Voters overwhelmingly pass bond issue

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Participants from the Hawk cheerleaders' little girls camp cheer on Pleasant Grove at Hawk Gym

NEW BOSTON, Texas – By a better than 2-to-1 margin, Pleasant Grove voters on Saturday approved a $19.9 million bond issue to improve school security, upgrade technology and, most importantly of all, to build a new elementary school.

The outcome was clear early. Early ballots gave a 933-238 lead to votes in favor of the measure, which finished with 71 percent of the total, 1,079 – 428.

“This is big day for the kids of Pleasant Grove,” Superintendent Dr. Jason Smith told an enthusiastic crowd of some four dozen supporters who drove to the courthouse to hear the results. “This is a win for them.”

Dr. Smith thanked the adults who worked on the election, community members who volunteered time during the past year to plan the bond issue and school board members and administrators, past and present, who laid the groundwork.

“Much of this was in place when I got here,” he said. “All I had to do was follow through. I am so proud to be part of it.”

He credited the bond issue’s landslide support to those who worked for it.

“I’ve never seen a group of community members go after something with such great passion,” he told them. “You kept it positive and that’s why everybody got on board.”

Former board member Jeff Harris, who, with Ashley Gibbs, spearheaded the campaign, reminded supporters of the pain they felt a few years ago when a similar measure failed.

“All of you worked extremely hard,” he said, “and think how good it feels now. We all put a couple of nails in that new building today.”

Board Member Lorie Son said passage of the bond issue will serve as a gateway to the school district’s future.

For example, she said, building a new school will open space at the old one for a career and technical center. This will allow the district to seek federal funding while broadening the range of vocational education choices available to students.

At the same time, she said, the new building will allow the district to strengthen its commitment to STEAM, which blends the arts with lessons that combine science, technology, engineering and math.

“The existing building really isn’t conducive to many things that need to happen with that kind of learning,” Son said. “This will allow us to strengthen the STEAM initiative.”

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A veteran journalist and educator, Bill Owney is a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida. Writing awards include APME honors for investigative reporting, the Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Award for public service reporting and numerous awards for editorial, column and news writing. He served as publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and Pittsburg Gazette when each paper won sweepstakes awards from the Texas Press and North and East Texas Press Associations. He spent 15 years as a public school teacher and is an adjunct professor of English at Texarkana College.