DUNCAN — One of the biggest issues in Duncan Public School District’s local election history failed Tuesday night, with 4,841 voters opposing the $118,945,000 bond issue.
If it had passed, future Duncan students would have attended a new elementary school campus that would have promised the latest in technology. But as soon as the absentee votes were posted, those in favor could only hope for a change.
Stephens County Election Board’s uncertified results in favor of the bond issue were 1,119, but the 18.78 percent was nowhere close enough to gap the distance of the 81.22 percent against the issue. As precinct ballots were fed into the machine by Sheriff Wayne McKinney and Deputy F.L. Estes in the election board office, many people gathered in the courthouse lobby and watched as the results flashed on the small monitor.
One of those sitting and waiting was Donald Banes, along with his wife, Trish. Banes was against the bond issue and said he had plenty of reasons.
“I’ve been in too many cities where bigger schools are a downfall. A little community like Duncan, the $118 million was way too high,” Banes said before all the results were in. He said he was hopeful that this issue would be defeated. Banes, who moved here from Houston, Texas, nine years ago, doesn’t have any children or grandchildren in the school system, but he said it wasn’t just about the money or possible higher property taxes.
He said he’s lived in many cities — Seattle, Washington D.C., and others — where this same type of bond issue had been passed.
“It’s more the quality of the grade point averages of students and their learning,” he said. He believes the larger classes and schools would inhibit that learning process.
“If it affects the community, everybody should take it seriously.”
Even a few Duncan High School seniors showed up to watch the election result process take place. One of those was Jenny Mayes, daughter of Ricky Mayes who was there to watch his council race.
She had her own opinions about the school bond issue and noted they were not favorable.
“The problem was it was bad timing because of the economy,” she said. A classmate, Bryce Rowland, also was there to show support for the issue, he said.
When about 13 of the 15 precincts had reported, Duncan Public School Superintendent Sherry Labyer said that after 18 months of attempting to educate the public, all they could do would be to return to the drawing board.
“We want to do a survey and ask some questions. Based on what we proposed, we want to know what people liked about it or didn’t like. We want to learn from this and approach the next bond issue with the needs of students. The needs of the students are still there,” Labyer said.
Phil Leonard, who was a 20/20 Vision Committee chairman, said he invested much time, as did many people, because he felt like the bond was needed.
“But if the community didn’t think that way, we have to find an alternative method to our school problems and the deterioration of our buildings,” he said. “With a vote like that, the community did not agree with what was being proposed, but you still have a problem and you have to go at it another way and we will.”
Leonard said he didn’t think anyone, even those against the bond issue, were in question of the buildings deteriorating, but he believes it was the overall cost that scared people.
In an effort to educate the public, Labyer said she had 32 public presentations, three television shows and numerous articles in The Banner, so she didn’t know what more she could have done.
DPS employs 540 people and she said she thought the staff was in agreement of the bond issue.
“All we can do is hope for the best. We put the facts out there and you have to base your election on the facts and that’s the most important thing ... is to give people factual information,” Labyer said.
Assistant Superintendent Glenda Cobb said the entire issue has been a learning process for everyone involved.
“Tomorrow there will be children in school and teachers will teach. We will just have to do the best we can with the facilities that we have,” she said.
And even though the two sides were strongly opposed, one thing they both agreed on was the election process itself.
Banes said the last time he was this interested in an election was the presidential issue.
Cobb said, “We have to celebrate the process.”
Save Our Neighborhood Schools Committee Chairman Travis Morris could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
— Toni Hopper is a reporter for The Duncan Banner. She can be reached at 580-255-5354, Ext. 132 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.