Proposition 2 includes $73.3 million to create two specialized campuses in Fort Worth

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Proposition 2 at a glance Performance & Fine Arts Academy: A new campus for grades 6-12 with a focus on the arts. The campus is described as a specialized center that would attract students in performing arts such as dance, music and theater. Cost: $40,000,000. STEM School: A centralized campus for grades 6-12 that would bring together students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Cost: $12,500,000. Other direct costs: Building purchase for STEM campus. Cost: $4,500,000. Indirect costs: Includes construction and design contingencies, construction cost escalation, environmental mitigation, furniture, fixtures, classroom equipment, professional services fees, printing of documents, permitting fees. Cost: $16,305,000. Source: Fort Worth School District
Fort Worth bond tax The three propositions are projected to add up to 3 cents to the tax rate, costing $30 more per year for a $115,599 home with a $15,000 homestead exemption, the value of an average home in the district. • Proposition 1 would add about 1 cent to the tax rate, costing $10 more per year. • Proposition 2 would add an additional 1.25 cents to the tax rate. • Proposition 3 would add an additional 0.75 cent to the tax rate. The current tax rate is $1.322, with $1.04 for operations and 28 cents for debt repayment.

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Second of a three-part series examining the Fort Worth school district bond propositions.

FORT WORTH - Visitors to the Fort Worth school district headquarters find a wall of fame covered with the framed portraits of memorable alumni.

Broadway legend Betty Buckley is there. So is gospel singer Kirk Franklin and actress Ginger Rogers. The Wall of Fame is a tribute to well-known graduates of Fort Worth schools.

“We have a world class city with world class performing arts,” said Michael Sorum, deputy superintendent of leadership, learning and student support services in the Fort Worth school district.

The wall also highlights Fort Worth graduates who have been leaders in the sciences, such as Alan Bean, a lunar module pilot and the fourth person to walk on the moon. Or Charlie Mary Noble, an astronomy instructor for whom the Noble Planetarium is named.

District leaders say arts and science all-stars continue to emerge in Fort Worth schools and they want facilities to ensure their success.

Two specialized campuses aimed at serving students interested in the arts or science are part of a $490 million bond package that will go before voters on Nov. 5.

A Performing & Fine Arts Academy and an academy that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) make up Proposition 2, an estimated $73.3 million measure. It is one of three bond-related propositions voters will decide.

“When I look at Proposition 2, those are also aligned to define our academic approach, but they are special programs we would really like to have in place to further the enrichment opportunities of our students,” said Superintendent Walter Dansby.

Some bond supporters contend that the specialized schools will meet upcoming demands in education.

“I’m really excited about Proposition 2 because it combines the sciences and the arts,” said Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association. “I don’t see any way our community wouldn’t support those two.”

The proposed schools are part of a growing trend in education to offer more choices for students, said Micheal Sayler, a senior associate dean of the College of Education at UNT.

“It’s one possible arrangement for kids who are very talented in a particular area,” Sayler said.

Students talented in a certain area perform better in a specialized school or program that can meet their unique needs and challenges.

“The alternative is to sit in a school where you don’t get challenged,” Sayler said, explaining that lack of rigor can lead to bad learning habits.

But districts have to face some hard questions. Are there enough students that need such a program? How will it impact other district schools? What are the costs?

“It costs a lot of money to start any school,” Sayler said.

Performing & Fine Arts Academy

District leaders said adding a performing and fine arts school would build on programs already in schools and the community, and would draw on existing resources in Fort Worth’s highly touted cultural district.

“It’s a natural marriage,” Sorum said.

The proposal calls for building a new structure for grades 6-12 at a site yet to be determined, district leaders said.

Sorum said Fort Worth schools already are recognized for their excellence in the arts. Dance and theater are touted programs at Arlington Heights. Western Hills has a strong theater program and music is strong at Southwest High School, he said.

North Side, Polytechnic and Paschal high schools have strong mariachi programs, Sorum added.

“There is great potential and it’s something we don’t offer in a formal way,” Sorum said.

STEM school

STEM education exists in many forms in science classes and programs in the Fort Worth school district. Leaders point to engineering classes offered at Paschal High School and Southwest’s Academy of Petroleum Engineering & Technology. The district’s Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences focuses on training tomorrow’s health professionals.

But the proposed STEM school aims to educate more students in science, technology, engineering and math. The effort would create a 6-12 campus, perhaps in the downtown area, district leaders said. Plans are to purchase an existing building to convert into a campus.

Nationwide, these programs exist in many forms, experts said. STEM-related programs and classes are woven into middle and high school classes and others are stand alone campuses. Grapevine-Colleyville schools have launched a new STEM school for elementary students at Cannon Elementary.

“The core is math and science,” said Tim Gott, president of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology

The Texas Academy of Math and Sciences at the University of North Texas in Denton is a residential program on campus for high achieving high school students.

The emphasis on educating more students in the STEM areas will help businesses find talented employees to fill STEM-related jobs, including engineers, physicists and medical researchers.

There is national worry that the United States won’t have a new generation of inventors. Gott asked: “Who is developing the next iPhone? Who is developing the next vehicle?”

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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