Election: $120M school bond wins big

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Measure E, the $120-million bond issue for the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

With all 45 precincts counted, the measure received 68.8 percent approval – 9,592 “yes’ votes to 4,355 “no” votes. It only needed 55 percent to pass.

School superintendent Louann Carlomagno called it “a tremendous win.”

“It was a wonderful success,” she said. “We had a tremendous team who put in long hours – and it paid off. When people raised questions, the team quickly responded.”

Carlomagno said the vote demonstrates the “community support for our educators and our schools.”

The bond money is to repair the schools, most of which are 50 to 90 years old and in need of a facelift and upgrades to, as Measure E supports describe, bring them into the 21st century.

“In the 1980s, a lot of school districts renovated their buildings. We didn’t and they desperately need it now,” Carlomagno said.

While the district doesn’t have a must-do list at hand, it does have Master Plans for every campus. The Master Plans, except for the high school, were completed in 2011. The high school’s was completed later.

“We’re going to have the architects revisit the Master Plans,” she said. “We’ll put together a facilities subgroup that will include community members. We want the voice of the community looking at our priorities.”

The district will be able to stretch its $120 million as a statewide school bond, Proposition 51, also passed. Proposition 51 guarantees $7 billion for K-12 education and would be parceled out as matching funds.

“This means we’ll be able to stretch our Measure E funds,” Carlomagno said. “That’s incredible.”

She pointed out that since the district has the money and the projects, it’ll be in better shape to receive funding than districts that have n either.

“This puts us in a very good position,” she added.

Besides the bond measure passing, the district will have a new board member in December.

John Kelly challenged two-term boardmember Gary DeSmet for the seat in the Sassarini attendance area. Kelly received 6,970 votes to DeSmet’s 5,541.

“It’s great to live in a community so dedicated to education, and to providing our kids with a strong foundation. Personally, for me, winning a campaign is a humbling experience,” Kelly said Wednesday. “Canvassing door-to-door was the most enjoyable part of the election, meeting so many voters, and listening to their concerns. I ran to make sure that our outstanding teachers, students and staff have the support they need to succeed and achieve, and I’m excited to get started.”

And incumbent Gina Cuclis retains the First District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Education. Cuclis beat challenger Jason Carter, 20,201 to 11,510 – almost a two-to-one margin.

Wednesday, Cuclis said, “My goal is to continue to improve on our already high quality services at SCOE (Sonoma County Office of Education). I’m particularly focused on our court and community schools,” she said. “Most of the students that come into our two community schools have been expelled from their school districts. My goal is that every one of them completes their education. I will continue, as I have been, to focus on improving attendance at these schools.”

“Last week I participated in the attendance awards ceremony at our school in Santa Rosa, Amarosa Academy, which I often do,” she continued. “I also will continue to stay in communication with the school boards of the four school districts that I’m the Area One liaison to Bennett Valley Union, Rincon Valley Union, Kenwood and Sonoma Valley Unified, in order to be of service to them.”

Email bill at bill.hoban@sonomanews.com.