administrators.
While McDonald acknowledged that the latter discussion came as a surprise to him, he said earlier in the meeting that he was interested in holding at least six more informal meetings similar to the one held Tuesday, though at different times, in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
LUSD administrators will offer another opportunity this weekend for community members to speak with them and, further, to get up-close views of the state of Lompoc schools. District leaders will host a bus tour of four campuses, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at La Honda STEAM Academy.
During the tour, which will be open to the public, participants will be taken around La Honda and Fillmore elementary schools, as well as Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools. The event is scheduled to last two hours. Attendees are not required to take the bus and can use their own vehicles to travel to the school sites if they wish.