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Are Texarkana voters prepared for a $100 million-plus TISD bond issue? Does the public even want it?

Jun 5, 2022

A bond issue election date has been tentatively set for November 2022, by TISD. 

A committee for Texarkana ISD called the Long Range Planning Committee is currently studying proposals for brand new TISD schools and safety/security measures. The proposals being examined are estimated to cost several hundred million dollars.

And it is the Long Range Planning Committee of TISD's Imagine 2026 initiative that will decide which items go to the public for approval.

Big dollar investment

Some of the projects under consideration are a brand new, combined Highland Park and Spring Lake Park elementary school. According to TISD, this 800-student campus would cost more than $43 million at current school construction rates (including project costs).

A 125,000 square-foot Career & Technical Center for the Texas High campus is also planned. It would likely cost tens of millions more, including construction and project costs. And there are also many other projects under consideration costing tens of millions of dollars.

Hey, big spender

As mentioned in a previous article (click here to read), Superintendent Brubaker convinced the "Citizens Committee" of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to back $658 million in new spending and eventually put a millage proposal in front of voters totaling more than $120 million - which was successful.

Brubaker's biography on the TISD website notes that he has been involved in "multiple bond programs." The superintendent is probably doing what the TISD Board of Trustees wanted him to do when they decided to hire him following Paul Norton's departure from the Texarkana, Texas superintendent's position in 2020.

Strategic blunder

Superintendent Doug Brubaker did not exactly re-invent the wheel with his strategic plan for TISD called Imagine 2026. In fact, it is essentially the same document as the one Brubaker produced five years ago as superintendent for Fort Smith Schools called Vision 2023

It even looks the same but with different school colors. For example, see the screenshot from both below:

TISD's short, 9-page document cost the district tens of thousands of dollars for out-of-state (Virginia) consultants - not to mention hundreds of hours of district time and effort.

However, one of the main differences between Fort Smith and Texarkana is that Doug Brubaker did not even put his name on the Texarkana strategic plan.

Yes, you read that right: Doug Brubaker's name is missing - even though his fingerprints are all over the document. 

Every TISD Board of Trustees member's name is listed in large letters, and everyone on the Strategic Planning Committee is listed as well. But there is curiously no "Doug Brubaker" to be found on Texarkana's Imagine 2026. Brubaker's name was prominently listed on Fort Smith's Vision 2023 document. 

In addition, the mission statements for Fort Smith in 2017 and Texarkana in 2022 are also basically the same - just words moved around and changed slightly. Click here to read Fort Smith Vision 2023, and click here to read TISD's Imagine 2026

It begs the question: Does this 9-page document really look like something that should have cost tens of thousands of dollars for consultants and tens of thousands more in district time, energy, and wages from October 2021 to April 2022? 

Build, build, build

Let's be honest, the vague, 9-page Imagine 2026 document with lofty ideals and goals was produced so the superintendent could claim that he has the mandate to spend lots of money. 

The entire process of public comment was essentially theater. Do you really think Brubaker would spend tens of thousands of dollars on out-of-state facilitators for an Imagine 2026 document he could not use to force a TISD bond issue election? Of course not.

Brubaker also commissioned a voter survey from an unnamed "independent research firm," which collected data in May. It is a foregone conclusion that it will be overwhelmingly favorable to Brubaker & Co., and the questions were probably carefully worded by Brubaker to elicit positive responses that likely don't mention millions of dollars of potentially wasteful spending.

Would local Texarkana companies benefit?

Since the coming November bond issue is a near certainty, citizens may be wondering if it could be a windfall for Texarkana businesses. 

The answer is: probably not. Instead, it seems likely that the usual cabal of "school builders" will benefit most if the process is conducted in the same way as Brubaker's Fort Smith projects.

In Fort Smith, both the School Board and Brubaker were criticized for rules and decisions that were alleged to have locked out local businesses and contractors. 

One person told an Arkansas news outlet that businesses in Fort Smith felt duped by the lack of local spending promised during the campaign for the bond election. He said if a company spoke out, they would be blackballed from future work with the district.

If a bond election does happen in November, strict guidelines should be enacted to ensure that money from Texarkana, Nash, and Wake Village property taxes stays in the Texarkana area.

Imagine this; Imagine that

Right now, the only thing standing in the way of massive spending in a bond election is the Long Range Planning Committee, which originated from TISD's Imagine 2026 strategic plan. The next meeting of the committee is set for June 9, 2022.

The influence of this committee on the future of Texarkana ISD cannot be overstated. For more than a year, Brubaker and his team have been planning hundreds of millions in possible spending projects and are trying to get the green light from the Long Range Planning committee.

The problem for taxpayers is that committees like this are made up of handpicked people who usually go along with just about anything the school district wants because they often have conflicting social, political, or business interests. In many cases, this is why they are chosen.

And Brubaker wants this bond election... and he wants it bad. 

Lather, rinse, repeat

Brubaker will soon tell us he is executing the will of Texarkana citizens by claiming a mandate from a generic strategic plan and a decision from handpicked committee members. Let's not forget that he will also utilize the "independent" survey, too.

This will begin the bond issue campaign that just so happens to align perfectly with his goals of colossal spending on new school building projects.

It's funny how all of it occurred so seamlessly, isn't it?  Well, not really, because that's precisely the way it happened in Fort Smith.

UPDATE: Nov. 8, 2022, is the tentative TISD bond election date with the results by Nov 22, a new source said. A prior source said Nov. 22 was the election date, but documents from TISD back up the tentative Nov. 8 Texarkana date.

Dig deeper:

Click here to read the secret history of the Texarkana ISD bond issue 2022 and the peculiar voting and decision-making structure of the Long Range Planning Committee.

Click here to read the secret history of the 2022 TISD bond issue.

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