EPISD Bond Issue: Serious Problems

By all accounts, it is generally understood that EPISD’s past Bond Election generally failed because of the general distrust of the community towards the stewardship of the public’s money by EPISD. This time around, EPISD came forward to the community with an apparent concrete plan to cut back on unnecessary expenditures and redevelop trust among the community. Superintendent Tafoya recently met with voters on the Westside to explain and listen to the community. The general feeling among the vocal taxpayers was a general feeling that Tafoya and the Bond committee are serious in dealing with EPISD’s problems. That is until Paul Strelzin got involved.

Most supporters of the Bond issue like to point out the fact that Tafoya has many years of business experience and his “fact of the matter” attitude is the impetuous that may eventually solve the districts financial woes. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy that is the EPISD continues to generate more distrust from the community, as their first inclination is to hide instead of addressing the concerns of the public. A recent letter apparently sent out by Paul Strelzin, in an apparent violation of State law, asking for monies to support the promotion of the Bond issue has created controversy and raised questions from the community while Superintendent Tafoya and the EPISD Board is no where to be found.

Creating trust between a community and its governmental agencies demands an agency that is forth coming to any and all concerns of the community. When the issue of the letter first became known, Tafoya and EPISD should have publicly met and discussed the issue in order to be better prepared to answer the questions of the community. If the letter had been a case of a misunderstanding, as has been speculated, or something more insidious such as a rogue entity trying to profit from this election, EPISD’s action should have been to immediately start a transparent investigation so that the community may see for themselves that this taxing agency is truly open to community scrutiny.

Instead, the only information forthcoming regarding this issue is a very silent EPISD Board, Superintendent and Strelzin, the apparent perpetuator of the letter in hiding. The only “official” announcement to date has been a half-hearted disavowing of the letter from the “official” EPISD PAC and the Bond Committee. This half-hearted response from an agency in search of redemption brings about more questions than answers. Instead of addressing the source of the vendor list from which Strelzin apparently drew his list from or whether Strelzin had any official support from within EPISD, the community who ultimately feeds the machine that is EPISD is told, don’t worry we have everything under control. It seems that as far as EPISD is concerned, Paul Strelzin may have had some contact and tacit authority to “help” but he went too far and had no “official” authority. Nevertheless, we are happy that at least he is trying to help is the general message emanating from this entity looking for public trust.

There is no doubt that the community’s schools are in dire need of rehabilitation and that our children are the ones that ultimately suffer at the hands of the those who would steal from our community. However, the fact remains that opening our pocketbooks may not ultimately serve the children we hope to help. Today’s EPISD has created the problem we now face as a community by their general incompetence in complete disregard for fiscal responsibility. Although we may have a new Board interested in serving our community and a new Superintendent that seems to want to progress forward, the fact remains the EPISD continues to betray a sense that it is not yet ready for the community’s trust.

Without trust the community simply cannot be expected to support a Bond Initiative because throwing money at a problem simply does not solve the problem, it just continues to feed the animal that got us to where we are today. Unfortunately for the EPISD Bond issue, three good steps forward can be easily derailed by one-step backwards. Not dealing with the Strelzin letter publicly and resolutely betrays a sense that EPISD is not yet ready to be trusted. Whether EPISD made a mistake on this letter or Strelzin overstepped his authority is not the issue, the issue is whether the institution of EPISD is willing to step forward and takes responsibility for the actions perpetuated under its name.

Trust is developed by open and frank dialog with the community. Hiding and not addressing controversial issues only serves the rumormongers in the community. If EPISD is serious about trust, it needs to immediately reach out the community and address this issue. Otherwise, by continuing to act as if saying nothing is better, then there is no doubt that the Bond election is sure to fail. The community is simply tired of feeding the misuse of the taxpayer’s money that ultimately results in a polished and grandiose façade while the ceiling tiles and walls continue to crumble from within. It is time to be open and frank with the community, either accept blame for the actions of Strelzin or prove to the community that Strelzin unilaterally acted on his own behalf. Either way, EPISD’s actions are being closely watched and this will ultimately define the Bond election’s future.